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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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April is Not Just for Trout.

I know we are hot and heavy into trout season, and you can bet that I’ll be doing my share of trout fishing too, but there’s other fish to be had during this early spring season. I’m talking about bluegills, pumpkinseeds, rock bass, perch, and crappies — especially crappies. Collectively this group falls into the

I know we are hot and heavy into trout season, and you can bet that I’ll be doing my share of trout fishing too, but there’s other fish to be had during this early spring season. I’m talking about bluegills, pumpkinseeds, rock bass, perch, and crappies — especially crappies. Collectively this group falls into the panfish category, and they are legal to pursue throughout the season.

I remember a time years ago when I thought panfish were a summertime warm water only fish; in other words, you couldn’t catch them except during the warm, lazy days of summer. Nothing could be further from the truth, and in fact, panfish make up our greatest catch during the ice-fishing season; they are literally accessible the year around even when 15 inches of ice shields them from would-be fishermen overhead.

Another good point to remember about panfish is that generally they are very prolific and they do not have to be stocked. Trout, on the other hand, must be stocked regularly to provide enough fish to maintain the interest of fishermen and that endeavor is one of the highest costs to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Panfish, in addition to being available year around and being very prolific, are also great table fare. I rarely ever keep a trout, but the same cannot be said for panfish. Winter panfish and panfish caught in the spring during cold water offer the best table fare since the flesh is firm and tasty. Not only do they taste good, but also with the right equipment, they are a lot of fun to catch, and crappies are a good springtime pursuit.

Almost all of my open water panfish forays are with an ultralight, open-faced spinning outfit loaded with two or four-pound test monofilament line; I prefer the fluorocarbon because it has less stretch and is thus more sensitive to light panfish bites. I like to cast about a one-eighth ounce jig head with a Berkley grub of one inch or less shoved on the hook. I often start with white, but I won’t hesitate to switch to another color especially — if I see my wife is catching more on brown. I seldom see a need for any kind of bait during the open water season, but on rare occasions adding a piece of worm, wax worm or some other bait may increase your hook-ups. I don’t use a bobber with the jig-head set-up but rather count on feel so keep a tight line in order to feel the tap or strike. This technique not only works well for crappies but perch and bluegills are often taken as well.

Another popular springtime and summertime method as well involves the use of a small bobber of fewer than three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Place a tiny, one-sixteenth once jig-head on the terminal end and slip on a one-inch split-tail soft plastic grub-try yellow or white first. Start with the jig about three feet below the bobber but move it deeper until you start getting strikes. Again I don’t use bait unless it’s absolutely necessary to garner a strike.

The techniques described so far work well but don’t hesitate to put a fly rod to use especially on a farm pond. Small farm ponds warm more quickly in the spring, and a fly rod with a tiny popper depicting some kind of bug can be great fun for surface feeding bluegills.

In early spring you may want to concentrate most of your fishing in water from three to ten feet since most panfish will be seeking spawning locations in these areas, but as the water warms begin moving to deeper water especially for crappies but bear in mind, they may be suspended over the deep water.

If you’re not into a crowded trout stream in April, remember — a panfish outing may be just what you are looking for.

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