Members of the panfish tribe, including bluegill, crappies, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, white perch, rock bass and warmouth provide plenty of opportunity to have fun, enjoy some good eating, and sharpen the fishing skills of youngsters and novice anglers. Ever agreeable and quite willing to smack a small, well-presented lure, these fish can be found in nearly every fishing environment from tiny farm ponds to the largest rivers, lakes and reservoirs. The sunfish species generally prefer shallow, weedy bays, flats and coves while the perch are more prone to roam slightly deeper, more open waters. They do, however, all mix together now and then, bringing plenty of diversity to the panfish platform.
Many expert anglers got their start by chasing panfish, and most enjoy returning to their roots from time to time. As to what, exactly, defines a panfish, the simplest answer is any fish species that, at adult size, fits easily into a frying pan. For our purposes here, we’ll keep the discussion centered on the most popular freshwater species and encourage you to practice catch and release once you’ve caught enough for dinner.
- Most panfish species will feed throughout the day but early morning and late evening see usually see the best action and biggest fish.
- Expect to find bluegill (bream) and pumpkinseed sunfish in shallow water near shore, lily pads and weed edges. Look for crappies to hold slightly deeper while yellow or white perch concentrate along ledges and drop-offs.
- Crappies have a well-earned reputation of creeping in tight the shoreline within an hour of darkness.
- Although various panfish can be caught throughout the year, the peak periods usually bookend spawning season for each individual species.
- Most panfish species have small mouths necessitating the use of tiny, lightweight lures. To improve casting distance match lightweight temptations with 2- to 4-pound test spinning outfits.
- When the sun shines bright in summer panfish inevitably seek out shadow lines along docks, floating decks, submerged trees, weedbeds and shoreline brush.
- Most panfish species have a tendency to school, or at least roam in small packs. Where you find one, expect to find more.
- Like bass, walleye and trout, panfish species tend to feed best on a dropping barometer with significant catches often made just before a storm.
- Sunfish often slide into sun-warmed shallows in early spring, the same time that bulrushes and aquatic grasses break the surface with their stalks.
- Sunfish and perch are especially prolific. Taking a few for dinner shouldn’t diminish fishing potential on lightly pressured waters.
- Sweeten the hook of any Panther Martin spinners with a wax worm, angler worm, mousy, spike or small segment of nightcrawler.
- Use size 1 and 2 Panther Martin Classic Regular and Classic Dressed spinners for small-mouthed sunfish and perch.
- Use size 2 and 4 Panther Martin Classic Regular and Classic Dressed spinners for crappies, rock bass, warmouth and large yellow or white perch
- Panther Martin spinners with silver blades score with panfish on sunny days, gold works best on overcast days.
- Panfish often hold in areas of muddy or discolored water. Target these fish with Panther Martin Classic Regular silver/chartreuse/orange or Panther Martin Classic Pattern green fluorescent spinners.
- For waters that are especially cloudy or discolored by algae blooms try size 2 through 4 Holy Hammered spinners to trigger reaction strikes even when fish have limited visiblity. Holy Hammered also draw strikes late into the evening -- a big plus for late-feeding crappie and perch.
- Just prior to the spring spawn, target panfish in 4- to 6-foot depths that lie just outside of shallow flats. Retrieve a size 1 or 2 Panther Martin Deluxe Dressed gold/orange spinner slowly for best results.
- Immediately following the spring sunfish spawn, work a Panther Martin Classic All Silver or Panther Martin Vibrant Image spinner quickly across the flats so that it rides 4 to 6 inches beneath the surface.
- In cold weather conditions, yellow and white perch will school tightly in deep pockets. Excite these fish with Panther Martin Classic All Silver spinners or Holy Hammered Sunfish and Brookie patterns.
- Big bluegill, pumpkinseed and crappie are often found patrolling the edges of channels that slice through lily pads and expansive weed beds. Panther Martin Regular Fly spinners will tempt these fish.
- Crush the barbs on any Panther Martin spinner for easy hook removal and release of your catch. A long-nosed pliers or forceps aids greatly in freeing the hook from the small, tough mouth of a sunfish, crappie or perch.
- Lakes with heavy weed growth often produce stunted bluegills and pumpkinseed sunfish. That’s because young fish use the heavy cover to evade predators and too many survive to gobble up the food supply.
- Bluegills like to build their nests around other bluegill nests. In prime spawning areas there can sometimes be enough nests that the bottom looks like a giant honeycomb.
- Bluegills have a ton of nicknames including: sunny, coppernose, blue sunfish, bream, blue Joe, baldface and granny.
- Small male bluegills sometimes stage fertilization “sneak attacks” during spawning season. They sneak past the male guardian of newly-deposited eggs, fertilize the eggs, then dart away to avoid all parenting duties.
- Perch spawn shortly after ice out. They do not build nests; rather, eggs are dropped on sand bars, brush, rocks or other underwater debris where several males will fertilize them.
- In addition to being a favorite target of largemouth bass, walleye, pike and other predators, yellow perch are often targeted by herring gulls and diving ducks.
- Yellow perch can live in excess of 12 years.
- Crappie go by several names including strawberry bass, speckled bass, speck, calico bass, papermouth, and sauc-au-lait ("bag of milk.") They are highly prized because they fight hard and possess delicious white flesh.
- There are two kinds of crappie: white and black. White crappie have lighter colors and vertical bars along the side flanks.
- In the US, crappies are found in all 48 contiguous states.