Fishin’ with Capt. Gus

Capt. Gus Gustafson is an outdoor columnist and

a full-time professional fishing guide.

Visit or call 704-617-6812 for more information or to book a trip.



Crickets are a preferred bait for catching pan fish, particularly bluegills and other members of the sunfish family. While best fished alive, the squeamish might find it a little unnerving to handle crawling bugs that resemble small grasshoppers. But, crickets do not bite, and on some days, will out-fish worms or minnows. Crickets have a universal appeal to most freshwater fish, so don’t be surprised if you hook a bass, perch or catfish while fishing for sunfish.


Crickets are available at most area tackle shops that sell live minnows. All that’s needed to contain and transport them is a small and inexpensive cricket cage. Surprisingly, a tube of about fifty crickets sells for about $3.50 - about the same price as a carton of red wigglers or night crawlers. Crickets stay lively throughout a day’s fishing as long as they’re kept out of heat and direct sunlight.


Fishing with crickets is simple with a cane pole or a light spinning rod and reel. Six pound test line works fine when tied to a long shank wire hook (#6), add a split-shot weight and a small float. Position the split- shot a few inches above the hook and the float a few feet higher. Add the cricket to the hook. While there are several ways to hook crickets, a time proven method is to simply hook it behind the head, taking care not to hook it too deeply.

Gently cast the baited rig into the water. Don’t be surprised if the float goes down immediately. Sunfish react quickly to objects hitting the water. Once the float is pulled underwater, a slight hook set is all that’s needed, and the fight is on! Ounce-for-ounce a sunfish will fight as hard as any fish that swims. When it finally gives up and succumbs to the angler, care should be taken to avoid injury to the fish or to yourself while unhooking. Sunfish have sharp spines that will puncture the skin if not handled with care.


Whether or not you release your catch to fight another day, or keep it for a family fish fry, is your decision. If you enjoy eating fish, sunfish are as tasty as any you have ever deep fried. According to the NCWRC regulations, sunfish taken from Lake Norman, do not have a size or creel limit. So, keep all you can eat and release the rest.


For those too squeamish to handle live crickets, there is an artificial bait available that not only resembles a cricket in appearance, but emits a scent similar to that of a live one.

Tip from Capt. Gus

A cricket makes a chirping sound by the rubbing its wings together. Only the male chirps, females are silent.

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