Kids and panfish just seem to go together.
I was a wee lad of eight and fishing with my dad for the first time on Lake Puckaway in southern Wisconsin. We’d been on the lake for two hours, and hadn’t seen a fish. I was thinking that fishing wasn’t for me. Then my bobber plunged under.
“Lift your rod,” dad said. I pulled it up and felt a tug and a wiggle. “Now reel it in, he urged.”
Hands trembling, I cranked my reel, and soon saw a bright gold flash, then a squirming yellow perch. My heart racing, I ma-neuvered my prize catch into the boat. Just like that perch, I was hooked.
I don’t think any of us could forget our first fish. And chances are, it was a panfish: a bluegill, sunfish, perch, crappie, bullhead or any of a number of small fish found in lakes and rivers.
Some varieties, like bluegills, sunfish and their close relatives are easy to catch because they hang out near shore, bite readily and aren’t fussy about bait. Bottom dwellers, like perch and bullheads can require more effort. All can provide many hours of fun.
The Rod and Reel
When angling for panfish, use ultra-light equipment for best enjoyment and sensitivity. Eric Guider, who supplies Shimano products for Dunham’s, says the Shimano AXULSA Ultra-light Spinning Reel combined with an FX 5½-foot Ultra-light Rod is perfect for panfish. It’s easier to feel fish bite with a short, light rod, and you-get more fight out of small fish when using light equipment.
Shakespeare offers a wide selection of tackle designed for both young and old when panfish are the goal. Their Kid’s Combos are great for wee ones, and Ugly Stik combos are ready for action. Pflueger Microcast and Trion combos are good choices as well. You’ll find all of them at Dunham’s.
Fishing With Live Bait
Some fishermen won’t angle with live bait and contend fish are more likely to swallow the hook because the meal is tasty. Some research suggests that’s not true. And when fishing with children, live bait can be a plus, because it gets results.
A worm looks tasty to most little fish, although crappies and rock bass in some waters prefer minnows. In general, it’s best to use bait that’s native to the area, since it’s probably a staple of your prey’s diet.
A baited hook hanging from a bobber is usually the best way to catch bluegills, sunfish or crappie. Use a small bobber that won’t spook fish, and a number 6 hook a couple of feet below the bobber. If the fish are less than hand sized, a number 8 hook might be better.
Scott Ingram of Lindy Fishing Tackle suggests rigging a Thill Premium Slip Float on your line below a bobber stop. When you need to change depth, you can move the stop up or down, and a slip bobber lessens the chance of spooking fish when casting. It works great with both live and artificial bait.
A bottom rig – a split-shot sinker, swivel and hook – dragged along the lake bottom often attracts perch and bullheads. Angling for these guys with a bobber works too if you gauge the depth of the water and fish near the bottom.
Fishing With Artificial Bait
Some fishermen prefer to go after panfish with artificial bait. And some have no choice, since live-bait fishing isn’t allowed on certain waterways.
Jim Burrows of Pure Fishing believes the right kind of artificial bait can be as effective as live bait and points out that artificial bait won’t die. He even uses them when he takes his grandchildren fishing.
Because fish are unpredictable critters that can go into a funk at the slightest change in weather, it’s good to have a variety of artificial baits on hand when you’re angling for panfish. Matt Jensen of Rapala says any of their ultra-light series of hard baits is a good choice. If crappie or sunfish are lurking, he suggests you try Blue Fox Vibrax baits. They’re proven performers.
There are many ways to catch panfish, and your Dunham’s sales consultant can help you choose gear that’s best for you and your family. I can’t wait to get out to some of the local lakes with my granddaughter again this summer, and she’s as anxious as I am. Landing game fish is a thrill, but introducing a youngster to the joys of fishing is equally rewarding.
-Hook, Line & Sinker
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