Early Spring Panfish

By Dave Duwe - April 1, 2011
The warming spring sun draws to a conclusion another long winter. In early spring (March & April) there is a period between ice fishing and the start of Wisconsin's game fish season. Game fishing season opens the first weekend in May. But this early spring period also has something to offer, the warm spring sun makes the winter blues melt away and the panfishing can be tremendous.
This is the time of the year when the bluegills and crappies will move from their wintering locations to the warmest water in a particular lake. This is usually less than 5 ft of water. A lot of time, I am fishing the edges of a lake with the middle of the lake still frozen. Keep in mind that the north shore of lakes will warm first due to the fact that the sun will hit it most of the day. Other warm water areas are boat channels or shallow marina areas. These areas will usually have a soft muck bottom. For most of the year, these shallow haunts are often weed choked and un-fishable. In early spring, the emerging vegetation hasn't had an opportunity to grow.
Panfishing in early spring can be some of the best of the year. The fish are in a pre-spawn pattern and active with stable warming weather. With a cold front, the fish will move out of the fast cooling shallows and move out to the mid-depth weeds, the 8-12 ft variety. This time of year, the water is ultra clear and as a rule fishing in low light conditions is crucial.

This time of year, both shore anglers and boaters have an equal opportunity for success. The simpler presentation the greater the success one can have. Most of my success comes off the simple bobber rig with a single hook or ice jig. I work Bait Rigs panfish Cobras or Lindy's Genz Bugs in chartreuse or orange. I prefer a very sleek pencil bobber made by Thill. I don't use a split shot on the bobber rig because I like the pencil bobber to lay flat on the water to detect the light biters a bit easier. With a light bite, the tip of the bobber will move skyward, telling you - "fish on!" I will tip the single hook or ice jig with one of my preferred live bait, usually a wax worm or a red worm. You want to set the bobber rig six to twelve inches above the emerging weed growth.

When fishing from shore, I would recommend a longer pole; at least 6'6" teamed with an ultra light spinning reel spooled with some 4 lb monofilament fishing line. Because of how light the bobber rig is, wind can be a real problem, yielding shorter casts and an inability to detect bites. So for greater success, chose your days accordingly.

In early spring the panfish are in the shallows and they are really concentrated so don't over harvest and be selective about which fish you keep.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .