Bluegills take center stage this month

MARTINY LAKE - Pan Fishermen are keeping their eyes on the warming lake shallows these days, looking for the telltale signs of bluegills beginning to move in to make those light dish-shaped redds (nests.)

As lake waters warm, the instinct to spawn takes over and  female panfish begin to fan away the dead debris of the long winter season, leaving the redds clean and bright for their soon-to-be deposited eggs.

There, the males will fertilize the eggs then take over guarding the redds against any intruders that might have fresh bluegill “caviar” in mind. The males will continue to guard the nests until the young fry begin to disperse; the females head off to feed, their job already done.

When the actual nesting time begins, bluegill and sunfish anglers will be quick to respond. It is a time when baits or lures cast over or near the redds will likely be met by a charging male striking the offending intruder that is seen as a danger to the nest. At that time, a season of spring panfishing will kick in full time for many anglers.

Sometimes the first to show up to spawn will be the smaller, less mature bluegills. Larger and older bluegills and may start their spawning a little later, hanging back in water a bit deeper than that of the shallows. Yet the instinct to grab a worm or leech, or hit a soft fly or rubber spider is apt to get one on the end of your line. Larger fish tend to build redds a little deeper than the very shallow zone.

The choice of tackle is up to you. Advice? Keep the line weight small, leader’s fine and keep your eye on bobbers if bait fishing - then strike once the bobber goes under. Flyrodders may find that the action remains on the top water. Spinning lures should be small and flashy if fished with faster retrieves. Rubber grub tail baits on small jigs of 1/32nd to 1/8th ounce can be effective. The old worm hook, half a crawler and a bobber is always a simple but effective means of collecting the makings for a fish fry.

Fly fishing is also a great way to get some exciting action going. On a limber fly rod, a determined sunfish or bluegill makes up in fast scrambling action what they lack in larger size.

A top time to go is early morning and just before sundown when bugs and small minnows are in the shallows. During the day fish will go deeper, but return towards evening to the shallows. This makes for opportunities to work the shoreline without need for a boat.

Keep your catch cool and iced down until you get them to the kitchen for cleaning and cooking. At this time, the fish are about as flavorful as they get and should not be neglected.

So keep those eyes on the shallows; watch for those lighter dish-shaped nests; and when you see them showing up, get to fishing. The taste of fresh caught panfish filets hot from the frying pan is all the reason you need to get up, bait up and get your line in the water.