A little over a week ago the St. Paul Fly Tiers and Fisherman's Club had our annual panfish outing at an east metro lake. The date had been chosen months in advance hoping that the weather would cooperate. It turned out to be a warm sunny day and the fish were eager to bite. This made for a great day for fishing.
The group of about a dozen men and women meet at the lake in the morning hoping that fishing would be good. We showed up equipped with several canoes, float tube, lawn chairs and plenty of food. The small private lake offered good fishing for anyone willing to cast a line whether from shore or from a canoe.
I brought my float tube to allow access to other portions of the lake. I started by going with my old faithful fly, a tiny yellow popper with rubber legs. The bright sunny day had the fish looking up to the surface and taking the popper aggressively. I caught a bunch of nice bluegills, sunfish and a few bass that didn't read the fishing regulations. All of the fish were returned to the lake unharmed. Some of the others in the group also caught some nice sized crappies.
Shore lunch consisted of homemade lasagna with salad, bread and fresh brownies. Lunch was great and provided the forum for everybody to share fishing stories and discuss which flies worked best. The outing turned out to be a great day for everybody.
I know there are good hatches right now on the rivers and bait fisherman are out in the boats again going after walleye, but it is also a great time to go panfish fishing. Many people often overlook panfish once the seasons for game fish have opened, but yet they probably call tell you a bunch of lakes that have good fishing for panfish.
Panfish can be readily caught on a fly rod and make for a fun time on the water. If you are new to fly fishing, sunfish and crappies make an excellent target to work on your cast all while still actually being catchable for a beginner. I have gone out with quite a few other friends who were new to fly fishing to help them catch some fish on a fly rod. Often the casts are poor and before they realize it a sunfish has come up and taken the tiny popper, or some other fly. A fish on the line always make fishing more fun.
When it comes to fishing rods, I would recommend something between a 3-weight to a 6-weight rod and line. Reels will only be used for holding the line, as the hooked fish are not going to run and get into your backing. Panfish usually do not get spooked from the line so a five to seven foot light leader works great.
I like fishing for panfish using a popper, as I find surface fishing more fun. Other small nymphs, dry flies, terrestrials and streamers also work well. As for poppers a small one about the size of a pencil eraser is my favorite. White, yellow, green and black are my favorite colors. I usually bring a good variety some with rubber legs some without. That way I can see if one pattern is working better than another. Remember to pinch the barb as it will make removing the hook a lot easier.
Both crappie and sunfish will be available in shallow water for probably the next week or so, but then the crappies will be done spawning leaving only sunfish shallow. It is a great time to go and be out on the water.