July and August offer some of the best opportunities of the year to catch bluegills and crappies. One of the main reasons for this is that their energy reserves are being burned faster in the warm summer water, so they are feeding often to replenish those reserves. Once you find fish, it can be some of the best panfish action you’ll have all year.
To find midsummer panfish, start by looking for isolated weed beds along any breakline or around the edge of expansive flats and underwater points, anywhere from 8 to 16 feet or deeper, depending on the lake. You want to find the tallest, thickest weeds you can, in most cases. Green weeds are key, whether it’s cabbage, coontail, northern watermilfoil or grassy looking narrow leaf pond-weed.
One way to find these “weed jungles” is to troll along breaklines and watch for them on your electronics. Technology is so advanced these days that on most sonar units you can actually distinguish weeds by shape.
Another great way that works on most of our clear, natural lakes is to look for weed clumps using a pair of polarized sunglasses. On bright sunny days, isolated weed patches are usually easy to spot.
Crappies and bluegills will often hang around these same weed beds, but how you target them may be a little different. For targeting crappies, a great way to start is to swim a small jig and plastic combination right over the tops of the weeds or through more scattered weed growth. Do this as slow as possible. If you are constantly getting stuck in the weeds, speed up a little bit.
Another effective technique that can trigger more bites on certain fish is to flick your rod tip or “jig” your lure to get more bites while reeling slowly over and through the weeds.
Try both methods and let the fish tell you what they want.
If they still aren’t biting, dropping the lure down farther in the weeds while holding it still with small, subtle movements can get finicky fish to commit.
If the fish seem to not be in the weeds, check for suspended fish off the adjacent weed edge in anywhere from 15 to 25 feet of water or more depending on the lake or spot you’re fishing. Oftentimes you can “video game” fish for them by seeing suspended fish on your electronics, and dropping your lure below your transducer so you can see your lure and the fish.
Crappies are often looking up to feed, so stop your lure above the fish and watch for it to come up and bite. Just wait until you feel the bite first before you set the hook.
Local favorite jig and plastic combinations include the Irv’s Magic Jig and any crappie-sized tube jig in popular sizes of 1/16-, 3/32- or 1/8-oz. sizes. Crappie minnows under a bobber can be an excellent choice as well.
Bluegills hanging around those same weed beds are usually on the deeper edges of the weeds. The same jig and plastic combinations that you use for crappies often work for bluegills. Jig and plastics, or plain jig heads or hooks with a sinker, can be tipped with a small, panfish-sized leech or piece of crawler jigged vertically or under a bobber to get bluegills to bite.
Finding panfish in isolated weed beds can give you non-stop action this time of year. Keep a few fish for the frying pan, while also being conservation minded and letting the big fish go. We want to preserve and ultimately improve panfishing for years to come.
Jeremy Anderson guides fishing trips on 50 lakes in the Park Rapids, Nevis, Akeley and Lake George areas. His business is Jones’ Guide Service.