This week’s Grand Rapids Fishing Report brought to you by: Tom Neustrom, owner of MN Fishing Connections guide service.
The warm weather and early ice out made for conditions for panfish like we have not seen in several years. If you remember the past 2 -3 years the ice went out1-3 weeks before opener and the good panfish bite occurred late into May. Even though much of the attention in the next couple weeks turns to walleyes, the Grand Rapids and Itasca County lakes are full of nice crappies, sunfish and jumbo perch. For many of the anglers that are residents, they have known the panfish opportunities that have existed. They are not spawning yet, but are in several depths searching for food prior to the spawn. With the cooler water temperatures of late, it may delay the spawn a couple more weeks or until the water warms into the high 50’s and low 60’s. Crappie and sunfish locations can vary from 20 feet to 5 feet with each day being different. The pencil reeds from last season are locations that show hard bottom and these can be key areas to concentrate once the spawn occurs. Many times the crappies and sunfish will search these places for early bug hatches which they will go to for additional food sources.
Small jigs with plastics or a small chub will be the best presentations to start. Slip bobbers or stationary bobbers(ones that don’t slip) are your best options. Always remember to keep the bait above the fish for crappies, sunfish and other panfish species feed up ward, not downward. If you are in 5 feet of water, set your bobber at 3 feet and even many times just 2 feet. Slip bobbers can sometimes not work as well in windy conditions as well as a clip on style. The wind can allow the slip bobber not to stay at the precise depth needed as opposed to the fixed bobber that stays at the same depth constant. Use a bobber or float that takes a minimal amount of resistance to sink not one that floats like a beach ball. If you don’t geta bite in one area, move to another spot close by after 15-20 minutes. I prefer a 6 1/2 to 7 foot ultra lite rod like the St. Croix Panfish Series. 1000 size reels are perfect and 4# test monofilament is ideal. Targeting wood, new emerging weed beds, rocks, and pencil reeds will give you some good choices to try for early season panfish.
Some of the lakes in the Itasca County area that are known for good early panfish are bays on Pokegama Lake, Big and Little Cutfoot, Big and Little Splithand, Bowstring, Wabana, and Big Balsam Lakes. All have great opportunities to produce nice panfish this time of year and all through the season.