St. Croix Report
Winter has released its icy grip and lakes, reservoirs and rivers are once again open for springtime fishing. And that means prime time for panfish, especially crappies and bluegills as they make their migration from deeper waters into the shallows before the annual spawn.
We talked with several St. Croix panfish experts about their favorite presentations, tactics and gear in order to help get anglers get prepared and motivated to chase these full-on-fun species.
Angling Edge’s Jeremy Smith Talks Early, Countdown Crappies
Although versed in everything that swims, from bass to walleyes to muskies, Minnesota-based St. Croix pro and Angling Edge co-host Jeremy Smith admits springtime panfish are one of his favorite bites of the entire year.
“I pretty much use the 7’ light power, extra-fast action St. Croix Panfish Series rod for everything panfish-related in the spring. It’s kind of my go-to rod with exception of using the 9’ light power, moderate-fast action (PFS90LMF2) Panfish Series rod for dipping crappies and the cane-poling technique when they’re in shallow and around structure,” says Smith.
You can find panfish in nearly every inland lake in Michigan…but a specific panfish you won’t find very often are redear sunfish. They’re somewhat larger than bluegill, with adult fish ranging from eight to 12 inches.
You might find redears, also known as “shellcrackers” as they love to eat snails, in several lakes in the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula, but many folks don’t know they’re not native.
“There was a big project several years ago to stock these all over,” explained Jeff Braunscheidel, a DNR fisheries biologist based out of Waterford. “We had this idea that they would provide an opportunity to catch trophy panfish, as they get bigger than the average bluegill or pumpkinseed.”
By Chip Leer
Early winter offers savvy ice anglers some of the hardwater season’s best panfish fishing, for a variety of reasons. First, hungry panfish prowl predictable places that are often overlooked by other anglers. Plus, the fish are active for longer periods of time, more willing to chase baits, and eagerly swim farther to get a meal than at virtually any other time during the winter.
Since the panfish are on the bite, finding the fish is more than half the battle to sliding them onto the ice. A variety of structure and cover may attract fish, but healthy green weedbeds can be panfish magnets, especially for broad-shouldered bluegills and other sunfish.