How to catch Panfish 2017 – The Bluegill Feeding Frenzy

It’s the third week of May and we were up near Duluth Minnesota catching those tasty Bluegills. During the pre-spawning period you need to focus on the shorelines for the Gills and I mean 6 inches to 3 feet away is all. This is where you will find the large males, in just a few inches of water having a feeding frenzy just prior to spawning. If you know what you looking for you can see the water movement and plan your approach.

Fishing For Bluegills During The Pre-Spawn Feeding Frenzy

There is nothing like catching large male bluegills on the fly rods and the best action starts a week before the bluegills spawn and does not end until they are off the beds. During this trip I invited a friend and his wife to join my wife and I for three incredible fishing days.

Day One Catching Large Bluegills – Upper Wisconsin

The first day of our trip to Upper Wisconsin was fairly calm, so the fly rods were dynamite as we were slamming the gills in 6 inches of water and within 2 feet of shore. The two top baits for these tasty fish were the Red and Blue Spider (Dry Fly – Homemade).

Day Two Bluegill Action

The second day added its challenges as the wind came up and made it difficult to use the fly rods, but again we found the large gills in tight and did very well as the four of us caught a limit in no time.

Day Three – Catching Gills In Stormy Weather

The third day (Sunday May 27th) the storms came in one right after the other and the wind would not give us a break. So I took a wet fly (Gold head) and tied it approximately 12 inches below a tube bobber. My thought was 12 inches would give me time to slowly move the bobber, keeping the fly off the bottom, and allow enough distance from the bobber so it would not scare the fish. To our surprise it did not matter as the Bluegills were hitting the fly and the bobber as soon as they touched the water. The action was so fierce at times we would have four or five Bluegills attaching the bait at the same time, making things explode and the bobber fly.

Helping A Fellow Fisherman Catch Bluegills

I did talk to one other fishermen as we were going by him and moving into the shoreline, he was out approximately 30 yards from shore, fishing the drop-off. He said he had only caught a couple small Gills, but was enjoying the fishing. I told him in mid May to early June you need to focus within 3 feet of the shoreline, as the Bluegills are feeding heavily and getting ready to spawn. As soon as we set anchor and got the fly rods out we had instant action with 8.5” Gills, at which point he yelled over and told us that he was going to go get his wife and come back and join us, which he did.

The fisherman and his wife were very pleased and had learned a new fishing technique for catching Bluegills.

Videos Of Our Bluegill Fishing Adventure – I Hope You Enjoy!

How To Catch Bluegills- 2017 Big Bluegills Are Biting!

Fishing Shallow Water For Bluegills

Spring is over, the lakes in the Midwest are warming up, and the large Bluegills are in the shallow water feeding and beefing up for the spawning season.

In lower parts of the Midwest the Bluegill Spawning Season has begun already and the Gills are on the beds, but in the Upper part of the States you will find the large Bluegills still in shallow bays, preparing for the spawn.

Why Are The Males Feeding Heavily?

Let’s look at how the relationship works in the Bluegill reproduction cycle. We begin by the females developing the eggs, two large sacks, developing through late Winter and Spring. As the water temperatures get above 65 degrees F, the Males start to move into the shallow areas that are ideal for making spawning beds. The Males then make round impression on the bottom by fanning their fins and preparing the beds for a females. When the females are ready they will come unto the beds, drop the eggs as the males fertilize them. The Males then stay on the beds to protect the eggs and keep the water oxygenated. Once the eggs are hatched the Fry and Males leave. Note, the Male Bluegill does majority of the work during the spawning period and does not eat much.

This is why you find the Males feeding aggressively in the shallow water right before spawning. The reason they are so easy to catch when they are on the beds is not because they are feeding, but rather they are attacking anything that comes near, such as a spider.

Tips You Will Want To Know – Once You Find The Males Feeding

Once you find the large Males feeding you are very close to where they will be spawning. So over the next few days or week keep looking until you have found the beds.
If you are catching the large male gills the females are not far away. The females typically are just of the drop off waiting for the right time to come in. I prefer to focus on the males, releasing all females until after they have laid their eggs.

Tips You Need To Know- When The Females Are On The Beds

If you’re fishing the spawning beds and they are occupied by the females (waiting for the eggs to drop) you will find it difficult to catch them. You can use a Wet Fly/Ant (sinking bait) and catch them, but not recommended, let them spawn.
If you want to catch the males you can either come back later when the males are back on the beds or back off to the edge of the drop-off, as the males will not be far, waiting to get back on the beds (use a wet fly/ant). You will find the males are very easy to catch when they are on the beds (use a dry fly).

Best Bluegill Bait to use during the Spawning Cycle

So what is the best bait to use during the Spring Spawning Season? Well it’s easy if you have a fly rod, if not I suggest you take a spinning rod a place a dry or wet fly 2 feet behind a small bobber. Here are the 4 different cycles and recommended baits!

1. Males Feeding In Shallow Water Before The Temps Are Right For Spawning Beds

Use a dry fly (spider), nothing will compare to this. With a dry fly you can move quickly with ease and find the Big Bluegills feeding. Many times their feeding spot will be very concentrated (small area) and outside this boundary you will not catch them, so use the fly rod and check every few feet. You will struggle with Worms and Wet Flies/Ants.

2. Females Off The Drop-Off

Use a wet fly (ant) or worm. The females are not as aggressive as the males so they will tend to stay down, using an ant or worm works best. I prefer the Ant!

3. Females On The Beds

You will need to use a wet fly (ant) to catch them. When fishing females on the beds your bait will need to drop onto the bed (resting on the bottom), forcing the female bluegill to pick it up and remove it, this is when you set the hook.

4. Males On The Beds

when the Bluegill Males are on the beds you will not find a more exciting time, the action is unspeakable. Watch the video and see action in slow motion! For catching these aggressive males go with the dry fly (spider), nothing else will compare. See how to make these spiders for pennies (quick & easy).

Shellcracker Fishing – The 2017 Bite Is Not Over!

Florida Shellcrackers & No Pressure

In my last article I mentioned how the lakes in Florida were warming up faster than normal this year and that the Shellcrackers would be coming in early to spawn, which did happen. During the period of March 18 thru March 25 the Shellcrackers were at their peak this year, however I planned my two day fishing trip for the first week of April, hoping to catch them during the week before the full moon.

Were The ShellCrackers Done and Gone Already

Well it was only a week away from flying to Florida and getting in two days of fishing, trying to catch a few of those “kings of the bluegills”. Then I got that call from my fishing buddy that you never want to get, the Shellcrackers are done and gone. Okay, that’s not great news i said, but you’re talking to one of the best fishermen you know and I’m still coming, we will fish Tuesday and Wednesday so be ready to catch fish.

Well I got there (Tavares Florida) early Tuesday and of course it stormed all day dropping over 4 inches of rain, we did not even get out of the house, which meant we only had one day to find and catch them. The next day we headed out around 8am and found no one on the lake, in the rivers, or even in the channels fishing. We started by working my fishing partner’s top 3 Shellcracker fishing holes snagging only one small Shellcracker, now what? After a little brainstorming we decided to try something different, fishing the weeds instead of the lily pads, which is typically where we find the Crappies. Ed’s comment was I have never found Shellcrackers there, but lets check it out.

Finding The Bluegill Bully – Shellcrackers

Well we headed across Lake Harris to fish the weeds and for the first 20 minutes never caught a fish. Then we saw a few fish working the surface down 50 yards just outside the weedline, which had to be Bluegills (Copperheads or Shellcrackers), so we move down and again could not get a bite. Next we decided to move into the weeds to see if they were in there and WOW did we catch Shellcrackers, one right after another. We were using our favorite bait the Freshwater Shrimp, once we ran out we purchased worms to avoid wasting time to catch more shrimp. What we found is that the Shellcrackers were not as aggressive with worms, but the action was still great.

We even had a run of Copperheads.

ShellCrackers In Action

Here I use both my camera and my new Gopro. Note, I’m still learning on using the GoPro and had it pointed too hi. But it does give you more of what is going on behind the scene.

Camera Action!

GoPro Action!

Catching Shellcrackers – Florida Shellcrackers Start The 2017 Season Early

Florida inland water temperatures are warmer than normal

Due to warmer than normal water temperatures the 2017 fishing season has started off in full swing, producing early catches and larger fish.

Fishing Crappies & Shellcrackers

This year we have seen one of the best Crappie seasons in a long time and we believe it’s due to the water reaching higher temperatures much earlier in the season. Now not only did we find an abundant of Crappies this year, but the average size being caught was larger, so what does this mean for the Shellcrackers? We believe these warmer temps will bring the Shellcrackers in earlier and that’s exactly what we are seeing.

First 2017 Shellcracker Catch

I know it’s difficult to take time out from catching large Crappies, but with the Shellcrackers being a preferred fish to eat we did not want to miss out on any early runs. We also expected that the warmer water would bring the Shellcrackers in earlier as they prepare for spawning. So my friend Ed and his wife continued to checkout their favor fishing spots for these aggressive large Bluegills.

Well we were right, it’s only the second week of March and Ed has already caught his first mess of Shellcrackers. Here is a photo of his catch this past weekend, with the Shellcrackers ranging between 10” & 12”. Now that’s not a bad size Bluegill, but these are not the largest Shellcrackers we have seen. I myself am heading down March 31, hoping to catch the prime time and experience another incredible fishing trip with a great friend.

The Best Shellcracker Bait – Freshwater Shrimp

The bait we prefer are freshwater shrimp, which can be netted or purchased. See How To Catch Freshwater Shrimp.

TIP: If you are limited on vacation days and the time to fish for this Bully of the Bluegills, then focus on the prime times of the season, one week before and one week after the full moon, early morning and/or evening, and plan your trip accordingly.

2017 Shellcracker Expectations

What are my expectations this year? I expect 2017 to be one of the best Shellcracker catches I have experienced. Why, well the Crappie season was incredible with large fish, the water levels are normal, and the early warm water is forcing the Shellcracker to start feeding aggressively much earlier. This can only equate to a Shellcracker Season like we have not seen in many years. Even if I’m wrong on my prediction you still will not be disappointed this year and don’t be surprised if you tangle into some of the largest Shellcrackers you have ever caught.

Best Way To Catch Crappies & Bluegills – Best 2017 Crappie Action

How To Catch Crappies & Bluegills

The techniques used for catching Crappies and Bluegills are the same across the United States, but depending which state you’re in some baits work better than others. But, I have found these two baits, one for Crappies and one for Bluegills work great throughout the US. I would go as far to say you will not find a better bait combination than these in any part of the US, especially in the Midwest!

The Crappie & Bluegill Bait Combinations

For Crappies it’s the Crappie Tube Jig Hook with a 2” Gulp Minnow and for the Bluegills it’s our 1/64 oz Gum-Ball Jig with light blue flashabou skirt.

Catching Crappies

For Crappies start with a tube bobber, 2.5 feet of monofilament line, a crappie tube hook, a crappie tube (black or silver), and a 2” Gulp Minnow (Black Shad or Smelt).

Catching Bluegills

For Bluegills use a tube bobber with 2.5 feet of monofilament line, our homemade jig with the flashabou skirt, and tip the hook with a pink Gulp Maggot or Waxie.

Striped Bass to Speckled Bass – Catching Crappies & Bluegills

For this trip I flew back from Anderson South Carolina, fishing for Striped Bass, picked my wife up and head up toward Duluth Minnesota. Once on the lake we headed for a nice weedline and started catching fish, I focused on the Bluegills as she went for the Crappies. After two hours we had all the fish we wanted. Here is a small video our our action.