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Deep Spawning Panfish

By Scott Stankowski - July 1, 2013
The crazy weather we have had up to this point in the summer has affected more than just my plans when turning to the outdoors. The weather patterns have caused plants to bloom late, trees to leaf out later than normal… and that is just the beginning.

Fish respond to several factors when considering their whereabouts in the water column. Most predominantly would be water temperature. Most boats today are equipped with depth finders or fish locators that give temperature readout. Recently I took the boys fishing for some pan fish to find the water temperature at 77 degrees. Bluegills spawn at 65 degrees, which is quite warm. They prefer sandy shorelines with some slight weed growth. Find some reeds and you are in the money when the water temperature reaches this point.

This past spring, water temperatures were reaching that critical point here in central Wisconsin when a cold snap along with rain and wind came through for about a week and a half. This halted the spawn in the shallows for the most part and pushed the bluegills back into deeper water. So what happens when that cold spell lingers like it did this past spring? What happens when that cold weather lets go to balmy hot conditions to the point where the water temperature jumps beyond what a bluegill wants to spawn in?

The body of water will provide you with an answer. Clear lakes take longer to heat up, as there is no ‘substance’ in the water to absorb the heat. Lakes that are stained or have a lot of floating ‘substance’ in them heat up quicker as those particles absorb and hold the heat. Recently, we were fishing a stained lake and the water temperatures in the shallows were apparently unbearable for the fish.

We started in the shallows and assumed the spawn was over as the temperature was too high. We then moved out to post-spawn water, about four feet with weeds. We started catching fish almost immediately. What we noticed was the color of these fish indicated they were still in spawning mode. Upon cleaning them at the end of the day it confirmed our hypothesis. Bluegills will spawn deeper. Most people will call it a second spawn.

What we as fisherman need to remember is that fish are not all the same and this second spawn is just a separate set of fish that were not ready during the first spawn. As the temperature rises in this secondary spawning area, bluegills will make their nests and when the temperature is right will drop their eggs. It just so happened that on this lake we were fishing most if not all of the fish had moved to the deeper waters to spawn.

What this will do to the remainder of the summer and fish patterns is anyone’s guess, but the key point is considering what the temperatures are where the fish are at and not what the temperatures are on the surface or in the shallows. Keeping this in mind will put some nice fillets in the deep fryer for you and your family.

Until next time, shoot straight.

Author Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski is the senior outdoor writer for and produces weekly articles, typically highlighting getting kids active in the outdoors. His family prides itself on living off of the land. Scott also takes the mantra into the classroom where he teaches environmental science at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School. Scott and his sons have won numerous titles in turkey and deer calling at the state level. Scott and his sons have a national outdoor television show titled Growin' Up Wild and can be found on Facebook.
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