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Love Those Winter Panfish

Jerry Carlson_Winter Pan Fishing
Jerry Carlson/By pouring a little water on smooth ice and placing the transducer in the water, suspended fish can be located without ever drilling a hole.

When it comes to ice fishing, I am definitely someone that thrives on panfish. Crappies and sunnies have a way of keeping me entertained through the entire frozen water period.

Occasionally, I get a little grief for not targeting walleyes during the winter months, but I can handle the criticism. There is something about the winter panfish routine that I thoroughly enjoy. That is all the reason I need to keep after the crappies and sunfish.

In the area I live, there is no shortage of places to target winter panfish. Without a doubt, that plays an important role in my panfish addiction. I rarely drive more than 30 miles to fish and can easily do a three or four hour event if I so choose on one of the closer lakes.

Another reason I like panfish is the activity level associated with this kind of fishing. I am not a very patient winter angler and will rarely stay in one location very long if I am not having some success.

Because panfish, particularly crappies, will suspend over deep water basins on many of my favorite lakes, locating a school of fish before I settle down for some serious angling is essential. If I am not marking fish on my electronics, I will not stay in that spot.

In fact, before I even drill a hole, I am going to look for fish by taking a reading through the ice. This is easy to do by pouring a little water on a smooth patch of ice and then placing the transducer on the water. Fish show up perfectly.

Once I do locate fish, I will customarily drill out a dozen holes in the area where the fish are located. Winter panfish are somewhat nomadic and will roam throughout the basin I am fishing.

Many times, the auger noise will scare them and chase them off to one side or the other. That is the reason I like to get my noise making done all at once. After I am fishing, I hop from hole to hole and only drop a line when fish show up on my Vexilar.

Many anglers I talk to find it hard to believe that we can have such great success angling in the middle of the day. Part of this success comes from having the right equipment.

Midday panfish are not as aggressive as sunset fish. There are times they won’t bite at all, but usually, some of them can be coaxed into taking a well presented jig.

One key part of the equipment is super light line. My standard is two-pound-test Berkley Micro Ice. This ultra-thin line makes a huge difference in the winter. Without the light line, I might as well stay home!

Most of the time, tiny jigs are going to out-produce larger ones. I usually use tungsten jigs and find the Dave Genz Drop Series from Clam to be ideal. The size and weight of the jig is determined by the depth I am fishing. The deeper I fish, the more weight is needed. Size 12 is a good starting point.

I also like the added finesse of a spring bobber on most days. I never winter fish with a float, as I am constantly jigging and always want a tight line between my rod and the jig.

Winter panfish keep me entertained for the entire cold water season. If one lake is having an off year, the other 15 to 20 lakes I fish will certainly have something going.

Chasing winter panfish does take some effort. However, the effort pays off as I rarely have a bad day on the ice.

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