Schools out! Oh my god how are we going to entertain the kids and keep them out of trouble! This is a dilemma faced by many parents, especial single moms and dads. We all want to engage in outdoor activities with our children and spend quality time with them, but especially to reverse the mind numbing effects of video games and to keep them off of their Wii or Xbox for a short time. Any time outdoors is time well spent if it can actually bring you and your children closer together and perhaps have an incredible adventure as well! The warmer weather is here, and your local lakes should be teaming with Panfish, including Sunfish, Bream, Crappies and a host of others. They are all very simple to catch, don’t require expensive equipment and are actually quite tasty too!
The first thing you need to do is outfit your self with all the necessary gear, but don’t forget to also have a bucket, a knife and a pair of nail clippers along with you, they are often forgotten but frequently essential, a small towel should be taken as well. Most of the equipment needed can be found at your local Wal-Mart, Target, Sporting goods store or perhaps there is a bait and tackle shop nearby that can not only outfit you, but give you suggestions on what is biting and where. It is also important to check on any regulations or the need for a fishing license in your area. Nothing can ruin a day faster than rain, mosquitoes or a game warden who is having a bad day!
Many of the stores sell packages that contain all the equipment you will need, but lets break it down into a few essential items. The rod and reel should be relative to the size of the fish you are trying to catch, in the case of most Panfish and Sunfish and Crappies, it should be light. The rod and reel should be matched to handle line in the 6-10 lb test category. Pound test (lb test) is generally thought of as the breaking strength of the line. You can look on the rod or reel and see what it is rated for. Line that is too light will easily break if you hook a fish that you do not have the experience to handle and if it gets snagged or caught on the bottom you run the risk of it breaking. Line that is too heavy for your task will be difficult to cast and could cause wary fish to shy away. The hooks should also be relatively light a size 8 should do the job nicely, remember, the higher the number the smaller the hook. Tie the hook to the end of the line and you are half way home! You next need to place a bobber a few feet above the hook. How high above the hook really depends on how deep is the water you are fishing. The size of the bobber should not be large for these fish. Remember you want it to float the bait at a particular depth yet be light enough to be pulled under to indicate a fish strike. Sometimes very small weights attached to the line called split shot can help. I’d start off with the bobber about 2 feet above the hook and adjust from there, a very small split shot the size of a small bb should be in between the float and hook.
For the species of fish you are targeting, just about anything will work. Sunfish and Bream are not all that picky and are usually in great numbers. Try different things, usually a worm or a piece of a worm is sure to bring results and can be purchased at most of the stores mentioned earlier. You can even make the adventure bigger by first going on a worm hunt to catch your own bait. If all else fails, almost anything that will fit on the hook may work. I’ve even seen Panfish caught using Pillsbury dough and pieces of a hot dog!
Now comes the most complicated aspect of the adventure, where to fish? Just about any body of water should do as most lakes and streams have something swimming in them. If you can’t ask the local bait shop owner then just look on a map, find a nearby lake and head out, in short order you should be others fishing there as well. Most anglers will be happy to assist newcomers, but be careful not to crowd them, remember they are here to catch fish too. If you don’t see anyone else fishing, look around for any spots that are flat and near the water, you may even see things left behind by previous anglers in that spot, if not go ahead and try anyway, you may be lucky enough to find your very own honey hole or hotspot. Just cast your line out a few yards from shore and wait it out, I prefer water that is about 5-8 feet deep for Panfish.
Finally, this is about fishing, not necessarily catching. Although catching a fish with your son or daughter will highlight a great day, it is more about spending time together outdoors. Our children miss so much when their world revolves around a TV or video games and we miss so much in being able to spend time with them. Let your inner child loose and take a kid fishing!