Category Archives: Bream Fishing

Cooking Bluegill with Mark Zona


from The Fishing Wire

Cook Your Catch: Bluegill with Mark Zona

Who doesn’t love a good fish fry? And when the fish getting dropped in the fryer is bluegill, well, to say you’re in for a treat is an understatement. What bluegill lack in size, they more than make up for in flavor. The firm, white meat has a mild, delicious flavor that flakes up nicely when fried.

For this recipe from Mercury Dockline, Mercury Pro Team member Mark Zona, co-host of “Bassmaster” and host of “Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show,” shows how he fries up this delectable little fish. It’s a simple recipe that’s easy to commit to memory, and will make you a favorite among family and friends.


  • 5 pounds bluegill fillets
  • 1 box Fryin’ Magic® Seasoned Coating Mix (16 ounces)
  • Cajun seasoning
  • 1 quart of vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 stick butter-flavored Crisco® shortening
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Start by soaking your bluegill fillets in milk for a couple hours. According to Zona, this step will enhance the flavor. And seeing how you have a bit of time on your hands before the fish is ready to be coated and fried, you might think about what you’d like to serve with your bluegill. You can go with a store-bought coleslaw or perhaps you make a nice green salad. In this case, use the time to slice up some vegetables to accompany the greens. Peppers, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and any other veggies you like will work perfectly. Of course, if you prefer, you can always go with some good old-fashioned French fries!

Once you’ve allowed the time for your fillets to soak, add one package of Fryin’ Magic and some Cajun seasoning to the bottom of a batter shaker. Next, add the fish to the top, put the lid on, tip the container upside down and shake gently to thoroughly coat each piece of fish. Now Zona doesn’t specify just how much of the Cajun seasoning mix to add, but that’s probably because when it comes to spice, everyone’s tastes are a bit different. 1-2 teaspoons should do the trick.

If you don’t have a batter shaker, you can just as easily coat your fish in another container with a lid. Whichever method you use, just be sure to coat each piece of fish evenly.

Once you have all of your bluegill coated, it’s time to get frying. In this video, Zona is using a deep fryer, but if you don’t have a deep fryer, a deep frying pan will work just as well. Whichever vessel you use, heat the oil to 375 degrees. Once the oil has reached the target temperature, add one stick of butter-flavored Crisco, if you like. It gives the fish an even richer, complex flavor.

Little trick when frying your fish – do not overcrowd the fryer or frying pan. Doing so will bring the temperature of the oil down, and when that happens, the fish will absorb an excess amount of oil and become soggy.

Fry the fillets for approximately 3-4 minutes. When the fillets begin to float and are a nice golden-brown color, you know you’re just about done. At this point, Zona recommends cooking for another 20-25 seconds. Next, scoop out the fish, drain any excess oil and transfer the fish on top of a couple layers of clean, dry paper towels.

Before you plate your bluegill, sprinkle a little grated Parmesan cheese on top. The richness of the cheese works nicely to balance out the spiciness of the Cajun seasoning. Serve alongside your side dish of choice, and, voila, dinner is served … Zona style! Enjoy.

To learn more about Mark Zona or “Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show,” visit You can also follow him on InstagramFacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Fryin’ Magic is a registered trademark of Little Crow Milling Company, Inc. Crisco is a registered trademark of Procter & Gamble Company. All other trademarks belong to Brunswick Corporation.



from The Fishing Wire

Winning Tactics for Plus-Sized Panfish

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Nothing beats a good panfish bite—numbers of midsized fish for the frying pan big fish for the release. We’re talking thick, hump-backed sunfish, sag-bellied perch, and dinnerplate crappies…

What’s the best way to tango with big, hardwater panfish? You need to alter your fish-catching system to accommodate for older, finicky fish. We talked with veteran Northland Fishing Tackle pro, Brian “Bro” Brosdahl, who was happy to share plus-sized panfish insights.

“Panfish feed primarily on insects and zooplankton in the winter,” offers Brosdahl. “That’s one of the reasons I designed the Northland Bro Bug Spoon; it looks like emerging larvae with its bulging eyes and thin, slender profile. It resembles a long bloodworm or hellgrammite coming out of the mud. Just add two spikes or waxies and you have the tail of the hellgrammite.” Pretty sweet DIY bait configuration.

Bro uses the smallest, 1/16-ounce size most of the time, but will size up to 1/8-ounce if the fish are really biting.

Hulky panfish and perch demonstrate addictive behavior toward Northland’s Bro Bug Spoon.


“Jumbo perch get excited if something hits bottom and makes puffs in the mud. It’s instinctual when they see that, thinking it’s a mayfly emerging—and the more puffs, the more excited they get. So, you want to drop the Bro Bug Spoon to the bottom, pound the mud, and wait for them to follow it. If you pull the bait up, pull it away super slow. They’ll come up and just crush it,” shares Bro.

In terms of locations, Bro targets most midwinter jumbo perch over muddy basins, as well as chara grass (skunkweed) flats and weed edges.


Plus-Sized ‘Gills

“With big ‘gills, if there’s not a lot of ice, they’ll bite any time. But if there’s a lot of snow and ice and it’s sun-covered, they get a lot more selective,” shares Bro. “That’s when I’m fishing higher in the water column. In 10 feet or less, fish halfway down. It’s so dark down there the bait silhouettes against the ice. I use a subtle swimming motion, just shaking the spikes or waxies on the treble hook. I’ll even shake the bait right below the ice and slowly drop it. But if I’m in 20 feet or less, I drop it down to 10 feet and then slowly drop it down to two feet from the bottom,” advises Bro.

Bro adds: “In lakes that have lots and lots of bluegills, the big ‘gills belly into the bottom so the challenge is getting the bait through the smaller ones to the trophies. In lakes with fewer fish, they come through in pods. You want to work the bait minimally and just let it silhouette against the ice. The big ‘gills will find it.”

Finding Bulls

To find big sunfish, Bro uses a combination of Humminbird MEGA 360 and MEGA Live, new, forward-looking technologies that are putting ice anglers on fish faster than ever before.

“On Humminbird MEGA 360, on the dark screen background of muddy basins, sunfish look like a bunch of rice spread out on the bottom,” notes Bro. “If they’re moving around, drill a bunch of holes and move around—but if you keep seeing them in a certain area, you want to move and intercept them.”

“On MEGA Live in forward mode you’ll see sunfish in an area and you can drill your way around them and tiptoe up to their location. In some lakes they’re spooky, in other lakes they aren’t. If there’s no snow, they’re extra spooky. If the barometric pressure and moon phase are right, sometimes you can’t do anything wrong,” offers Bro.

Bro looks for steadily-rising barometric pressure over a few days. On a falling barometer, bites are typically short, but if the pressure is really low, fishing can be tough.

“I bury my face in an Aqua-Vu when stalking big bluegills. The 822HD is like a tablet, and I can mount it anywhere. It’s not cumbersome and has a long-lasting, lithium battery. There are some days when the bite is so tough that I really rely on the camera to watch fish respond. They’ll come up and bump it, and if you try to set the hook, you’ll spook them. I don’t use a spring bobber or watch the rod tip—I just look at the Aqua-Vu screen,” offers Bro.

Besides the Bro Bug Spoon, Bro also fishes the Rigged Tungsten Bloodworm and Mayfly. A lot of times he doesn’t use bait, and when he does, it’s just one red maggot.

Bro employs the Northland Puppet Minnow for aggressive hole-popping.

“I also like Forage Minnow Spoons in the smallest, 1/32-ounce size. I’ll chandelier maggots off the micro-treble,” adds Bro, loading the thing up.

In terms of line, Bro employs 2-pound test fluorocarbon most of the time, but will size up to 3-pound if there are bigger fish around. On clear water basins, Bro steps down to spidery 1-pound mono.

For cranking, Bro uses a variety of fly-style, in-line reels, which are good for keeping your line straight sans jig spin.

“If the fish are biting, you don’t need an in-line reel, but if the bite is tough, I do use ‘em. I also like longer rods when I’m out roaming, like the St. Croix CCI Tungsten Tamer and the Pan Dancer. If I’m in a fish-house, I use 26- to 32-inch rods.”

Bro utilizes $40 Daiwa QR750 reels that he fills an 1/8-inch from the top with backing and follow with his mainline. Bro uses a loop knot to attach his baits, which provides better action.

For aggressive, hole-hopping, Bro opts for the fast-fishing Northland Puppet Minnow in the smallest, 1/8-ounce-size, typically gold with a chandelier of red or white maggots on the treble.

In terms of brand-new products, Bro has been soaking the new Glass Buck-Shot Spoon endorsing the 1/32-ounce size or outsized crappies.

So, when do you fish what?

Bro starts with the Bro Bug Spoon and moves on to a Rigged Tungsten, which is essentially a Mud Bug/Impulse soft-plastic combo you don’t have to assemble with frosty fingers. And when he’s running and gunning, Bro has a Puppet Minnow tied on.

“And if the bite is really tough—which happens chasing trophy-sized pans—I downsize to a Rigged Tungsten Bloodworm or Mayfly tipped with one maggot or a threaded waxy. I also love the 1/16-ounce Forage Minnow Jig for tough bites. When you shimmy it, it’s constantly moving forward and will irritate fish that don’t want to bite,” says Bro.

In conclusion, based off Bro’s recommendations, plan to pre-rig four to six combos. You don’t want to be messing around with reties when a bite changes or encounter a new school of fish. Preparedness is next to godliness when stalking mega-panfish.

ABOUT Northland® Fishing Tackle

In 1975, a young Northwoods fishing guide named John Peterson started pouring jigs and tying tackle for his clients in a small remote cabin in northern Minnesota. The lures were innovative, made with high quality components, and most importantly, were catching fish when no other baits were working! Word spread like wildfire, the phone started ringing… and the Northland Fishing Tackle® brand was in hot demand! For 40 years now, John and the Northland® team have been designing, testing and perfecting an exclusive line of products that catch fish like no other brand on the market today. Manufactured in the heart of Minnesota’s finest fishing waters, Northland® is one of the country’s leading producers of premium quality jigs, live bait rigs, spinnerbaits and spoons for crappies, bluegills, perch, walleyes, bass, trout, northern pike and muskies.

I Love All Kinds of Fishing

I love bass fishing and all other kinds, too

There is nothing quite like the joy of sitting by the water watching a bobber float, waiting on a passing fish to bite your bait. You can kick back in peace and quiet, relax and enjoy watching the world go by.

There is nothing quite like the joy of running down the lake 70 mph at daylight, slowing as you go in a cove, hopping up on the front deck of your bass boat and making your first of thousands of casts. You concentrate on every little detail going on the water, how your bait is working and the images on your electronics.

I love both. I spent many happy hours while growing up sitting by mama or grandmama waiting on a bream or catfish to bite in ponds near home. There is something special about seeing the cork move to the side or go under when a fish takes your bait. And I learned a lot listening to them give me life advice.

Until 1974 when Jim Berry invited me to join the Spalding County Sportsman Club and we fished a tournament, my first ever, at Clarks Hill in April, I never realized how exciting fishing can be. I fell in love with the challenge of tournament fishing and the highs and lows of those events.

I will never forget sitting by a small fire on the bank of a cove at Clarks Hill with mama. We had put a trotline across the cove then built a small fire at dusk and set out our rods, hoping for a catfish. We talked lot that night, staying out there till well after midnight.

At 18 years old, that was the first time I really remember mama talking to me like an adult. It is a melancholy memory, I left for my freshman year of college a few weeks after that and my life at home was never the same.

I will also never forget the thrill of figuring out a pattern at West Point Lake in 1983, catching 18 keepers in two days that weighed 28 pounds, and placing fourth in the state Top Six tournament with 570 competitors.

That was a high. Lows like last July at West Point, where I fished for eight hours in a club tournament and got one bite and missed it, are all too common. Zero days happen as do winning days.

Every bite in a tournament is a challenge to get and then to land what hits. It is different from sitting on the bank. Not better, just different.

I have many great memories of fishing ponds and Clarks Hill with daddy and mama, as well as with friends and other family memories. I have more great memories of tournament fishing. My growing up memories cover about 18 years, my tournament memories cover 47!

To each his own in choosing the way to fish. Me, I will choose both!

Kayak Panfish

Kayak Panfish Fishing Photo courtesy of Hobie

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.

Lunker Panfish

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.
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

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.

Fish Kills In Ponds

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!

High Falls Lake

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

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 (, strung with 6-pound Bionic 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 ( 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

How To Find Fish In Transition with Electronics

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.

Electronics help catch bass

Electronics help catch bass

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.”

Hummingbird 360

Hummingbird 360

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.”

ONIX split-screen

ONIX split-screen

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.

Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch

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.

manmade crappie cribs

manmade crappie cribs

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.

Kevin Fassbind

Kevin Fassbind

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, 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.