Outdoors column: Picking up the Slack

With the walleye season winding down it’s time for panfish to pick up the slack and big bluegills can definitely get it done. They really are fun to catch and second to none when it comes to fine dining. For the most part the finding is the most important piece of the puzzle to place with the catching much easier to accomplish.

Ron Anlauf believes now is the time to target big bluegills like this. Submitted photo
Ron Anlauf believes now is the time to target big bluegills like this. Submitted photo

One of the locations for finding late winter bluegills includes mid-depth flats near shallower weed beds and depths can range from maybe eight to fifteen feet or so. It could even be the basin area if the lake you’re checking out is shallow enough and depends on what’s available. The thing is if they are there they will bite, if not you have to keep on looking and a wait-and-see approach probably won’t get it done.

That means cutting lots of holes and why the ten inch auger stays at home. Eight is plenty and a whole lot easier to drill which can be taxing enough when drilling a bunch of holes through thick ice. This season my eight inch holes having been getting cut with the new electric Ion and has been quite impressive even when dealing with the heavier ice cover; it doesn’t bog down and buzzes right through. After getting some holes cut it doesn’t take long to see if you’re on fish because they’ll come to a bait quick and you can see it on a depth finder. With my Humminbird Ice 597c in the flasher mode the fish will show up as thicker red marks and a few marks stacked together is a good situation to be in. Bluegills run in packs or schools and are easier to catch when there are a few of them together.

Little teeny tiny jigs tipped with a plastic body and or a maggot is all it takes to get sucked in but you’ll hook more if you keep it all nice and light. Take a 1/57oz Tungsten Fireball Jig and tip it with an Impulse Tapeworm and you’re in business. Light line in the one to two pound range can also mean more fish caught.  A light action rod and reel like Black Betty Super Ultra Light is built to handle the line and has a tip that is light enough for you to see the incredibly subtle bite of even the biggest bluegills.

You can expect to find ‘gills running flats for a while yet and is a solid late winter pattern. The closer we get to spring though the more fish tend to move toward shallow water and is always a possibility and something to keep in mind if you keep coming up empty.

See you on the ice.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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