Few things break my bass fishing concentration like a school of bluegill, sunfish and even crappie. These fish species are referred to as “panfish” as the filets fit nicely in a skillet pan. Colorado may not compare to southern states that these species originate from but they are still impressive enough to fixate my attention. I can’t help myself especially when late spring\early summer arrives. The water becomes dotted with schools of these little fin slappers just asking for trouble.
Colors can vary greatly depending on the species. Hybridization is common between sunfish and bluegill as they spawn at the same time. Pumpkinseed sunfish have a speckled color pattern as where green sunfish have a more defined vertical striped body. Bluegills are typically darker and sport a smaller mouth than sunfish. In a lot of Colorado ponds the panfish species become intermixed and each fish is very unique from the other. Exact identification becomes more complicated when these genetic lines are blurred. For more information on sunfish and other fish species identification please review the links at the bottom of the post.
The best time to chase gills is in the summer when they are aggressive and very active. I prefer to time things early so they are in their prime prespawn condition and there isn’t a lot of smaller fry to weed through. This is usually the beginning of May but can vary greatly in Colorado’s crazy weather.
Panfish take a beating from the natural predators if they exist within the same habitat. This natural cycle actually helps both sides as it keeps numbers adjusted for the sunfish while providing food for the predator base. Large brooder sized sunfish are crucial to population and should be released as they provide the most opportunity to keep the scales balanced. Larger gills and sunnies also make my photo ops way more impressive. These sixes and sevens do not justify a lot of shameless bragging like the fish that get ten inches and over.
These “pans” are from a trip where I spent the first part of the day in the tooner and then banged from the shoreline after loading up the gear. The plan was to boat and fish the whole lake before the crazy holiday crowds set in. On the way out I see an entire section that had been missed and loaded with fish. Finished loading the tooner and went back for another round.
Knowing you have a problem is the first step to reaching a cure. The remedy that I have found thus far is to sit on a school of panfish and HAMMER ‘em until the twitch in my casting elbow goes away.
My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.