Let's Suspend SummerBy Dave Duwe - September 1, 2008
The easiest and most plentiful panfish to catch are the bluegill and crappie. As a rule, the bluegills will suspend in some of the deepest parts of the lake. On Delavan Lake, in SE Wisconsin, it seems that 40-42 ft of water is the magic number. The bluegills will suspend 10-15 ft down. I like to drift through the school using my trolling motor to control the speed of the drift. Due to the depth of water, anchoring is a bit challenging since you'd need to let out so much anchor rope.
To present the bait, I will use Bait Rigs Willospoon tipped with wax worms or an Arkie 1/32 oz lead head jig tipped with a leaf worm. I will straight line the bait beneath the boat. I use a short 6' light action rod paired with an ultra light reel, spooled with 4 lb Silver Thread line.
In September, crappies are suspended off the weed lines in 20-30 ft of water. Like the bluegills, the crappies will suspend about 10-15 ft down. Crappies prefer to be closer to the weeds. They need an escape route back to safety from the game fish. I will use the same road and reel combo as the bluegills. The baits I use are Bait Rigs Cobras tipped with a plastic twister tail. Purple and Chartreuse are my favorite colors to use. I will use a stop and go retrieve, the longer the pause, the better chance for success. I've noted in my experience as a guide that many people retrieve the lure too fast and need the reminder that a slow retrieve produces more fish.
The most important tool to catch suspended fish is a good graph with high resolution. I use the Hummingbird 957; it has great sensitivity to locate the schools. Once I find a school, I will use a marker buoys to visually locate where the schools are. I then back off the marker so I don't spook the fish.
Fall is known as the time of year for trophy fishing. This is no exception for trophy bluegills and crappies. I will catch some of my biggest fish of the year in September and October. The fish are bulking up for the long winter. The fish are actively feeding on minnows and blood worms. The best place to start fishing is where you notice a congregation of boats. If there are no other boats, I will run transects from 15 ft of water to 40 ft, while always watching my graph for the suspending fish. It won't take long to find a school, they are plentiful.
Give late summer suspended panfish a try. You won't be disappointed.