Spring is a glorious time in the north country. Although I always find it hard to put away my ice fishing gear, I do relish the days when I can get the boat in the water and search for spring panfish.

With the gamefish season closed at this time of the year, there is little doubt that panfish are king. Many anglers that scoff at the thought of targeting panfish when the walleye and bass seasons are open will make every effort they can to spend those warm spring days on the water.

Over the years, I have developed a list of spring panfish haunts that have produced fish for me on a consistent basis. Although every year is a little different and the timing changes with weather and ice out, panfish pretty much have the same routine year after year.

Their migration to the shallows to gorge themselves on the invertebrates that are emerging from the mud is all part of their pre-spawn ritual. Depending on the weather conditions and water temperature, this pre-spawn activity can last for some time.

Knowing that lakes don’t all warm up at the same pace also helps extend this early panfish bonanza. The small bodies of water and quiet bays are always the first to turn on. Bigger water and some shoreline areas will come next.

As always, I am concerned with my equipment and presentation techniques. Having long rods that allow me to cast far from the boat is critical. I also make use of heavier floats that aid in the ability to make long casts.

Jerry Carlson
Jerry Carlson

There was a time I utilized small, feathered Flu-Flu style jigs for the business end of my presentation. A few years back, I started to experiment with plastics. Last year, I never tied on a feathered jig at all.

From my experience, I found the plastic consistently outperformed the feathered jigs. I also learned that there were many different styles, shapes and colors that the fish liked. Brown, pink and red might have had a slight edge in the color preference.

As for the specifics on the jigs, many of them are the same ones I use for my winter fishing. The plastic is also the same with a variety of the soft Maki plastics being hard to beat.

I believe that part of the success of the plastic has to do with the invertebrates that the crappies and bluegills are foraging on in the shallow water. The plastic definitely has a bug-like appearance.

Although I would occasionally tip the jig with a wax worm, I found that it usually was not needed. I did notice that bluegills were more interested in the wax worms than crappies. If you are strictly targeting gills, the wax worms will give a little extra incentive.

I also learned that this presentation worked well into the late spring. Spawning crappies and gills devoured the plastic and made the catching easy.

Spring panfish angling is very popular with anglers. Not only is it a way to get the kinks out of the boat launching routine, it is also a very enjoyable way to spend some extra time on the water and pick up a meal of fish in the process.

I also believe that having the correct rod and reel combination makes the process of hauling in feisty panfish a real treat. Even though they may not compare to the antics of larger fish, they are still a lot of fun to catch.

Jerry Carlson
Jerry Carlson
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