A lot of fishermen like to catch sunfish because of how easy these fish are to catch. You can get a lot of them for a meal at home. Not to mention, you can introduce kids to fishing through fishing for sunfish because of how much more activity you get with sunfish.
Let’s have a look at how to catch sunfish.
Bobber and a Hook with Nightcrawler
The way that I’ve always fished for sunfish has been with a bobber on my line and a hook at the end. Few things in life feel as satisfying as sitting there a while and suddenly seeing your bobber dip up and down. It means that you have a fish playing with your bait. Once you see the bobber go underwater fully, you should set the hook and reel him in.
I love this type of fishing because it always makes me wonder what I have at the end of my line. When fishing for sunfish with nightcrawlers, you could be cranking in sunfish, but you could also have a bass or yellow perch at the end of your line. That’s part of what makes this type of fishing so fun. Not to mention, if you get the right fishing spot, you can catch fish at a non-stop rate.
Understand Your Regulations
Each state will have different regulations, and if you fish in certain waters, the regulations might be specific to the area. Some of the places to watch for special regulations include:
When to Fish for Sunfish
The best angling opportunities for sunfish will come in the spring and early summer. You can fish for them year-round, but this will be when the lakes will be lit with sunfish activity. You will have the best opportunity to catch them in the early morning and two hours before sunset. Nevertheless, you can catch sunfish all day long.
In the fall season, you can catch sunfish in the middle of the day. Wait until you start to notice the water cooling, which is the best time to start fishing for them. Because sunfish feed based on sight, you won’t have a lot of activity at night. You can still catch them at night for sure, but it will probably be one of the worst times to catch them, even though you can still crank in a fair amount of them.
You don’t need anything fancy to go fishing for sunfish. Some of the equipment that you can use to fish for sunfish include:
- Flycasting Tackle
- Fiberglass poles
- Cane poles
- Ultralight spinning tackle
- Light hook
- Four-pound test fishing line
- Sinker weights
You want to use a smaller hook because sunfish don’t have as big of mouths. A smaller hook ensures that they can get the hook in their mouth.The hook sizes between the numbers of 6 and 12 will be the best when it comes to catching sunfish.
What Bait Can You Use?
While I often talk about nightcrawlers as baits because that’s what I will usually use, you have plenty of other choices when it comes to baiting sunfish.
Some of the other baits that you can use include:
- Red wigglers
Usually, with worms, you will want to use a scissors to split the worm in half because having too much worm on the hook will make it harder for the sunfish to swallow the bait. Instead, they might nibble on the worm while avoiding the hook altogether.
Where Should You Fish for Sunfish
Where you want to catch sunfish will depend on the season because they tend to go deeper once it gets colder. As soon as you have a few frosts, the sunfish will usually go deeper into the water. During the spring and early summer, you will usually find these fish in a few feet of water.
Around mid-summer, the sunfish will start to go at 10 feet deep, but they could go even deeper than that in some cases. Some of the things that you might look for with sunfish include:
- Weed lines
- Underwater humps
- Sunken brush
- Rocky points
Usually, you will find bluegill right at the point where you have the thermocline. That means that this is where the water temperature starts to get dramatically colder.
Once the later summer arrives and the fall season hits, the sunfish will hide in the bulrush beds and the shallow weed beds.
The Advantage of Slip Bobbers
Slip bobbers have the advantage of casting out in depth and putting your nightcrawler at a certain depth in the water. Having a slip bobber will make casting much easier. In addition, you can put your bobber down at the depth you want.
Unlike with your standard bobbers, slip bobbers will move up and down the line until they have hit a bobber stop. Along with catching sunfish on a slip bobber, you can also reel in some walleye.
Sunfish Species You Can Catch
In all honesty, sunfish are some of the most beautiful species of fish you can catch, but you have a couple of different breeds as a subcategory to understand, such as:
- Johnny roach
- Longear sunfish
- Redbreast sunfish
- Spotted sunfish
Install a Lighter Line
Catching sunfish isn’t always simple, and catching bluegill can in fact be one of the most difficult types of fishing that you will do. In the spring, you might get away with 6-pound line, but you may want to switch to 4-pound line once high summer rolls around.
If the line snagging on weeds won’t become an issue, you might switch to 2-pound line. The one disadvantage of switching to lighter line like 2-pound line is that you won’t be able to pull as big of fish like bass. Many times, when you go fishing for sunfish, some of your catches will be bass as well.
To keep lighter lines on hand for catching sunfish, you might simply have multiple rigs in the boat. In this way, you can switch out a pole to a different line without having to restring your reel every time that you want to switch it out.
Best Time to Go Fishing for Sunfish
You will find that sunfish feed at two different times during the day: early morning and two hours before sunset. In general, early morning will usually be your best bet. Arrive about an hour before the sunrise and see how lit the area is with sunfish activity.
During this time, you might want to try fishing higher up on the water column. Many times, you can catch sunfish in the shallows where they go to feed on minnows. As the day starts to get started, they will retreat into the deeper water.
You can also catch a fair amount of sunfish two hours before sunset. Most fishermen call this the second best time of the day to catch them. For evening fishing, you might want to fish right along a deep or weedy ledge. As the sun starts to drop, you will want to cast into the shallower waters.
Look for Their Feeding Sources
Sunfish love to feed on minnows. In particular, the bluegill will go after them. You want to use a smaller minnow. As much as possible, you want the presentation to look natural. Use a No. 8 short-shanked hook that you hook the minnow through the lip.
One thing to keep in mind with minnows: You won’t catch as many sunfish on minnows as what you would with nightcrawlers. However, the size of the sunfish will generally be larger. Look for a natural place where they have a lot of feeding sources. Next, cast a line out to see if you can crank in some more sunfish.
Why Grasshoppers Work Well with Sunfish
Grasshoppers usually work well for sunfish for three reasons: First, because of how this fish species has insect feeding habits. In addition, grasshoppers put out a scent that the sunfish find irresistible. Finally, grasshoppers work well because of how most sunfish see them as rare and juicy. They don’t get to feed on this lovely bait often. Because of that, the bait tempts them to take it.
You want to hook grasshoppers along their body because this will prevent the fish from stealing the bait.
Fresh Bait Matters
Some might think of fresh bait as a luxury, but it isn’t. If you want to get your limit of sunfish, you need fresh bait. Fresh bait will act more lively in the water, and it will smell better than bait that is half dead.
To keep your bait fresh, you might store your nightcrawlers or waxworms inside of a cooler.
For minnows, you will want to store them in an insulated and aerated bucket. In general, keep your bait in the shade and out of the sun to keep it fresh and lively. The sunlight can dry it out or dehydrate the bait so that it will look less attractive to sunfish.
What Color Baits Do Sunfish Love?
To begin with, you might start with a shade of black. Sunfish love to go after black baits, but if the black doesn’t seem to be working, you might switch it to yellow, white or yellowish green.
Purple and red have also been found to be effective. What you should choose will depend on the clarity in the water. Many people swear by using chartreuse. You might keep switching colors until you find what the sunfish want most.
Metallics like gold and silver work well when you have aggressive sunfish in the water. Once their mood shifts to more finicky, however, you may want to switch to the classic black or pink. Nothing beats it.
Best Weather Condition to Catch Sunfish
In general, the best time to catch sunfish will be on the water during a light rain. Important to note, don’t fish on the lake with lightning because it can be dangerous to you.
Rain breaks up the surface, and it flushes out the nutrients around the water that can prove beneficial to your fishing efforts. It turn the fish biting into dynamite on the water. You can catch a ton of sunfish in the rain, but avoid rain when it comes with lightning.
Topwater baits will especially work well in the rain. The fish are more willing to attack the baits during this time. Look for surface runoff drains that will bring more nutrients to the water. It attracts the sunfish. In particular, you especially want to do this when it continues to look clean.
Worst Time to Catch Sunfish
In general, the worst time to go after sunfish will be immediately after a rainstorm. You have a few reasons for that.
As the weather moves out, a heavier and denser cold front will move in. It has a negative impact on the behavior of the fish. The weather changes from a high-pressure pattern to a low-pressure pattern. Most experienced fishermen dread fishing after a rainstorm because it brings the action on the water to a complete stalemate. The sunfish activity dies off.
Understanding Sunfish Behavior to Catch More
To know how to catch sunfish in Minnesota or elsewhere, you want to first understand their behavior patterns.
By no means do sunfish feed at the top of the food chain. In fact, these fish sit much closer to the bottom of the food chain. Because of that, many of the things that they go after will have slower movements. That makes them less aggressive because they can often taste-test a bait to determine if they want to take it the rest of the way.
If you observe sunfish in the water, you will often notice how they come at it slowly and cautiously at first. Dangling a bait in front of a sunfish is a good idea. When you go to crank it in, you want to do this slowly.
Sunfish don’t usually like to chase their food. For that reason, you should keep your retrieval at a slower pace if you retrieve at all. The fun part about catching sunfish comes from watching your bobber go underwater. The moment before as you watch the fish play with your bait.
Catch Nesting Bluegills
With bluegill fishing, you can catch them vulnerable when they start nesting. In general, bluegill will spawn nine times per year, and the spawn will usually be your best time of the year to catch bluegill.
Be aware, however, that bluegill spook easily, and you need to go in slowly to avoid spooking them. Cast your line into the spawning colony and quietly wait. You can also cast just outside a spawning nest to catch some bluegill.
Sunfish have become one of the most popular panfish that you can catch across the United States. They’re also one of the easiest fish to catch. People like to go after them because you can get a lot more bites. While the fight will usually be less, they bite a lot more often. Not to mention, the thrill of watching your bobber go underwater after a long wait. Another one of the great things about catching sunfish? They taste great!
Here’s a tasty sunfish recipe that you can use after you have caught a few sunfish:
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 pound bluegill or sunfish
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
Step 1: First, put the butter into a shallow bowl. You will have another bowl on hand to mix in the Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and seasonings.
Step 2: Dip the sunfish meat in butter and coat it with the bread crumb mixture.
Step 3: Finally, you will put the fish meat in a 15x10x1-in baking pan. You will preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You cook the fish in the oven for 20 minutes. You wait until the fish flakes easily with a fork as your sign that it is cooked well enough.