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Summertime panfish

June 30, 2012
By TODD REED , Times-Republican

Summer weather has once again graced central Iowa, and as anglers we must change our thinking if we want to continue to catch fish. The hot weather puts a stress on us, and it does the same thing to the fish in the lakes and rivers.

True, the weather is hot and almost uncomfortable to be out in, but that doesn't make the fish stop biting. It actually makes them bite more often. As the air is warming each day, so does the water in our surrounding lakes and rivers. As the water temperatures rise, so does the metabolism of the fish, they must eat more. They will spend almost the entire summer in deep water. The deeper the water is, the cooler it will be. This is why every angler that is looking for panfish should start in or around deep water.

Some key areas to focus in on are: deep channels the lake may have, points that stretch out into deeper water and any brush that may be in deep water. If you are in a boat, your electronics become a very important piece of equipment this time of year. As you travel the lake, or move from one spot to another, stay focused on your depth/fish finders. When the water is warm, 80 degrees or above, you will see some suspended fish. Suspended fish will be seen on the depth finder in the middle of the water column. These fish are very catchable and should be worth a look.

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Hot summer weather can cause many anglers to stay home or find other activities to do in the heat. That could be a big mistake, as bluegills and crappies are feeding heavily during the hot weather months. If you catch one fish, you have probably found a school of fish that could make your day!

If you have located some fish, it is time to drop that secret bait down and catch them. Everyone has a secret bait, and if you are getting bites, keep using it. However, you can catch a lot of panfish by keeping your tackle very simple. A slip bobber setup with a small hook will catch a lot of fish this time of year if you are using live bait. One overlooked area of panfishing that people don't take into consideration is the size of the bait they use. Use small amounts of bait and small hooks. Panfish, especially bluegills, have very small mouths. If you are using a small hook, you will catch more fish. A good size is a no.6 fine-wire hook. You can get these almost anywhere fishing supplies are sold. These will work great for holding a minnow, a small worm or a piece of nightcrawler.

If you find the lake or river to be a little murky or muddy, try using colored jigheads. Again, use a small one when fishing for panfish. A good size to use would be 1/32 ounce or 1/16 ounce for crappies. The jigheads come in all different colors, and some days the color will make a difference. Keep trying different colors until you find what they like best that day. If you don't prefer to mess with live bait, then try some plastic tubes on the jigheads; often the fish will bite on them just as well in the hot weather months. Try different colors of plastic tubes or grubs until you start catching them. This set up will work well for suspended fish when you locate them on your depth finder.

With these tips you should be able to catch some fish during this summer season. Another thing to remember is that fish will school up in the summertime. This is great if you can find them, however some days it takes longer to find the school. Try a lot of different areas, and hopefully you will find that school of panfish you were hoping for.

Finding schools of panfish in the summer is very rewarding, but it takes a lot of knowledge of the lake to even know where to start. I mentioned key areas previously, however doing a little homework will save you hours of trial and error on the water. You can access lake maps from the county conservation office, or by using the Internet and accessing the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Their website is located at: From this site you can click on the fishing page and find out all sorts of information on fish species, where to fish in Iowa, and most importantly for summer fishing, lake maps. You can look at and print off maps of the following area lakes: Rock Creek, Union Grove, Upper Pine Lake, Lower Pine Lake and Hickory Grove. These maps will help you find the deepest water and how to get to them by land or by boat.

Don't give up on fishing during the hot months of June, July and August, you could be missing out on some great panfishing. Remember to use small hooks and small bait to get the most bites and be sure to do a little homework so you can find some hungry panfish to catch. Enjoy the warm weather and the fast-action fishing that can go along with it.


Contact Todd Reed at



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