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Panfish continue to be pesky

Jayce Schroeder of Brainerd had fun catching some late summer bluegills last weekend. As fall approaches, both crappie and bluegill should remain quite active. (Jason Durham /For the Enterprise)

     As summer begins to turn into fall anglers typically turn their attention toward big fish. Those walleye, northern pike and bass seem to hold precedent over other fish along the food chain.

     Anglers may not realize that smallmouth bass are catch and release only after September 8. You can still legally target and catch the species, but smallmouth must be immediately returned to the lake. Anglers cannot retain smallmouth in a livewell for an even a short period of time. It’s catch and immediate release.

     The smallmouth bass catch and release season is due to the fact that smallmouth travel habitual routes during fall. Anglers discovering those underwater highways can have wildly successful outings.  

     Walleye and northern pike anglers also have great opportunity as fall approaches. It’s often been said that big fish “strap on the feedbag” in the fall.

Though big fish like walleye, bass, northern pike and muskie will noticeably gravitate toward a larger bait presentation into the fall, the actual period where feeding is more recognizeable is in late January and into February. That period is an angler’s high percentage chance to catch a predator fish weighing in at a greatest mass. They’re preparing to spawn, but their girth has been gained throughout the fall.

Those big fish are intriguing for several reasons.. Poor Mr. or Mrs. Crappie or Bluegill. Most people have forgotten you since you ate chunks of a torn up pancake, left over from breakfast, at the sides of the dock as the kids cheered in disbelief that they’d actually eat “cabin food”.

     In reality, those panfish are ripe like raspberries. After indulging upon insects and minnows, the fish are fat and plentiful, but actually catching big panfish isn’t simply a result of discovering the right depth or using the right bait. It’s a combination of both in conjunction with figuring out where the fish are located.

     Mid-summer locales for panfish encompass a wide range. Bluegill and crappie can be situated under a dock or along protruding shoreline reeds. Some fish might be fixated on a weedline along a drop-off, while certain schools are suspended in 10-15 feet of water or even less, hovering above the lake bottom 60 feet below.

     Panfish, like other species, revolve on a schedule. When you find fish in a certain environment during a certain time of the year, you can often replicate the success annually. The only chink in the chain is Mother Nature, who loves to change multiple environmental factors to ensure each season is vastly different than the previous calendar year.

     Yet when it comes to crappie and bluegill, the late summer season usually provides consistency for some nice fish.

     Weedline fish will predominately prevail due to available forage. Insects and minnows are finding refuge in and around weeds in 10-18 feet.

     But as the cold teeth of fall bite down, wait for the perfect storm; a day that is unseasonably warm and calm. Focus upon shallow, weed covered flats and your efforts will be rewarded.