As promised last week, we are going to take a little look at panfishing. You know, when you come right down to it, I have to admit that this is my favorite form of the sport. When I was a little kid, I would get really excited when that bobber popped beneath the surface, and I still get excited to this day. I think a lot of it has to do with the action you get. Once you find a hotspot, the action is hot and heavy. You don’t have a chance to get bored, something that happens to me with increasing frequency as I age.
The simplicity of panfishing also adds a lot to its charm. Some little minnows, some worms and an ultralight rod and reel combo are about all you need. A lot of folks use artificial lures, and they can be very effective on willing biters like panfish. As for me, I think it’s more fun if you use live bait. It’s more traditional, too, and that makes a big difference, at least for me.
Another neat thing about panfish is how widespread they are. You can find them in lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. That means that most of us probably live fairly close to a decent panfishing spot. Also, since they tend to congregate in large schools, once you find them, you will probably be able to catch a nice batch. If, though, you catch a couple of little ones, that’s probably all that you are going to catch in that spot, as they tend to group together by size.
Perhaps the most popular of all panfish is the crappie. They grow to a good size, put up a good fight, and are nothing less than delicious table fare. You have to be careful when bringing them in, or you’ll tear the hook out of their mouth. They don’t call them “papermouth” for nothing. Little fathead “minnies,” fished under a bobber, is a combo that is pretty hard to beat. I haven’t fished for them in recent years as much as I used to. While I know where they are in Lake Arthur, getting in and out of a boat is becoming more and more difficult. Oneida Lake has good populations but, for some reason, Old Bub and I can’t seem to find them. We once had a hotspot by a little bridge, but it has been dredged out, and the crappies are gone. We have tried a lot of other spots with little or no success.
Bluegills and pumpkinseeds are also great panfish. For these, worms are our number one bait. Unlike crappies, they have small mouths, and seem to have difficulty taking in minnows. Redworms and pieces of nightcrawlers, once again fished under a bobber are deadly on these aggressive little guys. Bluegills tend to run larger than pumpkinseeds, but both reach a good “eatin” size.”
Next up is yellow perch. These little cousins of the walleye might be the best eating of all panfish. They can be found in a lot of places, but my best fishing for them has been in Lake Erie with One More Cast Charters. My friend Terry Hillwig, a frequent Lake Erie angler, has also given them to me from time to time.
For river anglers, there is the rock bass. These red-eyed fish might be the best fighters of all the panfish, and they are delicious besides. My old friend, the late “Buck” Platz, was a master at catching them in the Allegheny River. I have caught a number of them while fishing for bass.
Panfish are nothing short of delicious. In the near future, we’ll take a look at some tasty ways of putting them on the table.