Summer is a great time to go fishing on Lake Norman.
The fish are biting and easy to catch. The kids will love it if you do it right.
Early mornings, evenings and weekdays are best and have less boat traffic.
If you have a fishing rod or two, get them out, dust them off and see if they work. Are they suited for Lake Norman? I have had children show up for fishing seminars and outings with heavy-duty saltwater rigs.
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If you're not sure, you can go to the local bait and tackle shops: Bass Pro, Dicks or Gander Mountain. They have employees knowledgeable about local fishing. They will tell you how to rig your pole, how to tie a knot, the best bait to use and even a "secret spot" or two. Gander and Bass Pro hold fishing seminars almost every month.
Now we need some kind of bait. Your chances of catching fish usually are better with bait than with lures.
Nightcrawlers - big worms - and garden worms are traditional, but you can try grubs, minnows, crickets and prepared baits. Berkley makes great artificial worms that come in a jar. Pieces of shrimp, raw or cooked, and raw chicken seasoned with garlic salt is a catfish gourmet meal.
If you are taking kids fishing, don't waste money on a toy Barbie or Spider-man fishing rod. Buy an inexpensive but known brand and get a combo set with a matching rod and reel. Most sets even have the line on the reel; the line probably will be 6- to 10-pound test.
Depending on the age of the novice angler, a spincast outfit usually is the best choice. The spincast rod has a pistol grip and the reel is mounted on top. You push a button to release the line - no backlash, no bird nests of tangled line; it can't be much easier.
The rod should not be more than about 6 inches taller than the angler. The Zebco 33 is probably the most popular reel, but other brands will be fine.
Next, you need hooks. I think snelled hooks are great for beginners. They are already tied to a short leader and have a loop to tie your line to.
Size 6-10 are the most popular. Buy the ones with long shanks, so the fish are less likely to swallow them and they are easier to remove. Take a pair of long-nosed pliers with you.
You also are going to need some weights: Look for a package of assorted split-shot sinkers. You pinch them onto the line with pliers. The weights keep your bait at the chosen depth.
Bobbers are a necessity, especially with young anglers. They perform two important tasks: They keep bait at the correct depth and they let you know when you get a bite. The round red-and-white ones are the easiest to use. If you don't get a bite, you can adjust the depth.
After you tell the kids how you had to dig your own worms when you were young, you might want to secretly seed some worms in your garden for them to dig up. They'll love it and enjoy the memory even more.
Several weeks ago, the Mooresville Harbour Fishing Club took 15-18 kids fishing on a Saturday morning. I was amused and a little sad when one 9-year-old boy on our boat was upset he hadn't gotten even a bite in the first 15 minutes.
"When I go bass fishing with my Wii game, I get a big bass on almost every cast," he said.
Minutes later he landed his first real bass and beamed as he held it up for a picture.
"You can put this picture with your Wii bass pictures," I said when I took his picture.
Where to fish?
The parks and the miles of shoreline at Lake Norman can be good for fishing. Some of the parks even have fishing piers.
Neighborhood marinas are great. Try to pick an open spot without trees and bushes. Look for places where the water is at least 2-3 feet deep or drops off deeper close to shore.
You can always catch bream and catfish around docks and piers. Bass like to hide in the shade on sunny days, but also go deeper to cooler water as the day warms.
Thread a bait onto the hook, attach the bobber two or three feet above the bait and you are ready. Swing the rod toward your target and let the line go. Hopefully, your bobber will be close to the spot you aimed for and not at your feet, or behind you.
If you don't get a bite, move the bobber up the line to get your bait a little deeper. Try different depths until you get some bites.
If you fish from a boat or are more experienced, lots of lures work great in the summer. Topwater, buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, jitterbugs, torpedoes and anything that makes noise is really good in the early morning and at dusk. Soft plastics work almost anytime.
My grandchildren, now 8 and 10 years old, love to fish when they come for their summer visit. They really get excited when they see the rod bend. Last summer, Jake caught more than 20 fish in 90 minutes. He caught bream, bass, sunfish, perch and a few catfish.
Now is a good time to bring up your "catch and release" policy, unless you like to clean and cook small fish.
Throwing stones, playing with the bait, swimming and splashing in the water are lots of fun when the attention spans are short and the fish aren't biting.
My last and most important tip: Be enthusiastic. My grandkids mimic me and love to yell, "Fish on!" when they start reeling in a whopper.
Later we have a great time sharing the "big one that got away" stories.
And don't forget the camera.