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.
By Tony Roach
Leave the bait bucket at home this fall – you can load your boat with panfish by targeting breaklines with Rapala Jigging Raps.
“I’ve almost exclusively gone away from live bait, and Jigging Raps have allowed me to do that,” says Tony Roach, an in-demand fishing guide on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake. “I’m getting more strikes, getting better hook-ups and catching way more fish versus a jig-and-minnow, for example. It’s my go-to presentation for panfish, there’s no doubt about it.”
Long predominant as ice-fishing lures, Jigging Raps were proven equally productive as open-water baits in the last several years. Featuring a balanced, weighted minnow profile, they swim in tantalizing circles on the fall. With single reversed hooks on the nose and posterior, and a center treble hook hung from a belly eyelet, they don’t allow for missed bites — regardless of how a fish attacks, it’s running smack dab into a hook.