Outdoors column: Getting a jump on early season panfish

by Ron Anlauf
Contributing Columnist

The early ice-out moved the calendar up by a month or more and has given anglers a jump on shallow water panfish. Typically you have to wait until sometime in April to find open water and have a shot; but not this year. This year is different, although the fish are still acting the same.

Ron Anlauf went in at just the right time for this nice big blue gill. Submitted photo
Ron Anlauf went in at just the right time for this nice big blue gill. Submitted photo

Crappies have already been making their move to shallow water bays and channels like they always do but so have the blue gills.

Anglers set up for crappies might not even know the blue gills have arrived, not if they’re using the standard fare like minnows.

A blue gill might take a minnow but you’ll have a hard time hooking them and the fact is they’re more apt to take a small bug or worm. A great early season combo includes a tiny jig like a No. 6 Northland Tackle Doodle Bug tipped with a waxie.

You can use a piece of worm or crawler too but the old standard of threading a whole worm on a long shank hook is less effective than the smaller super finesse combination of the tiny jig.

Lighter lines like three- and four-pound test can also help with the finesse factor and allow for longer casts which can be a real benefit if you’re fishing from the bank.

Another casting aid includes an Adjust-A-Bubble bobber which is a plastic float that you can partially fill with water giving it some extra weight for casting and less resistance when a big gill sucks in your bait. The best days for finding gills in shallow includes the nicest weather with stretches of warm sunny days really spurring the action. A cold front that drops water temps can shut the whole thing down and if you’re still determined to catch fish you might have to move to deeper water.

A deep break near a shallow water bay would be a good place to start looking. An old weed bed along that same break can also help to hold fish. With a good graph like the Humminbird 1198 you can see the weeds and how deep they’re growing, have a pretty good idea what kind they are and even see the fish.

Without the electronics I’d definitely stay with the shallow option and wait for the nicer days to get out.

See you on the water, or the bank.