Fishing for Panfish
All about bluegill and sunfish fishing
One or more species of panfish populate virtually all warm water streams, ponds and lakes throughout the United States and around the world for that matter. They can survive in most waters that provide their natural food source of minnows, crustaceans, insects and worms.
Panfish are easy to catch. As prolific spawners they repopulate the waters as fast as they are harvested. A common problem in managing fisheries is that the waters are under fished, causing these little guys to overpopulate. As a result, they tend to stay small in size due to competition for the natural food source.
Top Producing Panfish Lures & Bait
Check out the top producing lures and bait for bluegill, redear sunfish, rock bass and warmouth, as well as other smaller sunfish. Click here for the best lures for white bass, yellow bass, white perch and yellow perch.
The list of species is comprised of many fishes each called by a variety of names. The bluegill tops the list and is the most common.
Prefers slightly stained to murky water with little or no current. Survives in most warm fisheries. Ideal water temperature: 60° to 85°
World record: 4 pounds, 12 ounces
Other names for bluegills include common yellow perch, sunfish, red-breasted bream, red-spotted sunfish, long-eared sunfish, white bass as well as a host of variations and cross breeds. These fish tend to run in schools and congregate near their food supply. They can be found in depths of 35 feet or more and all the way up to the surface depending on time of day and weather conditions. Bluegill spend the majority of their active time in 1 to 10 foot depths.
Fliers are also commonly called pond flier, millpond flier and round sunfish. Ideal water temperature: 72° to 85°
World record: 1.25 pounds
Prefers rivers and weedy lakes with warmer water temperatures. The flier sunfish is a favorite for private ponds. Its diet can include insects and small invertebrates. Like all sunfish, use worms, crickets, cut bait or salmon eggs on size 12 hooks. Can be taken on flies and is fun to catch on ultra light equipment.
The green sunfish is favorite for private and farm ponds. Ideal water temperature: 70° to 80°
World record: 2.1 pounds
The green sunfish is native to lakes and ponds and prefers heavily vegetated areas. Their diet consists of small invertebrates, insects and larvae. Use light line, size 12 hooks and worms, crickets or cut bait. They tend to run in schools so competition for food can make them easy prey for anglers. Also known as a rock bass or goggle-eye.
A cross between bluegills and other sunfish including green, redear, redbreast and other sunfish. Ideal water temperature: 70° to 78°
A high percentage of the hybrids are male which limits the reproductive process. They do quite well in private ponds and small lakes. They prefer areas with heavy vegetation and cover. Fish for them on light tackle with small hooks using worms, insects, prepared bait and cut bait.
The longear sunfish is sometimes called red-belly bream, red perch, blackear and red bream. Ideal water temperature: 75° to 80°
World record: 1.75 pounds
Anglers love the longear sunfish for several reasons. They feed on the surface making them vulnerable to fly fishermen, they are easy for kids to catch on worms or cut baits and they make great bait for larger predator fish. Use ultra light tackle, they'll eat just about anything edible.
Pumpkinseeds are also known as punky or common sunfish. Ideal water temperature: 75° to 82°
World record: 1.4 pounds
Shaped like a pumpkin seed and often has body coloring similar to a pumpkin color, their favorite habitat is weed-covered lake bottoms in clear water. They prefer warmer water temperatures from mid seventies to low eighties. Fish for them on light tackle with small hooks using worms, insects, prepared bait and cut bait.
Known for the colorful red, orange or yellow breasts of the males, they are easy to catch on light tackle. Ideal water temperature: 76° to 84°
World record: 1.7 pounds
The males are quite colorful with red, orange or yellow breasts with dark green upper bodies. Females are colored the same but in drab shades of the same colors. Redear sunfish are also commonly called longear bream, redbreasted bream and yellowbreast bream. Worms, larvae, crickets, insects, cut bait and prepared bait all work well on small hooks and light line.
The redear is also known as stumpknocker and shellcracker and grows larger than most sunfish. Ideal water temperature: 70° to 80°
World record: 5.4 pounds
The redear sunfish can be found throughout the warmer states. It is typically yellowish on the sides, white on the belly and dark green or brown on the top side. The red stripe along the edge of the ear (opercle) is the distinguishing mark for males, and it is orange on females. The usual sunfish baits like worms and grubs work well on light line with small hooks. Rarely doe the redear sunfish rise to take flies and baits off the surface.
Rock bass make their home in clear water, preferring rocky bottoms with vegetation. Ideal water temperature: 64° to 72°
World record: 3.0 pounds
Native to the eastern half of the USA, the rock bass is good eating and fun to catch on light tackle or a fly rod. You can find rock bass in streams and rivers where they prefer clear water with rocky bottom and vegetation. They feed primarily on smaller fish, insects, and crustaceans. Worms, grubs and cut bait work well. The rock bass, aka goggle-eye, green sunfish and sometimes branch perch, prefers water temperatures from 64 to 72 degrees.
Naturally inhabits streams, creeks and rivers - eating invertebrates, insects, small fish and plants. Ideal water temperature: 70° to 89°
World record: N/A
Green on the top and often reddish to brown on the lower sides, they have a dark or black ear covering which looks like a black spot. The spotted sunfish naturally inhabits streams, creeks and rivers. They prefer areas with gravel or sand and plenty of vegetation. Their favorite foods include invertebrates, insects and small fishes but will feed on virtually anything edible including plants. They will also rise to feed on the surface. The spotted sunfish are small but quite good eating. Fish for them with ultra-light tackle using virtually anything edible as bait on very small hooks.
Tilapia are an excellent tasting fish that are found in warm-water canals and waterways. Ideal water temperature: 70° and above.
World record: 9.6 pounds
Most tilapia are omnivorous with a preference for soft aquatic vegetation. They are typically found in warmer waters in the southern states, both east and west. Has difficulty surviving water temperatures below 50 degrees. Tilapia are of similar size and shape to crappie. Fish for them like you might for bluegills using worms, crickets and dough balls on a size 12 hook.
Also known as goggle-eye, stumpknocker, mudgapper and warmouth bass. Ideal water temperature: 78° to 86°
World record: 2.4 pounds
The warmouth sunfish has a larger mouth than most sunfish and can eat larger prey. It is rather golden in color overall, darker greenish on the top side and lighter on the underside, with mottled spotting similar to a crappie. Adult warmouths feed on insects, mollusks, minnows and small fish. They prefer sandy bottoms of quiet areas in creeks, streams and rivers and look for heavy vegetation for cover. Fin to catch on ultra light tackle and quite a fight when you hook a fat little two ponder.
White bass tend to run in schools and are good fighters. Ideal water temperature: 63° to 76°
World record: 6.8 pounds
The white bass has silver sides with horizontal dark stripes and is often called sand bass, stripes, barfish and silver bass. They are a good fighter, fun to catch and they tend to run in schools - often schools of several hundred or more. Their primary diet is bait fish and other smaller fish but they also eat worms and insects. Fish for the white bass on light tackle with jigs, spoons, minnow-imitation lures and live bait including worms and minnows. White bass often school deep, particularly in summer and winter - moving shallower in spring and fall.
Also known as perch, silver perch, black-back and grey perch. Ideal water temperature: 62° to 70°
World record: 4.6 pounds
The white perch is named for its color which is generally white or silver with shades of adaptive color from its environment to help it hide from predators. They are a good tasting fish and are even fished commercially. They are quite prolific and can be considered a nuisance in some waters. White perch make a great fish fry with nice filets coming from ones approaching a pound. Use light tackle to fish for white perch. For bait, use worms, minnows, jigs, spoons and very small lures imitating baitfish.
Yellow bass tend to run in schools and are often referred to as stripers or stripies. Ideal water temperature: 55° to 67°
World record: 3.75 pounds
The yellow bass is generally silver or golden on the sides with yellow bellies and dark horizontal stripes. They are found in most states from the Mississippi River east and a few western states. The yellow bass prefer warmer water temperatures yet remain active in both warmer, and sometimes colder water.They average about half a pound and tend to run in schools. Use spoons, spinners, or live minnows and experiment with depth until you find their comfort zone for the day. Light tackle is ideal.
Possibly the best tasting of all the panfish, yellow perch are a favorite for fish frys. Ideal water temperature: 66° to 76°
World record: 3.75 pounds
These perch are generally yellow, to gold, to brown in color and most often lighter shades of these colors. Dark vertical bands decorate their sides. They average about a third of a pound and 6 inches long, many larger ones are often caught as well. They are often misnamed as perch, rock perch and many others. Their primary diet consists of minnows and other small fish, insects and worms. Yellow perch prefer water temperatures from 66 to 70 degrees but remain active in temperatures outside this range. They are fun to catch on ultra light tackle and can be caught year round. They are a favorite of many ice fishing enthusiasts. Use worms, minnows, small jigs. spinners or cut bait.
Panfish Fishing Information.
The purpose of the page is to provide detailed information about fishing for panfish. Find information on basic trends and seasonal patterns, tips, recommended tackle, techniques and more. We want to help you make your panfish fishing trips more successful. Use the navigation below to locate specific information about panfish fishing in your state. See videos for tips, ideas and ways to catch more on your next outing.
Fly fishing for panfish makes for an excellent outing. Panfish will rise to take a dry fly or attack most flies presented to them at varying depths. This presents a great opportunity to teach fishing skills to a beginner and fly fishing techniques at the same time.
For details on crappie visit our crappie fishing section.
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