Spring is a great time to take children fishing. If you haven’t been in a while, and don’t know where to go or how or what to do, read on.

Where to fish

Shorelines, docks and piers are good places to spend a few hours wetting a line. The Lake Norman State Park, 704-528-6350, in Troutman has a long wooden fishing pier and also allows bank fishing in many areas. Ramsey Creek Park, 704-336-3586, in Cornelius also has a fishing pier.

If you have a boat, anchor it or drift your baited hooks in the back of any cove, and in water from 10 to 15 deep.

What’s biting?

A variety of pan fish, along with bass, crappie, perch, catfish and stripers are among the most sought-after fish in Lake Norman. They range in size from sunfish a few inches in length, to catfish up to 85 pounds. Most fish weigh about a pound – the perfect size for kids of all ages to catch.

Fishing tackle

A simple rig is a pole (cane pole), attached to a section of line the same length as the pole, a bobber (float), a small clamp-on weight (split shot), a hook (#6, J-hook) and a worm or minnow. The distance between the bobber and hook will vary depending on the depth of the water. The same rig can be used for bottom fishing by removing the bobber.

A more complicated setup involves the same basic terminal tackle, but instead of a pole, a rod and reel are used. Many children begin fishing with a closed-faced, spin-casting reel attached to a matching fishing rod. Its push-button design makes it easy to cast and almost tangle-free.

Best baits

Artificial lures are preferred by many, but for starters, earthworms, night crawlers and red wigglers will catch just about anything that swims. If you don’t want to dig up your garden, worms can be purchased at convenience stores and tackle shops. Minnows are also popular. They can be fished dead or alive and are great bait for bass, crappie and perch. Crickets are good baits for catching sunfish. Other baits that work well for kids are table scraps, including hot dogs, macaroni, corn, peas and shrimp.

Don’t forget:

• A personal flotation device (life preserver) for each child under 13 and for anyone else who cannot swim
• A knife and a pair needle-nose pliers
• A cooler filled with ice and lots of food and drinks
• A bucket for odds and ends
• A landing net
• A camera, sunglasses and sunscreen

Upcoming events

The 32nd Annual Dogwood Bass Tournament, scheduled for Saturday, April 2, from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. at Lake Norman’s Midway Marina, is open to the public. The entry fee is $100 per boat or team, with a total cash payout of $5,500. The proceeds from this charity event benefit the children at the Shriner’s Children Hospital. Registration forms are available online at www.lakenormanshrineclub.org. For more information, call 704-235-5888.

“Using Sonar and GPS to Catch Stripers, Bass and White Perch” – This free two-hour seminar begins at 7 p.m.  It promises to be very informative and will help you catch more fish. Join me at The Bass Pro Shops at Concord Mills Mall on Tuesday, April 5, in the upstairs conference room by Archery. For more information, call 704-979-2200.

Free Safe Boating Class – “How to Navigate Lake Norman - Day or Night” will be held at North Point Watersports exit 36, Mooresville, on April 13 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Topics for discussion include “Understanding LKN’s Channel Marker and Buoy System,” “Identifying and Learning How to Avoid the Ten Most Dangerous Spots,” and “Interpreting Lake Maps”. For more information, call me: 704-617-6812 or email Gus@LakeNoman.com.

Tips from Capt. Gus

Small minnows will not only trick crappies into biting, but are also great for taking white perch on a small hook and a light split shot weight. It’s hard to wait, but when a fish begins to nibble, give it plenty of time to swallow the bait before setting the hook.

Hot spot of the week

Depending on the weather, fishing has been very good to excellent. Best bets are the shallow pockets and coves of Mountain, Hicks and Terrapin creeks. White perch and crappie continue to bite around sunken brush and boathouses. Striper fishing is spotty, but best results are upriver and in the Davidson and Reed Creek arms of Lake Norman.

The surface water temperature varies by location, but is mainly in the 50s and 60s in open waters not affected by the power plants. The water level is about 2 and 1/2 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 2.5’ below full pond on Mountain Island Lake.

Capt. Gus Gustafson, of Lake Norman Ventures Inc., is an outdoor columnist and a full-time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman. Visit his website, www.Fishingwithgus.com or call 704-617-6812. For more information, email him at Gus@lakenorman.com.