Panfish are the most sought-after fish in America and the best time to be fishing for them in the upper Midwest is July and August. Water temperatures are nice and warm and pan fish go on a feeding binge that will last until the water starts to cool down in September.
The best thing about pan fishing is that it doesn’t take a lot of skill to be successful. If the fish are cooperating, the action can be almost non stop and the biggest challenge is getting through the little ones to catch the keepers. Locating panfish, especially on a new lake, requires some skill, but once they are found hang on to your rod!
On some days, the fish can be as shallow as three to four feet deep while other days they can be found as deep as 30 feet.
I like to troll very small crank baits along the edges of vegetation until I find a school of fish and then I will mark the spot on my locator and fish to see if I can find some keepers, those fish from eight to nine inches long. Anything over ten inches long is really a trophy and should be released.
I usually fish with artificial bait when fishing for panfish. There are so many good products now that fool the fish. I use plastics that are hard and soft. Today’s bait is so realistic that the fish hang on and don’t let go. But if you prefer live bait you can use waxworms, small leeches, grasshoppers, crickets, and worms. They all work just fine but be prepared to go through a lot of bait!
One of the neat things that has been on the market for a while is the five-gallon panfish cleaner. They go by different names but the basic idea is to put 15-20 fish in a five-gallon pail that has stainless steel ribs and a paddle. The paddle is connected to a standard drill in the center of the pail. The pail is filled about half full of water. The drill is turned on for about a minute. The end result is about 80 percent of the scales are gone and the cleaning can be finished with a hand scaler. It is fast and pretty efficient. It is a very neat way to clean a mess of panfish.
But for sure the best part of pan fishing is the eating!! Nothing like a good meal of fresh fish!