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Panfish For The Season Starter

By Bob Jensen - May 1, 2005
In some areas of the Midwest, fishing season for some species of fish is still closed. In other areas, you can fish for whatever you want to fish for. Regardless of where you live, you can chase panfish. Panfish can be easy to catch right now and if you're hungry for a meal of freshly caught fish, you can't beat crappies, bluegills, or yellow bass. Pretty much wherever you live in the Midwest, panfish are fair game, they can be readily caught, and they're great on the table. If that sounds good to you, here are some ideas for catching some panfish right now.

Panfish this time of year can be caught from a boat, shore, or from a dock. When the fish are shallow, quiet is a real must. If you will be fishing from a dock, it's a good idea to make a few casts to the area around the end of the dock before you even walk out onto the dock. There are frequently fish around docks, and they can be caught. However, if you walk onto the dock, you will spook them.

The same is true if you will be fishing from a boat. Docks or trees or brush in the water will hold fish, but you must approach them quietly. If you bang into the dock or brush, or even get too close, the fish will be gone. When fishing from my boat, I put my electric motor into the water at least fifty yards away from the area to be fished. The extreme silence of the Minn Kota motor that I use allows me to sneak up on the fish holding area without scaring the fish.

Many expert panfish anglers like to use a small jig below a bobber this time of year. The bobber allows the jig to be suspended in place, giving lethargic panfish plenty of opportunity to take the bait.

A tiny Gypsi jig, 1/64th or 1/32nd ounce size, will be a great place to start. Tip it with a tiny piece of Gulp! Maggot. Four pound test Trilene XL will enable the baits to be presented naturally. Use a small, thin slip-bobber so the fish can pull it under easily. A fatter shaped bobber has more water resistance, making it harder for a finicky fish to pull it under.

Be prepared to adjust the bobber-stop. It may take a little experimenting to determine what depth the fish are holding at, so move the bobber stop up and down until the best depth is determined.

Crappies and bluegills are just like any other fish: They can be over-harvested. They are quite vulnerable to over-harvest this time. Don't worry about keeping a few medium-sized panfish, but just enough for a meal or two.

A nice warm spring afternoon or early evening is the perfect time to go on a panfish hunt. It's great just to be outside and at least a few fish will probably be willing to get caught. Now is a wonderful time to find that out for yourself.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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