The arrival of warm, spring weather surely fires the urge to ready panfish gear and launch the boat, but Northland pro-Chip Leer reminds anglers not to get ahead of themselves when they hit the lake.
“It’s important to remember that the water temperature is just a few degrees higher than it was when the surface was frozen,” he says, “So you still need to think like an ice fisherman in terms of presentation.”
Though air temps might be fair for several days, the environment bluegills, crappies and perch know is chilly. And though they’ll seek the warmest water available, they’ll still be on a wintertime diet of plankton, insects, and other tiny forage, he explains.
“The first spots I fish are along the northern shore of lakes with dark bottoms and dark water because they’re the earliest to warm up in the spring,” he says. “And the rule is, ‘small and slow.’
“The Impulse® Rigged Mayfly is probably my No. 1 choice, although the Tungsten Larva Fly works well, too,” he says. “Tip the lure with a waxworm, pinch on a small split shot for additional weight, and fish it slowly under a float. Work it in just a few inches, then stop to let the jig fall.”
Even in colored water, he adds, “It’s best to stick with natural hues—black, brown, and green—that better match the real thing.”
Later on, as water temps continue to climb, panfish add meat to the menu.
“Now’s when you can switch to a Mimic Minnow® Fry or small tube bait,” says Leer. “Panfish will be a bit more willing to chase a lure. You can fish it with or without a float; move it along, but not too fast. You still don’t want to rip the bait through the water.”