BOB MAINDELLE: Sunfish are invading the shallows | outdoor sports
As the water temperature on our local reservoirs has risen steadily since late March to just over 70F now, sunfish have started to show up in force in the shallow waters where they are easily accessible by boat anglers and bank fishermen.
These fish are now feeding and establishing their territory, but will soon focus on spawning. All of these activities will take place in shallow water.
With the weather forecast calling for highs in the 90s for the entire week ahead, there will be no turning back for these sunfish. They will most likely stay in shallow water until the water cools considerably in the fall, usually late September or early October.
Sunfish tend to be easy to catch and therefore make a great target for adults who want to introduce children to the sport. What bluegills lack in size they make up for both in numbers and in their willingness to take on properly presented bait and small lures.
Sunfish are a cover-loving species of fish, so to find them you need to find the cover they live in. On Stillhouse Hollow Lake, the acres of abundant green hydrilla that now grow there have allowed sunfish (and largemouth bass) populations to thrive, but the fish are now also more dispersed than before the hydrilla did. become so prevalent.
Still, the backs of the coves, where rocky, wooded cover mixes with hydrilla, is a solid bet for locating sunfish. Also, the inside edge of the hydrilla where it begins to grow, a few feet or a few feet from shore, is a good bet on this body of water.
On Belton Lake, the backs of creeks are also productive, as this is where driftwood, leaves and debris accumulate and sink, providing at least some cover in a lake that is largely devoid of of such shallow water cover.
A few tools will be useful for targeting sunfish. At the top of this list is a pair of polarized sunglasses. These don’t have to be prescription glasses, nor expensive. For those who wear corrective lenses, a pair of polarized slip-on glasses that rest on the corrective lenses can be a good solution.
Either way, polarized lenses help reduce sun glare on the surface of the water and allow you to look deeper into the water to spot both sunfish and underwater cover in which they hide and around.
Keeping presentations small and simple tends to yield the best results for sunfish. I outfit the kids I take on my boat with 9-11 foot long telescopic poles, which look like the modern version of the old cane pole.
Comprised of multiple telescoping fiberglass segments, these poles, like the Shakespeare Wonderpole, B’n’M Black Jewel Original BreamBuster, or Lew’s Bream Stick, eliminate the need for a reel.
Fishing line (the 6 or 8 pound test is a good size to start with) is attached to the thin end of the rod and cut to the same length as the rod.
For this simple pole setup, I’m using a small balsa wood float that’s about 2-3 inches long and only 3/8 inch in diameter, a small split shot (heavy enough for the float to stand vertically , but don’t sink it) and a #14 or #16 hook.
These little hooks are so small that they are not usually found in the middle sporting goods section of a department store or high street retailer. I suggest looking in the fly fishing or fly tying department at Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s, or ordering online at one of the many flyshops there.
Long shank hooks are useful for both fish and anglers, as they are more easily removed when (not if) a sunfish inhales bait and becomes deeply hooked. To prepare for this eventuality, a pair of six-inch curved-tip pliers are essential, as is a tool called the Ketchum Release Tool (in the smallest size offered).
Baits should also be small. Remember that sunfish generally feed on organisms barely visible to the naked eye. I like to buy red worms and then cut those worms into six or seven segments, slipping only one segment on the hook at a time as bait.
I like to route the hook through the core of this worm segment, and not snag it side to side, thus avoiding loops in the bait that help the sunfish grab bait and pull it off the hook without getting caught.
Whether you’re angling for sunfish to introduce a child to the sport or simply to catch your own sunfish, perhaps as bait for larger fish, now is the time to find these sporty and abundant fish in the lowlands. funds.