|Kayaks, ultralight tackle and panfish make a successful combinationBy Noel VickPhoto courtesy of Hobie|
from The Fishing Wire
“Panfish” is perhaps the biggest catchall category in fishing. Essentially, if it’s round and measures somewhere between the size of an adult hand and the fateful frying pan, it’s a panfish. We’re talking about the zillion species of sunfish, a couple styles of crappies, as well as – in the opinion of many including myself – white bass.
Drumroll please… And now you’re being urged to pursue the commonest freshwater fish in North America with the uncommonest of approaches: pedal kayak trolling. Take a breath and a moment to get over the weirdness. It’s an extraordinarily effective technique.For this discourse, it’s best talking lure selection first, as it’ll dovetail into techniques. My panfish trolling portfolio consists of two primary categories: hardbaits and spinners.
Hardbait Pedal Trolling
Not too many years ago, the marketplace was inundated with downsized bodybaits, including lipped crankbaits, jerkbaits and lipless rattle baits. Manufacturers miniaturized existing models and developed entirely new micro hardbaits. I’ve trolled and tested them all from my Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14.
Panfish of all stripes – especially larger specimens – either make a living off bait and fish fry or will opportunistically eat forage with fins and tails. Hardbaits also ferret-out the most aggressive fish and can be trolled faster than spinners, letting you cover more water in less time. Hardbaits are unquestionably the best search tool.
Trolling by pedal kayak simply means casting the bait back, letting out additional line – minimum of 100 feet – and you’re fishing. Whatever species you pursue, the odds of success are improved by getting the lure as far away from the boat as possible, especially in depths of 10-feet and less where fish more easily scatter. Experience has proven, however, that the darker the water the closer you can run baits.
As with other forms of pedal trolling, longer rods are recommended. Think about the common practice of spider-rigging for crappies; it’s about spreading the field of coverage. In a kayak, where legal, two long rods can be easily managed.
The best all-around panfish trolling rods hail from St. Croix’s Panfish Spinning Series. The blanks are constructed of a dynamic blend of SCVI and SCII graphite providing responsive touch, balance and finesse. I employ either the 8-foot (PFS80LMF2) or 9-foot (PFS90LMF2), light, moderate-fast, 2-piece models. They curve concentrically on the move, and natively sweep-set upon strike. For added machismo with larger baits, or bigger-billed ones with greater resistance, I carry the 7-foot, light, extra-fast-action model (PF70LXF).
Rods are paired with 2500 size spinning reels. Smaller 1000 and 2000 sized reels don’t take up line nearly as fast. And personally, I like the feel of a larger reel. And when you opt to stop and cast, they yield greater distance. Daiwa’s affordable Regal LT is a solid and widely available choice.
Like all my pedal kayak pursuits, braid is the word. Braid has better sensitivity and buffers the softness of long panfish rods with stoutness to produce ideal, hands-free hooksets. Braid also lets the rod communicate to me that lures are running true. Consider either 6- or 8-pound test of Daiwa’s super narrow diameter J-Braid x8.
Leaders are mandatory, too, long ones (24-inch minimum), which combat panfish species’ exceptional vision. Fluorocarbon makes are best. I tie in sections of Daiwa’s J-Fluoro in 4- or 6-pound test, finishing with a tiny snap for speedy lure changes.
LIVETARGET’s 2 ¾-inch Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait does it all, never discriminating against species, including bass. Although designed to replicate a rainbow smelt, fish in waters dominated by shad and other shiner species don’t seem to care. I theorize that the Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait’s precision anatomy, pure trolling path, and seductive action make it universally effective.Rapala has a major stake in the panfish market, too, and their baits are always onboard.
Fish fawn over the petite, 2 ½-inch Rapala Husky Jerk, a downsized rendition of the popular, slow-sinking series. To that, Rapala also tenders the Ultra Light series, catering specifically to panfish anglers. The 1 ½-inch Ultra Light Crank is not only cute as hell, but has the surprising capacity to run deep on the troll, nearing the 10-foot mark.
Daiwa also comes to the plate with a couple diminutive heavy hitters. The 2-inch Dr. Minnow Jerkbait turns fish heads. And when you’re in the midst of larger, meat-eaters, consider Daiwa’s 3.75-inch TD Minnow.
Color selection is an exercise in experimentation. For the most part, I stick to natural, baitfish tones – the silvers, whites and blues – but often opt for more color in stained water. And for whatever reason, panfish respond exceptionally well to greens, especially ones with lighter bellies.
Spinner Pedal Trolling
Let’s first clarify, I’m talking about hairpin spinners, not inline spinners. Years of pedal trolling have proven that bags are basically doubled with hairpins. I believe it’s the flash combined with a juicy, baitfish profiled target – the jig and soft plastic.DIY is the only way to go with hairpin spinners. Certainly, there are hordes of pre-rigged variations available, but none matching my surefire assortment. To this, entirely, my hairpins are founded on Betts Spinners. The series affords Colorado blade sizes 0, 1, and 3, the heartier 3-size providing the best loft, especially with smaller jigs. Both silver and gold options are available, too. I employ silver in most scenarios, but swap to gold in dark water.Z-Man Slim SwimZ and Finesse ShroomZ jighead with hairpin spinner.
Next in line is the actual jig. Betts offers several workable styles, too, but I prefer a couple others. Z-Man’s capsule-headed Finesse ShroomZ are the defacto heads for Ned Rigs, and I find them equally amazing with hairpin spinners. Featherweight sizes of 1/15- and 1/10-ounce are the magic bullets. Keep a pool of red, black, green and white heads onboard to color match bodies.Northland Tackle’s RZ Jig is another winner, and easily found above the Mason Dixon Line.For my druthers, there are three failsafe brands of bodies: Z-Man, Bobby Garland and Bass Assassin. The throbbing paddletail of Z-Man’s 2.5-inch Slim SwimZ is a crappie menace. Its narrow girth prompts the hairpin to run single-file. And, constructed of ElaZtech, a single Slim SwimZ can easily burn through a limit of crappies.
Nationwide, Bobby Garland Crappie Baits own the most shelf space. This is warranted. The popular bodies – specifically the Original 2” Baby Shad – are to panfish what peanuts are to elephants. Ideally shaped like fish fry, they are squishy in the fingers, causing fish to hang on, and come in a staggering 75 colors. The flamboyant Cajun Cricket is a sunfish favorite. Baitfish-toned Blueback Shad Diamond Mist tempt everything in clear to lightly stained water. Glacier Blue, a white body peppered with blue, is a frequent flyer as well.Grab a few packs of Bass Assassin’s 3-inch Baby Shad to mix things up. They, too, come in a wide pallet of colors.
Northland Tackle’s legendary Rigged Mimic Minnow Shad come pre-rigged with physically accurate bodies and fish-fry-shaped heads. The color matching is already done. 1/32- and 1/16-ouncers are the chosen ones. Pedal trolling hairpin spinners is elementary. Locomoting slower than you would with hardbaits, even as slow as 1 MPH, is enough to keep the blades turning while riding high in the water column. Hairpins are at their best lazily humping along above targeted fish. In 10-feet of water, I want the hairpin mobilized 3 or 4 feet down, and no deeper than 5. Sometimes, I’ll run a hairpin rig in both rod holders, crack a cold one and light a cigar, and make sequentially spaced passes over suspect water.
Even though many missions are in less than 10-feet of water, my eyes are glued to the electronics, a 9-inch Raymarine Axiom. Even in shallow water you can mark fish. But more importantly, the Raymarine reveals weeds and other fish holding elements, not to mention signaling depth breaks. And if you find panfish pasted to the bottom, it’s time to hit the brakes and go to a vertical presentation; just the jig and plastic or a weensy jigging spoon. The Raymarine will reveal these tiny baits beneath the kayak in real time. Turn on the A-scope feature and experience the same, live drama you enjoy when fishing vertically through the ice.
Assuming you’re the results-oriented type of angler who has gotten over the stigma of trolling in general (you likely wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t), expand the technique into your panfishing – preferably by pedal-driven kayak – and see what happens. A cooler of crappies and sunfish does not lie.
|Time for Lunker Panfish|
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire
While most anglers are still focused on spawning largemouth bass in late April across the South, a few savvy panfish anglers know that this is the time to home in on catching the largest bluegills, warmouth and crappie of the year as the “jumbos” cruise into the shallows to feed on bass fry around the beds.
Crappies spawn earlier than bass, bluegills and warmouth later, but both species love 1 to 2 inch long baby fish, and with the bass spawn beginning in late March and continuing into early May, there are millions of these fry in the shallows of many lakes at present.
While small bluegills and warmouth mostly eat grass shrimp and insect life, the hand-sized “jumbos” seem to prefer fish. Crappies, of course, feed heavily on minnows of all types throughout their adult lives.
Bream beds are not hard to find—or at least that’s usually the case. This year, high, muddy water in many lakes around the Southeast has made it more of a challenge to pick out the beds. They’re shallow bowls scooped out on firm sand or shell, typically in 1 to 4 feet of water on the edge of grass, or around boat docks, stumps or other cover.
They’re easiest to see on a calm day with high sun. This year, the challenge is just finding water that’s clear enough to see down any depth, but barring further downpours, the water should clear quickly.
Beds that hold panfish may or may not have adult bass still in them. While the male bass guards the nest for the first week to 10 days after the eggs hatch, they leave them on their own after that. Big panfish prowl around both guarded and unguarded nests.
Matching the hatch is the sensible way to catch these panfish, which often are far bigger than typical schooling bluegills or crappies found offshore. Tiny 2” floater-diver minnow imitations from Rapala and Rebel are particularly effective.
These fly-weight lures are best fished on ultra-light spinning gear and 6-pound-test mono—heavier line ruins the action. It’s also essential to tie them on with a loop knot like the turtle rather than a uniknot or improved clinch, because if the knot draws tight on the eye, the action of the little lure will be ruined by the resistance of the line.
A little reel like the Shimano Syncopate 1000 is all that’s needed to handle the lightweight minnow imitations from Rapala and Rebel that attract these jumbo panfish.
Fly rod poppers also work well when the panfish are around the beds—choose light-colored bugs with minimal dressing, because in this case you’re imitating a minnow rather than a bug or a frog.
Sometimes all it takes is casting the lure over the bed, letting it set for a 10-count and then twitching it once—bluegills in particular like this presentation. I’ve caught some close to a pound with this tactic this spring.
Crappies and warmouth, on the other hand, seem to like a moving target. Slow cranking the bait so that it comes wobbling across the bed and nearby shallows draws the strikes.
When you catch a panfish off a bed, the disturbance flushes most nearby panfish for a time, but sit quietly for 5 to 10 minutes and they’ll come cruising back to the free feast. You can probably catch another and then another with well-timed casts.
It’s also possible to catch these fish with tiny jigs of 1/32 ounce or there-abouts, again fished on UL tackle. The smallest Beetle Spins also work well, cranked just fast enough to make the spinner blade turn.
For fly-rodders, a silver/green streamer fly about 2 inches long on a size 8 long-shank hook does the job. Very short, jerky strips of an inch or so at a time draw the bites.
While panfish are the primary target, fishing the beds with this gear also occasionally turns up a surprise. This spring I’ve caught black drum, catfish and perch in these areas and also landed bass to a couple pounds, a real handful on the ultra-light gear.
It’s a change of gears for those of us who are confirmed bass-heads, but a pleasant diversion for a few weeks in spring—and when it comes to eating, you can’t beat fresh-fried fillets off these oversized panfish.
Summer Bream at High Falls Lake
It has often been said that if bream got much bigger, our tackle would not hold them. Few other fish offer as much as bream – a good fight, excellent eating and memories for most of us of our first fish. High Falls Lake offers good bream fishing where you can enjoy all of their great qualities.
High Falls is a 660 acre lake located just off I-75 between Macon and Atlanta. The main lake is on the Towaliga River and there are three main arms, Buck Creek, Watkins Bottom and Brushy Creek running off it. The lake is lined with private cabins and there are two good boat ramps, one at the dam and one on Buck Creek.
It is a state park with special regulations. Boats are limited to 10 horsepower or less and all boats must be off the lake at night. Don’t get into a guessing game about the legal definition of dark – check out sunrise and sunset times and plan on launching at sunrise and coming in at sunset.
State regulations apply in other cases, so you need a Georgia fishing license and you can keep up to 50 bream each day. That includes all species and you may catch bluegill, shellcracker, warmouth and redbreast at High Falls. You will have to pay a $2 daily fee to launch your boat and park, except on Wednesdays which are free. An annual permit is available.
High falls is a fertile lake and has good populations of all game fish. The waters are not polluted, though, and there are no restrictions on eating fish from the lake. The lake is fairly shallow and is very silted in, with old channels mostly depressions and backs of creeks filled in with sand and mud.
Keith Weaver is the state fisheries biologists in charge of High Falls. He says the lake is an overlooked resource for all species of fish, and that there is a good population of bluegill in the lake. Their sampling shows you should catch a lot of bluegill in the half-pound range, fish 7 to 9 inches are there in good numbers. Shellcracker are not as numerous, but there are some big ones in the lake.
This has been a strange year for bedding fish of all species, and it may have made the bream bed at odd times at High Falls, according to Keith. Although the full moon is a prime time for bream bedding, the unstable weather we have had this spring has thrown them off. Bluegill will bed every month from April thorough September at High Falls, but the shellcracker will do almost all their bedding in April.
There is a full moon the July 16, 2019, so that week should be excellent for bluegill at High Falls. Keith says bigger bream usually are found toward the dam, so look for bedding fish in the small pockets and behind docks in that area.
After bedding is done, Keith suggests moving out to deeper water. Find stumps in 5 to 6 feet of water, especially along the old creek and river channels, and fish for bream there. Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times for bigger fish, and Keith said, without hesitation, that crickets as your best bait.
Shady areas also hold bream. Look for banks where tall trees keep the sun off the water longer, and find areas where the trees and bushes hang out over the water and provide shade. Boat docks also provide shade, and most have brush around them, making bream fishing even better. Be careful when fishing around docks to not disturb the dock owners poles left out to catch fish.
For shellcracker Keith suggest Watkins Bottom. The fish will hold on the stumps along the old creek channel there and hit crickets in 5 or 6 feet of water. The channel is deep enough to offer a thermal refuge of cooler water when the sun gets hot in June. If you catch one you can anchor and fish the area carefully, there should be others nearby.
Jim Berry owns Berry’s Sporting Goods in Griffin and has fished High Falls all his life. An mount of an 11 pound bass at the store shows the kind of bass he has caught there. Jim also likes to fish for bream at High Falls, and had a cabin on the lake for years. Add that to the fact he talks to fishermen every day that are buying bait and tackle will give you an idea of his knowledge of the bream fishing on the lake.
Jim and I went to High Falls during the full moon in May expecting to find lots of bream beds. We put my bass boat in at the ramp in Buck Creek and fished from there to the mouth of Buck Creek, then across to Brushy Creek and all the way around it. We landed a lot of bream but most were small, and we found just a few beds.
Apparently the cool mornings we had put the bream off their bedding schedule. That may mean even more are bedding this month, making fishing even better there. The baits and tactics Jim suggests should help you find bream and catch as many as you want.
Jim likes all kinds of bream fishing and carried a fly rod, a cane pole and several light spinning and spin cast rods with us. He suggest using 6 to 8 pound line so you can pull your hook loose rather than breaking it off when you get hung. This also keeps you from going into and area where you are catching fish to get unhung, which would spook them.
There are three basic ways to find bream beds at High Falls. You can ride the shallows looking for the saucer shaped light colored depressions in the bottom, you can smell them when you get close, and you can often see the fish making the water ripple around beds.
A small jig or Beetle Spin type bait is a good search bait for bream. You can run the banks casting those baits while watching for bream beds and water movement. If you see the beds, or smell them, stop and make several casts. When you catch a bream, especially a good sized one, it is time to anchor and switch to live bait.
To find beds you can’t see, or to find schools of bream holding out from the bank, Jim likes to cast his Beetle Spin or jig to the bank and work it back with a rise and fall action. He says the bream usually hit the jig as it falls. His favorite colors are white or black jigs and when using just the jig he likes the Renosky jig in 1/16 to 1/32 ounce.
Fishing a fly is another good way to find bream. Jim likes a popping bug best but will use a rubber cricket or even a wet fly if that is what the fish seem to want. If you don’t have a fly rod, you can cast a fly using a clear bubble made for that purpose. It attaches to your spinning rod line and then you tie on a leader and your fly.
Sometimes it seems a bream will hit a fly or popping bug better than just about anything else. You can fish them slowly or fast, letting them sit until it drives the bream crazy. A sinking fly will also drift to the bottom so slowly that it looks irresistible. Give them a try.
We had crickets, red wigglers and meal worms from Jim’s store with us. All can be fished on cane poles or spinning outfits. Tie on a #6 or #8 hook, attach a small split shot about six inches above it and clip a cork to your line. Adjust the cork to the depth of the water, you want your bait to be near the bottom and the split shot should be at the depth below the cork to just touch the bottom.
If you can see the beds, cast to them and let the bait settle. If you don’t get hit immediately, slowly move it back toward you across the beds. It should not go far before a bream sucks it in. Jim says it is best to stay way out from the beds and make as long a cast as you can make effectively. This keeps from spooking the bream and making them move off the beds.
Jim likes a #8 hook for bream for a couple of reasons. One, it will straighten out easier if you get hung. And even more important, bream with their small mouths seem to take the smaller hook in better.
Good areas where Jim has found beds in the past include the last big cove on your right as you leave Buck Creek and enter the river. It is shallow and sandy, and bream bed all around it and even out in the middle toward the back. You can find bream beds all around Brushy Creek and the big flat in the back often has beds all over it.
In the river from the dam to the upper end, look for small pockets where the beds have some protection from the wind. Any backout can hold a few beds, and the bigger ones hold more beds. If your trolling motor is kicking up soft mud it is better to try to find a sandy area. You can check the bottom composition with a paddle, too.
The same baits work if you don’t locate a bed. You can anchor near the old river or creek channel and fish the live bait just off the bottom. There will be more and bigger bream present if there are stumps in the area. Let the bait sit longer to give them a chance to find it.
Jim likes the deeper banks in Brushy Creek as well as the channel in Buck Creek above the bridge. If you have a good depthfinder you can locate the deeper water with stumps, or you can cast a small jig until you start to get hung on them. Once you find them anchor and you can put out several rods or poles with different baits on them. If you start catching bream on one bait, switch the others to it if they are not hitting them as well.
There are a lot of old trees that have fallen from the bank and you can catch bream around them, too. Position your boat out from the tip and fish all around the trunk and limbs of the tree. A cane pole is a very effective way to do this because you can drop your bait into a hole in the limbs then pull it straight back up and out if you don’t get a bite.
Up the river above the confluence of Buck and Brushy Creek you can find a lot of overhanging willows. Stay on the deeper side and fish under them. This should give you action all day long, and you can also get out of the sun here, an important consideration as June wears on and it gets hotter.
As Jim and I loaded my boat, Tommy Lance came up and started talking to us. He was surprised we put my bass boat in the lake, but we explained it was OK as long as you don’t crank the gas engine. If you crank a big motor at High Falls you can bet someone will call and the game warden will be waiting on you with his ticket book! Your trolling motor should move you around fine on the lake.
Tommy saw some of the bream we caught and said he had fished for bream there many years. He had a cabin on the lake for a while and spent many hours catching bream on the lake. He offered a few suggestions for finding bigger bream, especially if they are bedding.
In Buck Creek if you go upstream from the landing the creek makes a bend, and the right bank is deeper. There is good bream fishing all along that bank, according to Tommy. You can fish live bait or artificials around the docks and trees in the water, and bream do bed in the shallow areas.
Tommy’s favorite area to fish for bedding bream is up the Towaliga River. There is an area where a big pond is off to the side and it is called the Duck Pond. He says head up that way and when you see the grass growing out in the middle of the river in a shallow area, fish the left side out from the boat docks and cabins there. That is a big flat and the bigger bream in the area like to bed and hold there.
Also, there is a slough on the left going upstream before getting to the Duck Pond. That is another good area to fish for bream, around the mouth of that slough and into it. There is an old boat dock there you can fish around, also.
Also, there is a slough on the left going upstream before getting to the Duck Pond. That is another good area to fish for bream, around the mouth of that slough and into it. There is an old boat dock there you can fish around, also.
Tommy’s favorite bait is a cricket fished under a cork. It can be fished around all kinds of cover and across beds, too. Crickets will catch anything in High Falls, including the bigger bluegill.
One of the best things about fishing at High Falls is the peace and quiet. Every time I go there I am reminded how nice it is to fish and not be bothered by skiers, jet skis and big cruisers. You will hear the occasional fishing boat or see folks on a pontoon out riding around, but the 10 horsepower limit means lowered noise levels. It is very enjoyable.
Give High Falls a try for bream this month. You can check with Jim at his store in Griffin for the latest fishing information on the lake, and also get anything you need for fishing there. As Keith says, High Falls is an overlooked resource. Look at it and take advantage of some good, peaceful fishing.
I got my heart broke a few years ago. I feed the bream in a one-acre pond on my property and have been catching bluegill from 10 to 14 ounces there. The water has been a nice fertile green color all summer, and the fish have been fat and active.
Last Saturday when I threw out fish food the bream churned the water like a school of piranha feeding on fresh meat. They quickly ate the three pounds of food I threw out and probably would have eaten more if I had given them any more. That was the usual activity level.
On Sunday afternoon when I threw out a can of food, there was almost no activity. It was very hot and the sun was bright, and I hoped that was the problem. The pond had dropped about 4 inches in the past few weeks since there had been no rain, but there was still a good flow of water coming into the pond.
Monday afternoon as I drove down to the pond several buzzards flew off. I got a sick feeling in my stomach, and it was confirmed when I caught sight of dead fish floating around the edge of the pond. I walked around the pond and counted 107 dead fish – mostly big bluegill.
Tuesday morning I called the DNR fisheries biologist that covers Spalding County and he told me I was the third call that morning about a fish kill in local ponds. The hot, dry weather had left many ponds with low oxygen content, and based on what I told him, lack of oxygen was probably what killed my fish.
Fertile ponds have a lot of algae in them, that is what gives the water the green color. Algae is good – it produces food for the fish at the lower end of the food chain and during the day it adds oxygen to the water.
Unfortunately, at night the algae actually uses oxygen, and if it dies the decay process also uses up oxygen. If a green pond suddenly turns brown, it probably means the algae has died and the fish will be in trouble.
The water in my pond cleared up a lot Monday, but that was probably from the heavy rain Sunday night. That could also have been part of the problem The biologist I talked with said the fish could have been stressed because of low oxygen levels, and the influx of fresh, cooler water was too much for them to handle. That could be what pushed them over the edge.
By Thursday the remaining fish were feeding again. Unfortunately, most of them were smaller, 8 inches long or smaller. That goes along with what the biologist told me, the bigger, older fish were the ones that would die first.
If you have a pond and see the fish swimming near the surface during the day, they may be there because the oxygen level is low. About the only way to solve the problem is to put in an aerator. That is an expensive way to go, but it may be the only way to save the fish. I am checking on getting one for my pond now.
I really hated to lose all those big bream that I have had so much fun catching. But the biologist had some good news. The fish left will probably grow very fast now since there are fewer in the pond. Maybe I have something to look forward to!
Every time I go to High Falls Lake, I am reminded of what a great fishing spot we have close to Griffin. The lake is very quiet since motors are limited to 10 horse power and there are no skiers, skidoos or run-abouts there. And the fishing is excellent.
Jim Berry and I went there last week to try to find some bedding bream. We were disappointed, the few beds we found had only small bream on them. We caught a good many fish, but most were not at big as what we were looking for.
On Friday I talked with Keith Weaver, the state fisheries biologist that keeps up with High Falls. He told me this was a strange bedding year for all species of fish because of the unstable weather. Bream usually bed on the full moon but the cool mornings last week may have delayed them some. They might be in full bed right now.
Keith said High Falls has an excellent population of bluegill and you should be able to catch a lot of fish in the half-pound range. That is a good size for lake fish. I have been spoiled catching 12 to 14 ounce bream in my pond, but I feed them every day. Lake fish don’t have it that easy.
There are a good many shellcracker in High Falls, too. Keith says they are probably done bedding by now and you could catch them along the old creek channels in 5 or 6 feet of water, especially in Watkins Bottom. He also told me the bigger bream would probably come from the deeper water nearer the dam and up in Buck Creek.
Jim and I met Tommy Lance at the boat ramp as we loaded my bass boat back on the trailer. He said he did not know you could put a big boat in the lake, but we told him it was ok if you did not crank the big engine and used only the trolling motor. If you put a boat in with a motor over 10 horse power and crank it, you can just about bet a game warden will be waiting on you with his ticket book before you leave.
Tommy said he caught a lot of big bream up the river near the area called the Duck Pond, and in Buck Creek. He said those were good bedding areas. All this information will be used in a June Georgia Outdoor News article I am working on.
Bream should be bedding now at High Falls. Grab a bucket of crickets, a tub of worms and your light fishing stuff and head to High Falls to catch some fine eating, hard pulling bream.
A Better Way For Fall Panfish
By Chip Leer
from The Fishing Wire
When fall crappies and sunfish roam deep weed edges and structural sweet spots such as points and bars, fishermen adept at precisely positioning subtle presentations in front of fish’s noses can enjoy banner catches other anglers miss.
One of the best ways to reap the autumn harvest—and indeed, catch panfish anytime they favor deep habitat—is working a small jig on a modified three-way rig similar to those used by walleye anglers.
It’s a simple yet deadly setup. You’ll want to keep the jig in or close to the sonar cone, so leave the long rods in the locker. I favor a 6′-3″ medium-light spinning rod such as 13 Fishing’s Muse Gold (http://www.13fishing.com/muse-gold/), strung with 6-pound Bionic Braid (https://shop.northlandtackle.com/line/bionic-walleye-braid/).
Tie a three-way swivel to the end of the mainline, then add a relatively long dropper (say, 24 inches) of 4-pound BIONIC mono. A 3/16- to ¼-ounce dropshot weight should do the trick on the tag end. Tip: By adjusting the weight’s location on the dropper, you can raise or lower the jig in the water column to position it slightly above the level of the panfish.
Tie a 12- to 16-inch tagline of similar 4-pound mono to the swivel’s trailing eye, then add a small jig. Northland Tackle’s Helium Stonefly (https://shop.northlandtackle.com/seasonal-tackle/ice-fishing/impulse-helium-stonefly/) is my favorite choice, but any of the neutrally buoyant Helium Series heads work fine. Don’t worry about adding meat. The IMPULSE body adds all the scent and animation you’ll need.
Armed with this rig, you can inch your way along weed edges and breaklines, or hover over a school of fish. Either way, keep rod motions to a minimum. The jig and softbait’s natural subtle action is perfect for panfish that typically aren’t overly aggressive and not inclined to chase down prey.
The light jig is easy for fish to inhale, and you typically don’t feel the fish until it turns to swim away with your lure. When you feel a light tug, execute a gentle, sweeping hookset and chances are good you’ll be firmly hooked up to another fat fall panfish.
Based in Walker, Minnesota, noted fishing authority and outdoor communicator Chip Leer operates Fishing the WildSide, which offers a full suite of promotional, product development and consultation services. For more information, call (218) 547-4714 or email Chip@fishingthewildside.net
Finding Fish In Transition
from The Fishing Wire
How experts use Humminbird technologies to put the bead on fall and winter fish
Eufaula, AL – Typically, as fall arrives, many of us head for the tree stand or blind, turning our attention to birds and bucks. Yet, what’s happening on the water this time of the year can be equally as awesome as what’s happening in the field.Vahrenberg verifies the presence of a kicker fish on the tree identified with 360 Imaging.
Here’s how a handful of fishing’s top experts find and pattern bass, walleyes and panfish during the fall and winter – and how you can do the same.
Open-Water Bass: Fall & Winter
Missouri-based tournament pro Doug Vahrenberg says his fall and winter bass game has never been better thanks to the trifecta of Humminbird’s LakeMaster mapping, Side Imaging and 360 Imaging.
“As the water cools and bass school up in the fall, they’ll begin to move from the main lake into creek arms. And you’ve got main lake fish on the flats adjacent to those creek arms. Both have one thing in common: they’re looking for lunch.”
Vahrenberg says it all comes down to surveying a lake quickly because fall bass can be here today, gone tomorrow. With two ONIX units at the dash – one set to full-screen Side Imaging, the other to Humminbird LakeMaster mapping – Vahrenberg is similarly on the prowl for baitfish and bass.
“I typically have my Side Imaging set to look 100 feet right and left. On a new lake I’ll increase that range to 130-150 feet until I find bait and ambush targets like trees, stumps, and submerged cover most anglers can’t see, especially in shallower stained water. Then I mark anything that looks like a good ambush site with a waypoint.”Humminbird 360 Imaging reveals the submerged tree in shallow, stained water that produced Vahrenberg’s bass (shown), only 25 feet from the boat.
He adds: “Seems like fall bass like flats close to a channel swing. They’ll move up from deeper water and push the bait into two-, three- or four feet of water and feed. With LakeMaster mapping you can find those spots where the channel swings in close to the bank. A lot of times your screen will be absolutely full of bait so I like to concentrate on those areas right before or after the giant wads of bait. Helps make the presence of your bait known.”
Once he’s located a channel swing, good cover, baitfish – even the bass themselves – Vahrenberg will jump from the console to the bow.
“As soon as I start pinging Bow 360 every waypoint will show up on my bow ONIX unit and I can motor right to ’em. Seems like if there’s a lot of cover, the fish tend to be isolated. Where there’s no cover, fish tend to group up in ‘wolf packs’. That’s where 360 Imaging really helps locating the stuff that you can’t see. The beauty is that it does all the work for you. You’re not controlling anything with your foot – all you have to do is look at the screen and think about where to cast next.”This ONIX split-screen reveals the presence of baitfish in Side Imaging, 2D Sonar and Down Imaging.
From fall through winter, Vahrenberg breaks down his presentations into two preferred categories.
“I always have one stick rigged up with a creature or jig and craw combo to flip the isolated fish on cover. Those fish will position right behind the timber, waiting for lunch to swim by. On lakes with less cover I’m fishing fast search baits to connect with the wolf packs – square bills, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, lipless cranks – and searching out aggression bites. A shad pattern is always good but if there’s an overabundance of forage, I’ll switch over to a bluegill pattern, which is often just different enough to get bit. Look at it this way, if you’re eating a chicken breast every day and somebody offers you pizza …”
During winter, Vahrenberg reverses his fall routine and starts at the back of creek arms, moving outward to the first or second channel swing – or from the edge of the ice back to the main lake. “Even more so in the winter, bass will associate to the channel swings – and deeper water – but look along the edges. Again, LakeMaster mapping and the imaging technologies can really help you find the right stuff.”
Pre-Fishing For Early Ice: Walleyes & Perch
In northern Minnesota, the open water season is typically over by Thanksgiving. Yet, by the time the turkey and cranberry are being passed around the table, ice fishing guide/tournament Brian “Bro” Brosdahl has much of his winter ice fishing strategy already mapped. Many years, he’s already fishing on hardwater by turkey day.
“Sure, I’ll drop waypoints on structures in the fall but what I really do is fast-forward my thinking to winter, knowing that walleyes and jumbo perch will associate to shoreline points, saddles, humps, and weed bed edges on flats during early ice,” says Brosdahl.
Like Vahrenberg’s Missouri bass, Brosdahl says the biggest reason early-ice fish associate to these areas – especially on larger bodies of water like Minnesota’s Mille Lacs, Winnibigoshish and Leech – is the presence of baitfish. “Walleyes and perch both gorge on shiners, although the bigger walleyes seem to prefer whitefish.”
Brosdahl says Humminbird Lakemaster mapping greatly reduces the time it takes him to “pre-fish” a lake in the fall for ice fishing in winter.Brosdahl and the big jumbo perch pay-off of scouting with Humminbird LakeMaster and Side Imaging technologies. Photo by Bill Lindner.
“But you can’t just motor around in the fall, mark bait and fish and drop waypoints. Most of the fall fish will have moved by first-ice. So, what I do is highlight depths with Lakemaster’s Depth Highlight feature – typically somewhere between 12 and 14 feet on bigger lakes – and then start dropping waypoints on those areas that will be their next move after fall.”
“You still have to look for inside turns, saddles and especially those steep breaks for walleyes. But remember: If there are walleyes in the area, they’ll push the perch up onto adjacent flats and the gradual breaks.”
Brosdahl was one walleye fishing’s earliest adopters of Side Imaging. “Same time as I’m watching my LakeMaster map, I’m watching Side Imaging for hard- and soft bottom edges. Both walleyes and perch will ride those edges all winter long. With Side Imaging these spots are unmistakable. Plus, as more of your ‘A list’ spots like rock piles and sunken islands get winter fishing traffic, I find myself fishing hard-to-soft bottom transitions in places easily overlooked.”
Once a surveyor for LakeMaster himself, Brosdahl says mapping waters with Humminbird’s new AutoChart Pro software has been a lot of fun. “Of course, this time around I don’t have to share my findings with anyone!”
“Kind of cool that I can go to a lake that doesn’t have HD one-foot contours and really dial in on spots for winter. Plus, AutoChart Pro gives me bottom hardness mapping so I those hard-to-soft spots really jump out. And there are some tiny lakes that have never been mapped. That’s where AutoChart really shines.”
One pass of Humminbird 360 reveals more than 10 manmade crappie cribs in a single pass. Range set to 120 feet in every direction.
He adds: “Another thing: Internet connectivity – even phone reception – can be pretty spotty in the areas I fish. Pretty cool that you can create the map on a PC without having to connect to the web. Plus, I know my data’s kept private.”
Tournament Talk: Winter Panfish
Currently, Wisconsin-based Kevin Fassbind and Nick Smyers are in second place as they prepare to fish the NAIFC 2014 Series Ice Fishing Championship on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake, December 20, 2014.
A big part of their ongoing strategy is open-water scouting tournament grounds, like Mille Lacs’ Isle and Waukon bays.
“We’ve found Humminbird Side Imaging helps us identify the best weeds and hard-bottom areas. We’ll idle back and forth through a bay, looking 120 feet off each side of the boat. When we see holes in weed beds, inside turns and good bottom, we simply drop waypoints for winter. The way the system works is pretty easy – just pop the SD card out of the Humminbird 999 on the boat and drop it into the Humminbird 688 ice combo. Then it’s all right there,” says Fassbind.
Beyond marking waypoints on open-water, the duo has also experimented with Side Imaging on the ice. Using a pole-mounted Side Imaging transducer spun manually around in a hole in the ice, Fassbind and Smyers have had some success using the technology in a way it wasn’t intended.
“When we were fishing the NAIFC event on Lake Maxinkuckee, Indiana, we found a 20′ x 20′ patch of weeds with some logs, and Kevin pointed me in the direction and told me to start drilling. Boom, drilled one hole and I was on it,” says Smyers. “But it was difficult to get the image we wanted. Yet, we could see how this kind of technology could give us a huge on-ice advantage for locating manmade structures like cribs, Christmas tree piles, even fish.”
Along those lines, the duo is planning on implementing Humminbird Bow 360 into their tournament arsenal this year.
“What we were trying to do with Side Imaging is something that 360 Imaging already does better. With a little bit of rigging for ice, I really think it’s going to help us locate structure and fish even faster, which could be huge for main-basin crappies and deep-water perch. Punch a waypoint on fish and then go drill it. Instead of drilling hundreds of holes, we’ll be drilling a precise few. Not sure how much grid scouting we’ll be doing any more,” says Smyers.Competitive ice angler Kevin Fassbind and teammate Nick Smyers use a combination of open-water and on-ice scouting with Humminbird technologies to stay on top of the leaderboard.
No matter where in the country you fish, the take-home message is clear: put in some time scouting with today’s technologies and you too can increase your odds for stellar fall and winter fishing.
For more information visit humminbird.com, contact Humminbird, 678 Humminbird Lane, Eufaula, AL 36027, or call 800-633-1468.
About Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.
Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson Outdoors and consists of the Humminbird®, Minn Kota® and Cannon® brands. Humminbird® is a leading global innovator and manufacturer of marine electronics products including fishfinders, multifunction displays, autopilots, ice flashers, and premium cartography products. Minn Kota® is the world’s leading manufacturer of electric trolling motors, as well as offers a complete line of shallow water anchors, battery chargers and marine accessories. Cannon® is the leader in controlled-depth fishing and includes a full line of downrigger products and accessories.
Middle Georgia Full Moon Fishing
“I got another one,” Hal said to me, but I was too busy reeling in my own bream to pay any attention to him. We already had full stringers of nice bluegill at our feet but we continued to catch one on almost every cast.
Hal and I had dug some red wigglers behind the chicken house on my family’s farm then rode our bicycles to Black’s pond to fish for bass and bream. We were very happy since school would be out in just two more weeks and the long summer filled with fishing trips would start.
When we got to the McDuffie County pond owned by the family of a teacher at Dearing Elementary School we tried for bass for several hours without much luck. Then we went to our favorite place to catch bream in the upper end of the pond. There were two boards on the bank so we could stand side by side and cast without sinking into the soft bottom.
Most days we would catch a few bluegill near the scattered stumps in this spot then move one when they quit biting. Our tackle was simple, both of us had Mitchell 300 reels on Conlon six-foot spinning rods. The ten pound test line was good for all kinds of fishing. On the end of the line was a #6 hook, a small split shot and a cork.
We stood on those boards and caught fish until it started to get dark. We had to hurry back to our bikes and head home fast to beat the night. As we rode home we commented that the full moon would keep it from getting completely dark and that could be our excuse for being so late.
All week we talked about going back and catching a pile of bream again. The next Saturday we went back to the pond and caught one or two small bluegill from the same area that had been so good the weekend before. We had no idea what happened to change the fishing, and did not realize that full moon had anything to do with our good luck. We had hit a bedding area without knowing it.
Bluegill are common in all Georgia waters and are always cooperative. You can catch them on just about any bait and they are great fish to start kids with since they can enjoy the thrill of catching something. But the full moon in May is a special time for Georgia bream fishermen.
The full moon is the time bream bed. Although bluegill will start bedding as early as late March in middle Georgia and some will bed every month from then until fall, May is the height of the bedding for them. Add in the spawn of shellcracker that bed just on the full moon in May and you have a bonanza of great fishing this month.
May 2 is a full moon so fishing should be good the first week of the month. There is almost a blue moon in May, with another full moon on June 1, so the end of the month will also be good.
Starting about a week before the full moon bluegill move into the shallow bedding areas and fan out a depression on a hard bottom. The female will lay her eggs in the depression and the male fertilizes them. Both fish will stay and guard the nest until the eggs hatch several days later. They will hit anything that looks like a threat to their eggs, as well as anything that looks like food, for about a week.
Many bream fishermen claim they can smell out bluegill beds, and you will often notice a distinctive odor near them. It is described as smelling like watermelon but not exactly. It is a musty smell that you will recognize once you experience it, and will remember it. If you hit that smell, look for beds nearby.
To find beds, go to the upper ends of coves and look for them in shallow water, from two to six feet deep. If the water is not muddy you will see the beds as light spots against a dark background. This is the depression fanned out by the male to make the bed.
Bream like to bed in large groups so you are not looking for one or two scattered beds. A good sandy spot protected from the wind in the back of a cove will often look like a waffle on the bottom, with beds almost touching each other. In muddy water the beds will be more shallow, in real clear water a little deeper.
If you find beds one year they are likely to be in the same place the next year. Any hard bottom will do but sand seems to be preferred, and some scattered stumps make it even better.
You can find beds from the bank but a boat makes it easier. Cruise the shallows very slowly until you spot them. You will probably spook the fish but if you back off and wait about 15 minutes the fish will be back. It is a good idea to anchor your boat a long cast from the beds so you don’t get too close and spook them while fishing.
From the bank ease around until you spot the beds. Wear dark or camouflage clothing and don’t make fast movements. Stay low, too. Try to keep any bushes on the bank between you and the beds. While fishing stay low and don’t approach too close. Long casts are best to keep from scaring fish away.
You can find bluegill beds on any of Georgia’s waters from rivers to big reservoirs, but smaller public ponds are your best bet. Scattered all across middle Georgia are small public lakes and ponds you can fish. The following list should contain some within a short drive of you.
Indian Springs State Park Lake is a 105 acre lake in Butts County four miles southeast of Jackson on Georgia Highway 42. There is a good paved boat ramp and you can rent a boat there, too. Camping and cabins are available for longer stays. A $2.00 parking fee gives you access to bank fishing or boat launching.
Boat motors are limited to 10 horsepower or smaller and you can fish from sunrise to sunset year round. The lake has many protected coves where the bream bed and the upper end has good shallow spawning flats.
Contact the park at 678 Lake Clark Road Flovilla, GA 30216, phone(770) 504-2277
John Tanner State Park has two lakes, one 15 acres and one 12 acres in size. They are located in Carroll County six miles west of Carrollton off Georgia Highway 16. You can camp there if you want to stay but a $2.00 daily parking fee gives you access to both lakes for fishing from the bank. You can rent a boat but you can launch your private boat only on the smaller lake.
Boats are limited to electric power only. You can fish from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily all year long. The lakes are small enough to cover easily to find the bedding areas. If you have a boat look for beds in areas not easily accessible to the bank fishermen.
Contact them at 354 Tanner Beach Road Carrollton, GA 30117, Phone (770) 830-2222
Blalock Reservoir is a 260 acre lake in Clayton County south of Jonesboro near US Highway 19/41. A boat ramp allows you to launch and there is bank fishing allowed for a small access fee.
Boats area limited to 16 feet or shorter with electric motors only. You can fish from dawn to dusk Wednesday through Sunday year round. Many shallow areas are good for bedding bream and a boat will cover this lake better than fishing from the bank.
Contact them at 2755 Freeman Road Hampton, GA 30228, phone (770) 603-5605.
J. W. Smith Reservoir is a 250 acre lake in Clayton County 10 miles south of Jonesboro on Panhandle Road. There is a boat ramp on the lake and you need a season pass or pay a daily fee.
Boats are limited to electric only and the lake is open
Wednesday through Sunday, April 1 through September 30 from sunup to sundown. There are many areas of this lake you need a boat to fish effectively.
Contact the Clayton County Water Authority at 2755 Freeman Road Hampton, GA 30228, phone (770) 603-5605.
Shamrock Reservoir is a 68 acre lake in Clayton County south of Jonesboro near US. Highway 19/41. There is a boat ramp and this lake is designated a “Kids Lake” so no adults may fish the lake unless they have a kid 12 years old or younger with them. There is a user fee.
Boats are limited to 16 feet or less and electric motors only. Open from dawn to dusk Wednesday through Sunday year round. Since access is limit to those with kids, this lake is a great choice to take your kids fishing.
Contact the Clayton County Water Authority listed above.
Lake Horton is a 780 acre lake in Fayette County south of Fayetteville near Georgia Highway 92. There are two boat ramps and the daily fee is $10 for non-Fayette County residents.
Boats are limited to electric only and the lake is open 6;30 AM to 6:30 PM daily. This lake is known for big bass but its sunfish population is good and spawning area are scattered all over the lake.
Horton is owned and operated by Fayette County P.O. Box 190 Fayetteville, GA 30214, phone (770) 461-1146.
Lake Kedron has 235 acres with a boat ramp. It is in Fayette County off Georgia Highway 54 near Peachtree Parkway. There are no special fees.
Boats are limited to electric only and the lake is open daily from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM. It is owned and operated by
Fayette County, see contact above.
\Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park has two lakes, Franklin at 23 acres and Delano at 18 acres. They are located in Harris County east of Pine Mountain on Georgia Highways No private boats but boat rental is available. . Camping and cabins are available.
You can fish Delano year round and Franklin with a permit from September through May. There is a $2.00 parking fee.
Contact them at 2970 Hwy 190 Pine Mountain, GA 31822, phone(706) 663-4858.
Barnsville Reservoir in Lamar County has 160 acres and is located off Highway 36 near Barnsville. There is a boat ramp and yearly permits are required for fishing and for boat use.
Boats are limited to electric motors only and the lake is open year round.
Contact the City of Barnesville at 109 Forsyth Street, Barnesville, GA 30204, phone (770) 358-3431.
McDuffie Public Fishing Area has 13 ponds from 1 to 28 acres and is located in McDuffie County four miles southwest of Dearing off U. S. Highway 278. There are boat ramps on some of the lakes and camping is available. Boats are limited to electric only and a state fishing license as well s a WMA stamp is required. Lakes are open from sunrise to sunset daily year round.
I grew up less than two miles from these lakes. They were private until I was a teenager. My mother loved these lakes and I have the mount of a 2 pound, 6 ounce bluegill she caught there. The lakes are managed for fishing and all lakes are excellent for panfish.
Contact them at 4695 Fish Hatchery Road Dearing, GA 30808, phone(706) 595-1684.
Lake Meriwether in Meriwether County has 144 acres and is located one mile southwest of Woodbury on Georgia Highway 85 Alt. Camping is available and there is a daily fee for fishing. Boats are allowed but restricted to electric motors.
Owned the County Commissioners Office, P. O. Box 428 Greenville, GA 30222, phone (706) 672-1314.
High Falls State Park has a 650 acre lake and is in Monroe County 10 miles east of Forsyth near I-75. There are two boat tramps and boat rental as well as camping available. There is some bank fishing but most of the lake shore is private.
Motors are limited to 10 horsepower, a $2.00 parking fee is required and the lake is open from sunrise to sunset daily. This lake is very fertile and has good populations of bluegill. The back ends of most creeks are sandy and offer good bedding areas.
Contact the park at 76 High Falls Park Drive Jackson, GA 30233 at phone (912) 994-5080
Lake Olmstead in Richmond County is an 87 acre lake in northeast Augusta near Georgia Highway 28. There is a public boat ramp but no camping. There are no fees to fish here and there is good bank access.
Motors are limited to 9.9 horsepower except on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when there is no limit. The lake is open 24 hours a day all year. This lake gets a lot of pleasure boat traffic on days big motors are allowed, so plan your fishing trips on the days motor restrictions apply.
Contact Augusta Parks and Recreation, 2027 Lumpkin road Augusta, GA 30906, phone (706) 796-5025
Hamburg State Park Lake is 225 acres located in Washington County north of Sandersville off Georgia Highway 102. There is a boat ramp and you can rent boats as well as camp. A $2.00 parking fee is charged.
Motors are limited to 10 horsepower and the lake is open all year from sunrise to sunset. There is excellent bluegill fishing in the pockets and coves.
Contact them at 6071 Hamburg State Park Road Mitchell, GA 30820, phone (912) 552-2393
Big Lazer Creek Public Fishing Area has a 200 acre lake and is located in Talbot County northeast of Talbotton near Pobiddy Road. A boat ramp is available as is primitive camping and you are required to have a Wildlife Management Area stamp a well as a fishing license.
There is no motor limit size but all must be operated at idle speed only. The lake is open from sunrise to sunset daily all year. It is managed for good fishing and the lake has excellent populations of bluegill and shellcracker.
Contact Manchester Fisheries Office, 601 Third Avenue Manchester GA 31816, phone: (706) 846-8448
Houston Lake is 180 acres in Houston County east of Perry on Georgia Highway 127. There is a boat ramp and good bank fishing access. No fees are charged at this lake.
Motors of any size can be used but at idle speed only. The lake is open during daylight hours year round and offers good bluegill fishing from boats or the bank.
Contact Region 4 Fisheries Office, phone (912) 987-4280
This is just a partial list of lakes open to the public in middle Georgia. For a complete list, go to http://georgiawildlife.dnr.state.ga.us/content/displaysmalllakes.asp to find lakes by name or by county. Find one near you, hit it on the full moon this month and enjoy some fast panfish action.
The Flint River starts just south of the Atlanta Airport and flows through middle Georgia to join with the Chattahoochee River in Lake Seminole to form the Apalachaicola River. Except for Lake Blackshear it is free flowing with many shoals throughout its length. It is a beautiful river to fish
The Georgia Outdoor Writers Association spring conference was held at Albany, Georgia this year and we got some chances to fish the Flint. I went with fellow member Vic. O. Miller. a local writer who knows the river well. I was warned that he had a habit of turning over boats on the river but we managed to come home dry. I was a little worried. The first thing I did after getting in the boat was put on a life jacket but Vic warned me it didn’t float!
I tried several baits for bass but had no bites while Vic got a lot of hits from bream on his fly rod , so I went with the flow and tied on a Mepps Spinner and started catching bluegill and long ear sunfish. As luck would have it, I also caught two small largemouth.
It was a fun trip and I came back alive and dry!