Summer Panfish Tactics, Part One

bluegillIf you’re looking for assured hook-ups—and a tasty meal—this Summer, there’s not much that’s more appealing to go after than panfish. Unlike bass, trout and stripers, which can sometimes be difficult to catch, especially for newcomers, species like crappie, bluegill, and white bass are almost always willing to strike a lure, bait, or fly. In fact, they seem to be tailor-made for when you want to take it easy and enjoy being out on the water without too much concentration on tactics. Here are some tips to help you fill your cooler this summer!

If you’re looking for crappie, one of the top spots to find them during the Summer is around bridge pilings. These concrete structures offer shade for the fish to cool off in and ambush baitfish that swim past. If you find such a location, be sure to work the pilings closest to land first, and if that doesn’t work out, head to the ones where the creek or river channel drops off into deeper water. Here, I’d go with a marabou or plastic tailed jig, or small live shiners suspended beneath a bobber.

For bluegill, if you missed the Spring spawn, don’t stress out. Bluegill often return to the shallows to breed a second and even third time. To find them, look for their beds in one to four feet of water. Also, keep an eye on the moon cycle; you’ll have better action during a full moon.

When you’re fishing lakes for panfish, it’s smart to also search places such as inlets, outlets, points, coves, weed beds, fallen trees or brush, underwater humps, springs, rock piles, flats, and drop-offs. All of these locations are ideal for panfish.

If you find the action is slow, try softly slapping the water with your paddle. I know it sounds crazy, but the commotion you’ll make actually mimics feeding fish and at times will attract nearby crappie or bluegill to investigate. You can also try chumming if fishing is slow. I knew a guy once who used to keep egg shells from his breakfast and take them out on the boat. Then he’d crumple them up and sprinkle them overboard. The slowly sinking fragments will flutter through the water and draw in both baitfish and panfish.

Where strikes are concerned, panfish are very reliable. Besides guaranteeing you a full cooler, this means they’re also great targets for taking children or angling newcomers along to enjoy a day on the water. Come back again for Part Two, where we’ll take a look at some specific lures that will help you fill your cooler with panfish this Summer.