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Panfish Pointers

Grandpa was a superhero to many a kid in Kentucky. With a deft flick of the wrist, he could toss a bobber and bait into the water and produce fish like magic.

Grandpa knew the secret to keeping fidgety kids happy. It’s the catching that makes it fun.

Adults and kids alike want something to show for all those hours around the water. That’s why May is the prime time to catch a stringer of panfish from the state’s lakes and farm ponds.

Bluegill crowd the banks as the water warms past 65 degrees in the spring. They’re getting ready to spawn.
Fish are easy to spot—just walk or boat along the shoreline and watch for light, dinner plate-sized depressions in shallow water. Look closely and you’ll likely see panfish swimming around.

“This is the best time of year for bluegill,” says Kerry Prather, state fisheries biologist. “This is when all those bigger fish concentrate in a small area. Later, they’ll break up and scatter around a lake. If you can find the prime spawning area, you can find the prime-sized bluegill in that lake or pond.”

Grandpa’s magic was really nothing more than knowing when and where the panfish spawned. In farm ponds, look for nests around points and shallow areas in the back. In lakes, concentrate on points, the backs of coves, and “pockets” of clear areas in a weed line. Because fish are so near the shore, kids can often reach them with a simple cane pole. A bluegill nesting area may contain up to 250,000 eggs, so there is little danger of fishing them out.

Equipment needed for this kind of fishing is simple: a cane pole or spincast fishing outfit, 6-pound fishing line, a small hook, a small lead weight above it, and a bobber.

For bait, use a red worm, a bit of night crawler, a wax worm, or a mealworm. Then toss it into the nesting area, just off the bottom. Try fishing farther away from the bank if all you’re catching is small fish.

Good places to fish include Beaver, Elmer Davis, Corinth, McNeeley, Greenbo, Wilgreen, Taylorsville, Herrington, Carpenter, Barkley, and Panbowl lakes. Several of these lakes are managed specifically for bluegill. Call (800) 858-1549 weekdays for information about a lake near you.


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