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Pan Fishing, the Good Old Boy Way
When I was a kid, and even now, I had rather be fishing than eating, and that is saying a mouth full. I love to bass fish, but my favorite has always been what I call "Food Fishing". The fish that fall into this category for me are catfish, bream, and crappie(Black or White).The fish I love the most are the bream fish, sunfish, which down south are called "Yellow Bellies", Red Belly, and Blue Gills. Most pan fish can be dealt with in pretty much the same way when a fella goes about trying to catch a mess for his supper.There's nothing like the feel of a sudden snatch on the line and a bobber going under, to get the heart pumping! I have been fortunate enough to have fished in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and Oklahoma. I have caught these pan fish in all the states that I have fished.(Amen)!
I like to use at least three or four good rod and feels, and mostly in the closed face category, in the reels that I use. Shakespear, Daiwa, and Zebco make great reels for my kind of fishing, and I have used all three types.These are some of the "push button" type reels, and are some of the best in bait fishing. I generally use a lighter rod, and the strength is not a real factor in selection of good ones. Some that have a less flexible spine are my favorite and usually shorter in length are better suited in the kind of fishing that I do most of the time. Most of the fish I catch in bream or crappie fishing, are a pound or less in weight, and a lighter rod and reel outfit is all that is needed. My size in line is usually about 6 to 8 pound strength and is quite sufficient in hauling in the most feisty of the bream or crappie that I am after.My size 6 hooks in long shank, have served me well over the years, and these are usually my choice in what I use. There are a dozen good hook producing companies out there and most of them are well suited in doing the job. I find that snelled hooks do well in most conditions. These are hooks with a length of line and a loop at the end so that they can be attached to the fishing line. I use b-b size lead weights, or the smallest bell shaped weight that I can find, to tie about 6 to 8 inches above my hook on each line that I am using. A good pair of pliers and sharp knife are handy to have in the tackle box, as well as a hook remover for those fish that like to try to swallow the hooks, way down into their gizzards. I always bring along my fish basket to store all of the fish in the water and this allows them to live much longer and protects them from hazards, like turtles and snakes .I do use a minnow bucket that can be kept in the water, as well, and there are several good kinds available at a minimum in cost.
Bait comes in a large variety of artificial and live categories. I have caught many nice crappie on plastic minnow shaped baits, grubs, and even small spinner baits. Bream are good at striking on small spinners and usually white and yellow grub trailers are effective and is one of the best choices in artificial baits for them. Fish are seeing these offerings as fast moving minnows, and often hit with all abandon, when the bite is on. Earth worms, pond worms, grubs, and Catalpas are all good for most pan fish, but especially bream and crappie. Live crickets, grasshoppers, and meal worms are good baits that I have used over the years to a great success. Live minnows are probably the best bait for crappie and these are what I use most of the times that I'm after the big black and white variety available in the ponds and lakes where I do most of my fishing. I usually hook my worms a couple of times so that they will stay on the hook better. I hook grass hopper and crickets through the main body and try to conceal as much hook as possible. Catalpas, I hook several times and often break then into two parts before hooking on one . They are larger black and green worms and tougher, and I have caught several fish on the same worm on many occasions. Minnows are usually hooked just under the dorsal fin, or through both lips.
If I am fishing for crappie, I use a variety of techniques in weight and bobber adjustments.I may use a slip bobber where the line is tied on allowing the bobber to slide as the weighted hook and bait sink slowly to the bottom of the lake. When it reaches bottom, it will usually lay on its side and I can reel it in a bit so that it rests just off the bottom if that is where the fish seem to be biting the best on a given day. I may set the hook at a certain depth at three to six feet and this will allow only that depth for the bait to sink towards the bottom and where fish may be striking best at a given depth. This can be determined by using different rods and reels set at different depths so that it can seen where fish are hitting best on a particular outing.Once this is found out, then all poles can be adjusted accordingly. I may not use a bobber when I am using worms or crickets and just a weighted hook and line. This will assure that my bait will reach bottom and I have to carefully watch my line in order to catch fish that have picked up my bait. I have found that if I leave one of my lines bobber-free, and fish on the bottom, I can catch fish that may not be hitting so well, nearer the surface. This is the beauty of bringing three or four poles rigged with a variety of lines in the initial stages of the trip.
Back in the old days, all that I had was a cane pole, line, and hook. If I was lucky, I had a bobber, if not, a small stick would serve as well. I might not have lead weights with me on my trips back then, but I still caught fish. I often caught grasshoppers and crickets near a creek bank or even a worm or two, if I was lucky. A good tin can would serve as a nifty bait holder and my Mamma's back yard was full of the holes, where I had been out digging for worms.She may not have liked the holes that I left, but when I brought home a good mess of cats or bream, then all was soon forgiven.Over the years I managed to collect five or six tackle boxes and twenty or more poles and reels in most every description. I have enough now, to start my own sporting goods store, and my wife has threatened to hide them in the woods, if I didn't store them all properly.
Some times the fish "turn off" on the bite and won't hit a thing. This is when I take a nice break and drink a cola and eat a sandwich or snack that I have brought along on my trip with me. This is often a few hours after 12 noon on most hot days and at times at mid-morning intervals.To me, there is no such thing as a bad time to be out fishing and I have caught some of my biggest in windy and rainy weather, or when the water was muddy. Often stained water can be the most productive and not having to be crystal clear. I have often looked for the beds made by bream and they usually provide for good and fast hookups on nice sized fish, These are usually in the spring and also in the early Summer months.
When a cold front is moving in, or a change in the weather comes on, then this is when I am grabbing my fishing poles and heading for the water. Spring and early Fall have been my best times in fishing. I still fish all of those hot summer days anyway, and usually catch fish. Early mornings and late evenings have been the best times for me and bait fishing. I have fished at night by lantern light for crappie and this is one of my most enjoyable times . It is usually very cool and the fish bite well, as they come to the minnows that are attracted to the light of the lantern. I have returned home with a limit of crappie, and have had fish to last for months for all those great meals, after some of these trips.(I lied about the number of poles that I carry when I bait fish.Try five or six, and you will be about right).
I will save cat fishing for another time to write about and will give away all of my best secrets.Until then, have a great fishing life and we will meet again on another fishing hub, some time in the near future, God willing and the creek don't rise. If it does rise, I will most likely be out there fishing my heart out.