Fishing For The Shellcrackers

In the Mid West the Bluegill offers a lot of attitude for their size, fighting better than any other freshwater species of panfish. They are also second to none in the frying pan, so I thought I would take a trip to Tavares Florida and try my hand at some of the largest Bluegills in the states, the Shellcracker. Shellcrackers run 11 inches full grown and will weigh over a pound (5lb 7oz is the record). Shellcrackers are light green to brown with dark spots and a silver side. The belly is light yellow to white while the ear flap has a red spot, much like the Mid-West Sun Fish or RedEar.

When To Fish For The ShellCrackers

Shellcrackers will move into their feeding areas as early as late February depend on the weather. They will begin spawning beds as early as late March, however, if water temperatures remain low throughout March then expect shellcrackers to concentrate for spawning between the second and fourth weeks of April. One rule of thumb is to wait until the fist new moon in early March to catch them feeding in the lily pads.

Where To Catch Shellcrackers

Before spawning the Shellcracker will come into the shallows and begin to feed aggressively, focus on the lily pads using a long medium to heavy rod and a good line. You will not be casing as the lily pads are so thick that you will be dropping your hook straight down between the pads and trying to pull these very aggressive fish straight up. Not an easy task for a Bluegill, I know. Also watch the pads as these fish are moving so aggressively while feeding you will see the lily pads moving or shaking, especially on clam days. The lakes I focused on were; Lake Eustis and Lake Harris.

How To Catch Shellcrackers

To catch shellcrackers use a small hook baited with a fresh water grass shrimp, which can be netted easy from the lake your fishing or purchased from the local bait store. Place a small split shot 4 inches above the hook and either straight line or use a small bobber or fly fishing marker. You will want a stiff rod and a good line as these shellcrackers will run over a pound and as we know fight by swimming in a sideways circle. Good luck on getting them out of the pads as many will wrap you up if you don’t get them out quickly. I recommend you bring extra line and hooks as they feed so aggressively in these shallow water lily pads that you will lose a few hooks. You may also want to cut the hook off a few times once you have the in the boat, as many will be buried costing you more time to dig the hook out then tying on a new one, you can always retrieve the hooks when filleting them. Good luck!

How To Fillet Pan Fish

Here is a short video on how to use an electric fillet knife for pan fish.