Sunbeams reflecting off the eastern horizon turned our pond’s surface orange as a warning that soon it would too hot on the water for man or fish.

Sunbeams reflecting off the eastern horizon turned our pond’s surface orange as a warning that soon it would too hot on the water for man or fish.

Lines bowed out as topwater lures dropped close to an old tree limb. The Ribbit frog made enticing, struggling motions until a loud splash broke the quiet, calm morning. A fair bass engulfed a frog and dove for the safety of depth.

Stephen Matt, director of media relations for R.W. Eagle Productions and G3 Boats, quickly set the hook. The bass felt this deep sting and turned on maximum power in a run that doubled over Matt’s spinning rod. He reeled and let the pressure of his spinning rod work until the fight was finished and the 3-pound bass released.

Minutes later another fine bass attacked my frog. I set the hook and enjoyed several deep, satisfying runs in the early morning light, creating a moment that made me feel happy to be alive. Soon my sore-mouth bass joined his buddy to sulk on the bottom.

We were certainly enjoying the bass, but our target was slab crappie that ran a pound in this pond – sometimes bigger. Anything under a pound was unacceptable. We realized that some big bluegill would attack our Road Runner jigs and welcomed the fight.

Few fish fight better than a big bluegill, pound for pound, as it turns its wide body sideways against current or just simple water pressure. This makes the fight even tougher and more memorable.

I soon heard Matt jerk as he hooked the first bluegill that took his jig. The fight was on and that panfish was ready to rumble. The big “gill” dove straight down and made several quick turns, including what appeared to be a couple of tight spins. Soon he held up the beautiful fish of brown, orange and green colors before slipping it back into the pond.

“We can keep a few smaller fish for dinner,” Matt said. “I want to catch our big bluegills again.”
I couldn’t blame him.

Minutes later something hit my jig and dove straight down. I set the hook and enjoyed several deep runs and twists. The crappie was determined to be free and I was just as determined to enjoy the fight. Soon I released the determined fish that scaled well over a pound.

This continued for another hour before the late-spring sun belted the surface with a heat exchange that drove all self-respecting fish to deeper water.

Bluegill and crappie can provide an excellent late-spring, early summer days fishing with the results of a good fillet dinner. Bluegill fillets are not large but daily limits are generous. Crappie fillets may be larger, depending on the fish, and possibly some of the best fish ever cooked. A well-fried batch of fillets will never last long on a kitchen table. Some fishermen prefer them over almost any other type of fish for taste. I personally will never turn down a bluegill or crappie fillet dinner.

Bluegill are not hard to catch. Popping bugs, worms, crickets and tiny lures are the main bluegill baits. A small Mepps spinner is excellent bluegill bait. But that is the joy of bluegill fishing – they are not particular. If it looks or smells good, chances are they will bite it. Crappie seem to bite best on jigs or minnows, but spinners or tiny crankbaits work too.

Like many predator fish, both species will move into the shallows for food. Fishermen have a lot of success around logs and stumps after either fish spawns. Fly fishermen consider this to be one of the best times to fish. Try an 8-inch leader, 2- to 4-pound test and a box of tiny popping bugs.

An old fisherman once told me, “It don’t matter what color you use for crappie or bluegill, as long as it is yellow.” This is good advice, but black, brown and white will attract a fair share of bites too.

Bluegills tend to hang around woody cover for protection. The wood also draws a healthy population of insects. Bluegill love these tiny aquatic insects and respond well to black and brown wet flies. You might do as well with 1/80- and 1/100-ounce black and brown jigs.

This is the time to visit a small lake or pond for bluegill, bass and crappie. The filets are magnificent!