Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Locate weeds during low light for panfish

Don't overlook shallow areas of 5-7 feet of water around heavy weeds when targeting crappies this winter. (Photo by Eric Morken)

I began fishing for panfish in shallow water last winter, and this strategy has worked again this winter. I sort of happened upon this shallow pattern by accident and have since learned that crappies and bluegills can be extremely shallow when there is heavy weed growth in an area.

When I’m talking shallow, I mean 5 to 7 feet of water. When I drill a hole in the selected area, I look down and can see heavy weeds, especially during bright, sunny days.

During daylight is for finding these spots and low light, such as dawn and dusk, is when the action happens.

I have tried fishing several times in these shallow areas during midday, and northern pike are the only species that’s active.

It’s amazing what a crappie looks like on your electronics when it rises and strikes. The whole screen turns red – a departure from the basic red line in deeper water. There is no mistaking a panfish that comes charging in shallow water.

Being quiet is important.

Jeff Thompson, of Otter Tail County, with a crappie caught from just 6 feet of water. Carney says to find green vegetation in shallow water and to fish early and late in the day. Low-light periods tend to result in the best catches of panfish. (Photo by Steve Carney)

I stay as silent as I can and also make sure my headlamp doesn’t throw any light downward. Fish in 5 feet of water are skittish, and any noise will drive them away. Even a passing ATV or snowmobile can make them leave these shallow weeds.

When you’re scouting and looking down a hole, try to find cabbage if you can, and also look for green weeds, not brown weeds. Dead weeds in the wintertime are worthless. Green weeds provide oxygen, and that’s why panfish are there – cruising and looking for baitfish.

Green weeds attract blood leeches, bug larvae, and tiny perch and sunfish. You have food and overhead cover – two necessary ingredients for success on the ice.

Water clarity doesn’t seem to matter as much. This pattern can be identified in both clear and turbid water.

Make sure you turn down your fish finder’s “gain” button to the minimum or go to the “low power” setting. This helps to separate weeds from fish.

Catching panfish this shallow is awesome because the bite is an immediate thump, and in 5 feet of water, it’s a quick reel up with few lost fish. I don’t see this pattern ending anytime soon. It held up well into late January last season.

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