Panfishing Tips

Panfishing Tips

BLUEGILL AND SUNFISH
While bluegills and most other members of the extensive sunfish family are originally from the eastern and southern states, they are now found in just about every one of “the lower 48” states. And, wherever they have set up housekeeping they have lots of fans. Sunfish must have been especially created for tubers and tooners. Wherever they are in residence they are usually plentiful and playful. They hit all kinds of flies, lures and baits with
abandon. Sunnies fight hard for their size and they are great eating. Anybody who loves sunfish quickly recognizes the potential of fishing them from a tube or toon. In most parts of the country there are farm ponds, city parks, urban fishing lakes and other small waters that are overrun with those accommodating little tykes.

panfishing

You don’t need fancy tackle or expensive lures for sunnies. They eat all kinds of bugs, worms, minnows, or whatever does not eat them first. And, because they usually have to compete for the available food resources they are prone to munch first and sort it out later. Big male sunfish are especially easy to catch when they are guarding nests in the early summer. They viciously attack anything that intrudes into their nesting areas. That is a great time to toss small poppers with a fly rod. Fly rodding for bedding bluegills, from a float tube, is so much fun it should be outlawed. Most of us are glad it’s not.

HABITS & HABITAT

Because sunfish are small enough to be food for larger species the survivors will usually be found in and around protective structure. In Utah Lake that translates to shoreline reeds and flooded brush, especially during high water periods. They are also more likely to hang out inside protective bays, harbors and channels where they are sheltered from crashing wind-blown waves. Bluegills are a schooling species. Where you catch one you can generally count on getting more. Green sunfish are more likely to be solitary or in small loose groups in similar habitat. Catching one of them is not a guarantee that you will catch more.

All sunfish are more active in the warmer months, and will move farther to take a bait or lure during the summer. During the winter they school up and become less active. Although they will hit small ice flies in winter if you can find them. Bluegills and sunfish spawn over gravel or clean sand bottom. They look for protected spots either inside bays or harbors or behind protective stands of reeds. Sometimes you will find them in very shallow water, especially if the water is murky. The males build and guard the nests and will smack anything that comes near the nest while they are on guard duty. Once the spawning ritual is over some of the larger bluegills move out into deeper water but will still orient to rocks or structure. However, it is still best to right next to a steep shoreline…and next to shallow reeds.

blue gill area

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunfish area

BLUEGILL & SUNFISH

Bluegills and green sunfish have been in Utah Lake since sometime before 1900. Like most
species in the lake, they have served both as a food source for larger predator species
and as a target for anglers. Also like most species their population and average sizes have
fluctuated along with water levels and available food supplies.

Their numbers are also affected by predation. In years of low spawning success by the white
bass more sunfish are eaten by larger predators such as largemouth bass, catfish and walleyes.
This is especially evident in low water years when the water levels are down below the shoreline
reeds and brush. Sunfish need cover in which to spawn, hide, feed and flourish.

BLUEGILL blue gill description

 

 

 

SUNFISHsun fish description

 

 

 

 

Sunfish are good news – bad news type of fish. They are easy to catch once you find them
and use the right tackle and technique. But, unless you’re good…and lucky…good and lucky…you
might suspect there are no sunfish in the lake. But, they ARE in Utah Lake…by the bajillions.

HABITS & HABITAT

Because sunfish are small enough to be food for larger species the survivors will usually be
found in and around protective structure. In Utah Lake that translates to shoreline reeds and
flooded brush, especially during high water periods. They are also more likely to hang out inside
protective bays, harbors and channels where they are sheltered from crashing wind-blown waves.

Bluegills are a schooling species. Where you catch one you can generally count on getting
more. Green sunfish are more likely to be solitary or in small loose groups in similar habitat.
Catching one of them is not a guarantee that you will catch more.

All sunfish are more active in the warmer months, and will move farther to take a bait or
lure during the summer. During the winter they school up and become less active. Although they
will hit small ice flies in winter if you can find them.

Bluegills and sunfish spawn over gravel or clean sand bottom. They look for protected spots
either inside bays or harbors or behind protective stands of reeds. Sometimes you will find them in
very shallow water, especially if the water is murky. The males build and guard the nests and will
smack anything that comes near the nest while they are on guard duty.

Once the spawning ritual is over some of the larger bluegills move out into deeper water but
will still orient to rocks or structure. However, it is still best to
right next to a steep shoreline…and next to shallow reeds.

blue gill area

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunfish area

TACTICS, TACKLE & TECHNIQUES

Serious sunfish chasers use light tackle. Not only will you catch more of the sometimes
finicky feeders but they will be a lot more fun when caught on rods and lines scaled down to fit the
size of the quarry.

Whenever the water is clear enough for surface feeding action you can catch bluegills with a
fly rod or with a small bubble and fly combo. Utah Lake seldom gets calm and clear enough to
provide super fly fishing except inside bays and harbors. A small popper can bring them up to the
surface when they are feeding in fairly shallow water. Just place the noisy little lure close to the
edge of some cover and give it a twitch. Don’t be surprised if something besides a bluegill
responds…like a bass or catfish.

During the warm weather months, when sunfish are in the shallows, you can catch them on
small marabou jigs, plastic tubes or twisters. They will smack a plain jig, but adding a bit of
crawler or meal worm will help seal the deal.

Large bluegills and sunfish also bite small spinners or tiny crankbaits being fished for white
bass or other species. They also feed on the newly hatched fry of many species, including their own,
so they do respond to something that represents a young fishlet.

Probably the surest way to find and catch sunfish in Utah Lake is to fish a whole mealworm
or small piece of worm on a plain small bait hook under a bobber. It can also be effective to use a
small ice fly or tiny jig with the aforementioned flavorings.

Long, light spinning rods with 4# line are ideal for this kind of fishing. But using a plain old
cane pole…or one of the special “crappie rods”…to reach out and make delicate drops beside the
reeds is a good way to go. Lots of bluegill and crappie fans convert an old fly rod to a “dip stick”.

TTT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bluegill school