With water temps vacillating between 70-84 degrees common sense might tell you to go after pannies in deeper, cooler water. But with both emergent and submergent weed growth at summer peak most catchable perch and pannies in general are living in less than 8 feet of water–often in waters less than half that deep.
The key to fish location is FOOD and there is an absolute cornucopia of forage swimming and wriggling around in elodea, American water lotus, eelgrass edges, under duckweed, in between clumps of smartweed–essentially everywhere but in blue green algae .
Although surface temp in open water is steamin’, the temp under the weed canopy is about 10 degrees cooler. With food all over the place and escape cover just a tail flick away all habitat requirements are happily met.
I seldom use a float when probing for summer panfish on the River. Reasonable stealth and a 7-9 ‘ St. Croix panfish series rod is just about perfect for dropping 1/80-1/32 ounce jigs tipped with a waxie or little pinch of worm between the weeds and in front of a fish face.
It takes less than 30 seconds for this weight to fall seductively through the water column to the bottom. The best action is found in water with >2’ visibility, so fish are watching it pretty much from the instant it touches the water’s surface.
If you don’t get bit by the time the jig hits the bottom, raise that long rod and repeat the process between weeds a foot or so away. It may take an hour or so to find the weeds that fish are relating to and tweaking the presentation to find out what trips their trigger.
My favorite baits for catching gills and perch in the weeds are the Bimbo Skunk and Teddy Skunk Perchanator. Both are available at most bait shops along the River and directly from Bimbo Skunk. com.
Sometimes the perch are relating to the deep water weed edges, especially elodea (commonly known as coontail) where they like to feed on little benthic macroinvertebrates–essentially larval stage of bugs which morph into flying bugs which live in the weeds or emerge from dark bottom to eventually stretch their wings and take flight.
When probing this soft bottom/weed edge habitat my weapon of choice is a 1/16-1/8 oz Northland Tackle Buckshot Rattlespoon in perch/gold tipped with a little bait–with a Perchanator hanging just off the bottom nearby.
Time of day is not that critical when chasing pannies. In high summer the first couple hours after sunrise and before sunset are the best times to chase bass or walleyes. Those obnoxious pike are active all day long. If humidity is causing high surface tension producing a ‘bubble trail’at least 5’ long behind a Z-Man buzzbait with a Kalin scrub trailer its hard to find a more effective pike trigger bait in the River in late summer. But snot rockets will have to wait for a future blog. Gotta go pet my Lund.