The Fishing and Marine Industry Daily News Feed

Early Season Panfish

By Bob Jensen

Spring came early in many areas this year.  That made anglers who enjoy open water fishing happy.  Many of them celebrated their first open water fishing trip of the year earlier than usual.  For many of us, the first fishing trip of the season is for crappies, perch, or some form of panfish.  There is still time to take advantage of this action.  If you want to do-so, here are some ideas that will increase your odds for panfish success.  

Panfish can be very accessible early in the fishing season from a variety of approaches.  They can be caught from boats, but they can also be caught from docks or the shoreline.  They’re often willing biters, they’re abundant in many areas across North America, and they’re great on a plate. 

Just like any other time of the year, you’ve gotta’ find the fish.  Crappies and bluegills like to be around some form of cover most of the time.  The cover could be in the form of reeds or a downed tree or a dock.  Perch will often be found deeper and near the bottom.

Early in the year, you want to find the warmest water.  Find warm water with cover that’s near deep water and you’ll probably have fish within casting distance.  Panfish like to have access to deep water.  If the weather turns cold, they like to be able to move quickly to the deeper water.  They’ll also move there after they spawn.

Once we find’em, we need to show’em a bait.  Several presentations will work, but probably the most popular and effective presentation for crappies and ‘gills is to suspend a bait under a slip-bobber.  Slip-bobbers allow an angler to cast easily and also keep the bait a little bit above the fish.  If perch are the target, many anglers will tight-line a bait just above the lake’s bottom.

Tip a sixteenth ounce jig with a Mr. Crappie Tube or Mr. Crappie Slanger jig for crappies or perch.  Go smaller if they don’t eat it.  Also, smaller baits will be better for bluegills.  A bluegill’s mouth is very small compared to a crappie’s, so smaller baits will be more appealing to ‘gills.  If they are really fussy, show them a Shoo Shiner jig with a small minnow.  The fish will eat this combination when nothing else appeals to them.

Color can be a wild card.  You’ll need to try different colors until the fish reveal what they want.  Some very successful panfish catchers like a black jig because many of the bugs being hatched early in the year are black.  These anglers like to “match the hatch”.  Don’t get stuck on one color.  At times, a bait with some orange, pink, or chartreuse will be what the fish want.  It’s hard to say why that is, but there are situations when fish can be very color-conscious. 

Panfish action can be very good right now.  Keep a few for a meal and put the rest back.  Just like any type of fish, panfish 

numbers can be fished down quickly.  Overharvest will reduce the average size of any species of fish.  There is one exception that I can think of: In some lakes yellow bass can get too abundant.  If the local authorities approve, keep as many as you’re willing to clean. Otherwise, keep a few, put the rest back, and we’ll be able to enjoy this early season action for many seasons.

Keep your finger on the fishing industry pulse

The Definititive News Source of the Fishing & Marine Industry