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South Williamsport, PA
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Are You Catching Any Fish?

Are you catching any fish? I love to have someone ask me that question, and my first reaction is to grab my RD (rectangular device) and start pulling up photos of my recent fishing excursions. I recently returned from a few days fishing at an area lake and the photo accompanying this story demonstrates the

Are you catching any fish? I love to have someone ask me that question, and my first reaction is to grab my RD (rectangular device) and start pulling up photos of my recent fishing excursions. I recently returned from a few days fishing at an area lake and the photo accompanying this story demonstrates the success we had after a few hours of fishing on the first day. Day two produced even more action for my partners and me with many of the fish being returned.

Granted, our gang did well during last week’s fishing trip, but we were also targeting panfish exclusively and for several reasons. First off, panfish are a lot of fun to catch — no they are not just for kids or folks new to fishing. Like many, I started with panfishing bluegills and the like and then got into “more advanced” species like bass and trout, but I never dropped out of the panfishing ranks. In addition to being great fun to catch, they are also top of the line table fare. I prefer bluegills, crappies, and perch over all the other freshwater fish with the exception of walleyes when it comes to preparing a delectable meal. Another good thing about most panfishing situations is that removing some from a lake for the table is rarely detrimental to the population since they reproduce well in most lakes and ponds.

With the frequent rain again this spring, heading out to a trout stream has been a challenge at times; high, muddy or discolored water can put a bit of a damper on one’s success rate but heading to a local lake may be a lot more rewarding especially if you are willing to be flexible. In addition, spring is a good time to pursue a variety of panfish since many have moved into shallower warmer water in pursuit of food sources. It’s also spawning time for some species, and some are in a pre-spawn mode. This movement to shallower bays and shorelines even makes fish available to the bank fisherman.

Come spring a lot of fishermen are especially interested in pursuing crappies. Crappies tend to hold up in deeper water during the summer months, but spring is a good time to target them in the shallower bays and shoreline cover since, like other panfish, they have moved in to spawn. When crappies move to the shallower, woody cover to spawn that makes them more catchable even for those who don’t have access to a boat. This past week our gang witnessed several guys fishing from the bank with live minnows, and we saw frequent bends in their rods from feisty crappies. The same was true for bluegills and even some perch.

So, how does one cash in on this springtime panfishing bonanza? As always, there are many ways to put a bend in your rod. Without a doubt, a worm, minnow or some other live bait a few feet down from a bobber is almost a guarantee for success. Nothing against that method, but I enjoy catching those early season panfish with artificials; that means I don’t have to buy and keep live bait. In addition, I don’t waste any time rebaiting a hook. One of the best methods employs the use of a small bobber and a tiny one-sixteenth or one thirty-second once lead-head jig, and a one to one and a half inch soft plastic grub or twister-tail shoved on the hook. It’s hard to say what color is best, but I have had great results with white, yellow and chartreuse. I start with the jig about two feet from the bobber and adjust as needed.

Another good approach is the same jig set up but without the use of a bobber. Cast and allow the lure to sink to the desired depth. Keep a tight line the entire time to detect strikes and begin a stop and go retrieve when you reach your desired depth. That desired depth, by the way, is wherever you start getting strikes.
Well, until the stream levels get back to normal, you can probably guess where and what fishing I will be doing.

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