Outdoors column: Primetime panfish

There are a lot of great angling opportunities going on right now but you might not want to overlook panfish. It’s sunfish we’re talking about, and it’s prime time for finding and catching the largest of this species.

It’s spawning season and a time when the big bulls move up and into shallow water areas where they can be found and caught.

Ron Anlauf made some time for this giant bluegill.Submitted photo
Ron Anlauf made some time for this giant bluegill.Submitted photo

Suitable bottom content is the key and usually consists of a soft sandy bottom near a weed bed of some sort. They’re easy enough to find, especially if you can get out on a calm day and slowly cruise along with the MinnKota and scan the bottom looking for multiple beds that have a honeycomb look. They can be as shallow as a couple of feet to 10 feet deep or more with deepest beds likely to hold some of the largest fish.

The catching is usually the easy part as bedded bluegills are easy enough to hook up, that is as long as you don’t spook them first. Getting too close will push them off and shut them down and it might take some time before fish move back and become aggressive enough to hit a bait. If you’ve found fish but have them scurrying for cover it would be best to make note of the spot and keep looking for more and return later when things have settled down.

A nice light presentation can mean more fish hooked and includes teeny-tiny jigs and plastics that you could tip with a piece of crawler. A 1/64 ounce jighead with a plastic body might be all you need most of the time but it wouldn’t hurt to have some meat along in case they’re not being cooperative. A nice light float above the lure and a longer rod like the  light action Omen from 13Fishng will allow you to drop a bait in on top of bedded bluegills as delicately as possible and help reduce the spooking factor.

Just because you can find the bigger bluegills and catch them doesn’t mean you should keep them all, not if you want decent fishing to continue next year and the year after, etc.

You can wipe out the bigger bluegills rather easily and rob the gene pool of the larger growing fish and ruin a good fishery for years to come. The right thing to do would be to release the largest fish and keep some of the mid-size ones for your fish fry. See you on the water.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.