Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Summer panfish options aplenty

Ian Tertuliani holds a black crappie (right) and a white crappie caught in an Ohio reservoir. (Photo by John Tertuliani)

By John Tertuliani
Contributing Writer

Can fishing get any better than to have crappies, yellow perch, and panfish (bluegill, redear, pumpkinseed) in abundance? No doubt some lakes and reservoirs are more productive than others, but there are plenty of fish to go around. Although abundant, you still have to find them, especially in the summer.

Vegetation comes in many forms. It can be deadfalls from trees and brush or a submerged-plant bed with rooted stalks and suspended vegetation draped on the rooted plants. Vegetation is not the only option. A breakline, no more than a slight change in bottom contour, is enough to attract fish. Rocky bottoms, too, be it riprap to protect a bank or clean gravel and cobblestone on a wave-swept point.

Panfish use the same forms of cover, but not exactly together as a group. Bluegills like to hide in the vegetation or stay close to it. You may find them positioned among the plants and the crappies above them or off to the side. In another lake, the bluegills may hover just above the tops of the plants and the crappies below them among the stalks. Perch spend a good bit of time close to the bottom.

Each body of water is unique, and the fish accommodate what food and cover are available. Crappies may suspend in open water during the summer, not too far from food or cover. The weather, which affects water quality, governs where the fish go.


Wax worms are ideal for panfish; they eat invertebrates, aquatic insect larvae, worms, and such. Crappies and perch go for wax worms, too, but tend to be fish eaters as they grow in size. 

Small jigs or live bait hooks tipped with a wax worm or minnow is all that is needed on most days. Depth is important. A bobber not only maintains depth, it can reduce tangling in the vegetation when set properly. A second line can be fished with a different jig color or form of bait, at a different depth to find the fish and figure out what they want.


Resthaven Lake No. 8 is your northwest destination for bluegills. Complete with a boat ramp, the lake is managed as a bass-bluegill fishery. Bluegills grow well in the absence of shad. Bass keep them in check so there is plenty of food for predator and prey. Located due south of Sandusky Bay, it is an easy drive. If you do not mind a more demanding drive, Lake La Su An is an exceptional fishery for bluegills, redears, and the occasional pumpkinseed. Located as far north and west as you can go in Ohio, check the special regulations before considering a trip.

Pleasant Hill Reservoir is the place to go for crappies. Straddling Richland and Ashland counties, it is 789 acres and moderate in depth. Abundant cover in shallow to moderate water can be ideal for panfish.


Portage Lakes is located in the northeast at Akron. There seems to be no end to shallow-water habitat in this chain of lakes. An angler should not have difficulty finding suitable cover for panfish.

For crappies, consider Berlin Lake, located east of Akron, about halfway to Youngstown. Constructed in 1944 as a flood control reservoir, it holds 3,341 acres of water. Numerous bays and large islands can be excellent areas to look for panfish.


If you like size and variety, Indian Lake in Logan County is the place to go for bluegills, crappies, and yellow perch. According to fisheries biologist Nick Radabaugh, it is an excellent opportunity for bluegills up to 9 inches and sometimes larger. The northeast portion of the lake, locally called the “Game Preserve,” is flush with channels, some with vegetation along the sides, others with docks, both conditions provide optimum habitat for panfish.

Located a short distance west of Indian Lake is Grand Lake St. Marys, hand dug as a canal feeder, other lakes in the area were used for the same. The yellow perch stocking program may encourage a trip or two from panfish anglers, the crappies and bluegills found there add to the attraction.


Lake Loramie boasts an incredible catch per unit effort on crappies (CPE, derived from catch per net-night). The value of 77 is far above the District 5 average CPE of 22. Located at Fort Loramie in Shelby County, the 870-acre lake includes 39 miles of shoreline, plenty of opportunity to find crappies and bluegills, too.


Seneca Lake near Cambridge is your southeast destination for crappies in District 4. Trap net catch results from the 2018-19 survey suggest Seneca Lake is a safe bet with a CPE of 27, significantly higher than the district average CPE of 10.

Bluegills have been stocked in Pike Lake, Lake White, and Blue Rock Lake.  

No matter where you live, there are endless options for panfish in Ohio.

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