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Hooked: Panfish promote fishing habit

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Ted Peck
June 22, 2014

Few things compare to starting the day with a good cup of coffee and a fish on the line.

My Lund slipped into the quiet waters of Lake Spooner shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday morning. By 5:25 my coffee was getting cold as yet another punkinseed fought for freedom on the business end of my 4-weight St. Croix flyrod. My plan was to tussle with 25 panfish and return to the Green Acres Motel before my wife woke up.

But few things in life are more fun than catching pannies on a light flyrod. Taking a break for a sip of coffee when the 30th fish slurped in my No. 10 Bimbo Skunk seemed like a reasonable goal.

The fish couldn't resist the Bimbo Skunk with a one-inch Berkley Gulp leech. At the 40-fish mark, an eight-inch bluegill stole the Gulp leech.

The Kwik Trip coffee was probably cold. Might as well catch a few more.

Bluegill No. 51 broke the frazzled 2-pound tippet.

It was time to quit.

That is not an easy task when fishing a bluegill spawning bed with roughly the dimensions of Shopiere. The good news is the bluegill spawn in lakes in Washburn and Burnett counties is just getting started.

In a normal year, bluegills spawn in southern Wisconsin lakes around Memorial Day, scraping out saucer-sized depressions in the shallows up north about two weeks later.

This blessed event locally was pretty much on schedule. But winter held on across the northern tiers of Wisconsin counties a little longer. If you hook up the boat when you finish this column, you can be cleaning fish from a score of lakes before the sun is even close to setting tonight.

Probably a dozen of the 50 fish that attacked that little black-weighted fly were longer than 8 inches. A couple were an honest nine. But following the philosophy of catch-and-release frees an addicted angler from the constraints of the statewide 25-fish bag limit.

My wife wasn't too upset when I came waltzing back to the motel shortly after 8 a.m. She jumped at the chance for breakfast at the Dinner Bell café just up the road in Trego, which is a gateway to at least another dozen outstanding panfish lakes.

Candy was able to stop at about 15 fish on a small lake northeast of town later that morning. Four out of every five fish from this water exceeded the 8-inch “keeper” benchmark.

She was using an ultralight spinning rod with the Skunk about 18 inches beneath a small pencil float.

Catching and releasing another 50 panfish before lunch seemed like a great way to spend the morning. This time around the line broke at just 39.

The second cup of coffee was still warm.

The Spooner area is more of a family destination than an angling mecca. There are plenty of pike, largemouth bass and panfish, but limited opportunities to catch either muskies or walleyes.

A trip to Spooner was an annual family event when our kids were young. There is no doubt the bountiful and willing panfish that swim here contributed to the love of nature both our daughters continue to relish as adults.

There are two major components to getting a kid hooked on fishing. The first is perpetual reinforcement that catching fish is fun. Panfish are willing to oblige.

The second is announcing the fishing trip is done when the kids are still catching fish and having fun.

My father played me like a big bluegill on very light line. Some folks like to fish. Others love to fish. A few live to fish.

These persons are blissfully ignorant of smartphones.

A basic flip-phone enables a person to make and receive calls.

But it takes longer to catch 50 panfish before breakfast if you don't leave the darn thing in the truck where it belongs.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc.



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