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An Ode to Panfish Fishing - Part Two

An Ode to Panfish Fishing - Part Two

An Ode to Panfish Fishing Continued

Panfish are Considered a Delicacy

Often overlooked, these small swimmers are delectable. Their subtle presence, their exquisite taste, make them a prized catch in the freshwater world. So, fellow anglers, take heed: don't dismiss the panfish. They may be small, but their contribution to our culinary pleasures is immeasurable. In the quiet depths, they hold a flavorful secret, waiting to be savored by those who truly appreciate their worth.

Panfish are tasty

In the tranquil realms of lakes and streams, panfish persistently assert their presence. Engaged in the pursuit of bass, pickerel, or the elusive trout, one can't ignore these determined beings. Cast your line for smallmouth bass, and a congregation of yellow perch might disrupt your plans, indulging in your intended bait. This intrusion, though vexing, turns delightful when a hefty perch, weighing a pound or more, is reeled in. In these waters, amidst the dance of sunfish and smallmouth bass, the panfish reigns.

The allure of panfish stretches far and wide, not just in their abundant home waters but across scattered realms where they offer spirited battles to anglers wielding light tackle. From the cool mountain streams to the serene lowland lakes, these elusive creatures dwell, enticing fishing enthusiasts. In the picturesque landscapes of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the New England states, and even the southern and western expanses, panfish flourish. Amidst clear lakes and temperate streams, they exhibit their resilience, engaging in fierce tussles when tempted by artificial baits.

In the past, using flies, spinners, hair bugs, jigs, feather minnows, and their kind to lure panfish remained a mystery. Conventional wisdom held that only the humble earthworms, grubs, or perhaps crawfish, live bugs, and grasshoppers could whet their appetites. But upon closer scrutiny, a revelation unfolded – these finny creatures have a taste for tiny minnows and small insects! And they will readily embrace artificial lures fashioned after this natural fare when presented with lifelike precision. Anglers now relish true sporting moments with their lightweight spinning gear and fly rods, for panfish often rival the thrill of hooking the beloved rainbow trout.

Flies for panfishing

Lures for panfish fishing

Yet in the world of angling, the age-old tradition endures. Most anglers, seeking perch, sunfish, bullheads, and the like, still rely on the tried-and-true method of using live bait. Under the sun’s bright gaze, there's a peculiar joy in observing a school of perch or sunfish, leisurely circling your hook, its every movement enticingly covered in wriggling bait. The line tugs, the rod tip dips as the quarry clamps down on the hook, and with a swift jerk, the battle begins. As one is safely aboard, the others linger, their curiosity piqued.

Then, as the sun retreats, a couple of hours before the world is bathed in twilight hues, the angler finds solace near rocky shores. Anchored just a stone's throw away, or perched on the edge of a craggy point, the bait is cast into deeper waters. The rocks, those steadfast sentinels of the lake, come alive. A vigorous dance of rod and line commences, echoing through the tranquil evening air. Memories etched in the annals of fishing history often find their genesis in such moments.

Rock Bass Prefer Rocky and Stone Laden Habitat

My fondest panfish adventures unfurled at the edge of a rocky point, an outpost extending bravely from a shoreline nestled amidst the rolling hills of central Maryland. Here, in the golden glow of sundown, I stood witness to nature's spectacle. Dozens of rock bass, their eyes ablaze like rubies, congregated at this very point each sunny evening. They feasted heartily, reminding me that the art of fishing was more than a mere pastime – it was a dance with nature itself. This rocky enclave was not just a spot; it was my sanctuary, the site where the legends of my panfish battles were born.

But, in the quiet of the morning, at the lake's shallow end, where sandy bottoms met the rustle of native grasses, the dance of bands of panfish continued. But my heart always pulled me back to that particular rocky point. There, amidst the rugged terrain, I found not only the best catches but also a communion with the spirit of the lake, where each cast was a tribute to the artistry of fishing and the harmony of nature's creatures.

Read Part One

*This piece draws from 4 decades of personal experience and takes inspiration from a classic article on the subject.

Panfish Naturalist Prints Collection