Summer Presents Plentiful Panfish Fishing Options

February 9, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson
During summer months, look for crappies along shallow weedlines early and late in the day. During midday, they will typically hold near deeper stronger close to the same weedlines.

During summer months, look for crappies along shallow weedlines early and late in the day. During midday, they will typically hold near deeper stronger close to the same weedlines.

Panfish – be they sunfish, crappies, perch or white bass – are present throughout the upper Midwest. They comprise the midsection of most lakes’ biomass and present a sure-fire fishing opportunity for anglers young and old. If you are new to fishing, or already a panfish aficionado these species are right up your alley. Enjoy the heat of summer, and the hot fishing panfish present throughout the upper Midwest.

Sunny side up

Nothing says “summer is here” like a school of bluegills hovering around a dock. Sunfish just seem to wait in suspended animation for a child’s worm-covered hook and red and white bobber to hit the water with a splash. When it does, all hell breaks loose. Keeping bait on the hook is like keeping plywood on the shelves in Florida before a hurricane. One after another, two- to ten-inch fish rocket after corn niblets, crawlers, grubs, wax worms and anything that can be speared on a hook.

Bluegill, pumpkinseeds and other members of the sunfish family are fun to catch and are readily available. A simple 1/16-ounce jig with a piece of nightcrawler on it is the ticket to endless fun. For young anglers, a hook, some splitshot and a bobber will get them started in a love affair with all things aquatic. For fly fishermen, bluegills make for a great back up when the trout stream is just too far away. Try these fish on a light rod using small sinking nymphs or wet flies and the action is sure to be intense.

To top that off, sunnies make great forage for fish fries. A dozen bluegill in the eight-inch range can be filleted or scaled and cleaned to provide a summertime meal.

Slab happy

One of the area’s top targets is the crappie, a fish that bites year round. These big-eyed panfish come in the black and white varieties, but can be so selective that angling for them is anything but monochromatic.

Sometimes they want jigs, other times they are triggered by small spinners, occasionally only a plain hook with a minnow will take them, and every once in a while doll flies will be the only lures that land them. Not to mention, lure selection is only part of the puzzle. Crappies are notorious for preferring one color over another. One day it is silver tubes, the next day its blue or pink. Sometimes they like gold bladed beetle spins, other days it is chrome. Figuring out what they want is half the fun.

Crappies are fish of many names; true masters of the alias. Their regional monikers such as papermouth, speckled perch, calico bass, and slab give the crappie a unique persona across various areas of the country. But when it comes down to it, all anglers know that the reward for catching these fish is in the golden fillets that can be baked, broiled or fried into a dish that can only be called perfection, no matter what the local name is.

Give crappies a shot this summer on one of many regional waters and try to figure out these nomadic panfish. Using tubes, jigs, and small spinners or just a plain hook and minnow, crappies can sometimes be brought into the boat by the dozen on any given day.

Popular perch

By far the most popular panfish on the prairie is the yellow perch. Droves of anglers can be found hanging out of pickup cabs, piled into ice houses, and staring down a hole in the ice in pursuit of these green-and-yellow footballs each winter. But summertime provides a fast bite as well when perch forage for insects and other prey along the weedlines of area waters.

While white bass are typically known to hold near structure, they are known to be aggresive open water predators

While white bass are typically known to hold near structure, they are known to be aggresive open water predators

A simple pleasure for young anglers, the perch is a universal bonus fish. If it tops eight inches and can be filleted, it usually goes in the livewell. Perch are the kicker fish to a nice stringer of walleye. Catching the two species together is not uncommon, as smaller walleyes run with bigger perch, and bigger walleye try to eat smaller perch.

Try trolling a bottom bouncer with a crawler on a spinner near weedlines where perch forage. A few nice fish will have a frying pan full of perfect white fillets for the family. Watch for perch to be at their warm-water peak in mid-summer and into fall, gorging themselves on whatever they can find to prepare for the long winter.

Great whites

There’s never a better time than summer to go chasing after a school of white bass. Aggressive white bass target small baitfish and hatching insects as the summer season gets underway. Look for these fish to pile up on structure and along weed beds where prey are concentrated.

It is a rush of excitement to watch a phalanx of fish follow a lure to the boat. Getting one (or two, or even three) silver flashes to lash out at a jig and twister or a Rapala floating minnow adds to the exhilaration. When on a tear, white bass will attack any lure they can fit in their mouth. Once a school is located, it is time to cast and hold on tight.

Young anglers will get a kick out of fishing these silver-sided panfish. Whether learning how to use spinning gear or fishing with a Snoopy rod, kids will have consistent action once a school is found. Look for a few white bass rising aggressively on insects or minnows and the rest of the gang can’t be far behind. Set up about 15 yards away and begin casting.

Anglers should only get as close to the target area as needed to cast at the belligerent bunch, as they may spook at the whir of a trolling motor or an anchor being dropped into the water. White bass can provide hours of entertainment and are a popular target throughout the region.

This summer, celebrate the diverse fishing opportunities near you and keep an eye out for some of the region’s most wanted panfish…in our outdoors


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