Panfish good choice for summer fly fishing and eats
Our rainy season has kicked off a little early this year. This is a good thing as our winter and spring were quite dry resulting in the water levels in most ponds, lakes and streams fed by watersheds being at pretty low levels. The unusually hot spell in May had the water temperatures soaring as well, which was not conducive to good sweetwater angling.
The cooling and moderating effect of the rains should certainly perk up the appetites of most freshwater species. It will also allow them to get a bit farther up into the cover of lily pads, reeds and the like where they tend to lay in ambush for passing morsels of food.
Believe it or not, ultra-light spinning and fly fishing for panfish has always been one of my favorite angling options. To me, there is nothing more fun than watching a pugnacious bluegill rise from the shadows of a raft of lily pads to sock a tiny popper bug or a diminutive version of a top water bass plug. These top-water lures work best during low-light periods. Later in the day, switch to lures as beetlespins, tiny traps or wooly bugger fly patterns. Ounce for ounce most panfish will outfight any saltwater behemoth any day.
Now and again, you can be surprised by a bucket-mouthed bass, a big-mawed catfish, mudfish or gar. After all, the old saw goes “elephants do eat peanuts.” The likelihood of landing a party crasher like that is slim on ultra-light gear, but what the heck, it’s all in good fun.
One real plus with freshwater panfishing is the ultimate sweet edibility of most of the breams, sunfishes, perches, et al. Whether you cook them up whole or a mess of fillets, there is probably not a more enjoyable fish dinner on the planet. If you are planning to catch a mess to eat, make sure the water you’re fishing in is clear and clean. Most of the upper reaches of our tidal rivers are good choices as are the municipal reservoirs.
There are myriad small retention ponds in subdivisions all across the Suncoast that harbor decent numbers of freshwater fish. If you have access to any, they are great for catch-and-release sport only. I would not recommend eating any fish from these impoundments for the obvious reasons.