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Panfish Primer

Boy with a lot of caught crappies. May is prime-time for panfish! "Panfish" is a term for the group of fish that includes black crappies (aka calico bass), yellow perch, white perch, rock bass, and all sunfish species. Panfish likely got their name for how terrific they are in the fry pan!

As the sun gets higher and stronger in May, water temperatures warm – triggering panfish movement into shallow water to feed. Sunfish and crappies will begin to make "nests" for reproduction and guard their nests very aggressively. Now is the time to get out to your local lake and pond and go panfishing!

Fishing for panfish is simple but can be great fun as they are willing biters – you could catch dozens and dozens – and these fish fight surprisingly hard for their size. Fishing rods should be “light” or “medium-light” so you can feel the subtle hits, and line should be 4lb – 8lb test. A worm (for sunfish or perch) or small shiner (for crappies or perch) fished a few feet under a bobber is all that’s needed. A small jig head (1/32nd – 1/16th ounce) rigged with a 1-2 inch soft plastic bait is often irresistible to panfish and many other fish species! Cast the jig out and slowly (very slowly) reel in bouncing along bottom, or place a bobber a few feet above the jig and slowly twitch and retrieve back.

 

Need some tips from the "pros" - check out our panfish primer video and our Let's Go Fishing playlist on YouTube.

 

When searching for a place to fish, look for a shoreline or shallow cove that receives lots of sun – the warm water will attract fish. Aquatic vegetation and fallen trees are hotspots for panfish and many other fish. Panfish are abundant in just about every lake, pond, and large river in CT, but you can search the CT is Fishy interactive application to find a panfish hotspot near you!

There is no minimum length or creel limit (number of fish allowed per day) for panfish (exception is 7” min size and 30 white perch a day in the CT River), but please only keep what you will eat! Let the real big ones go so they can spawn, and keep medium size panfish for dinner (this is called “Selective Harvest”). 

Easy Fried Panfish

Panfish are versatile and can be filleted or gutted, scaled, and cooked whole. There are many recipes to cook panfish, but you can’t go wrong with a fish fry! Here is a simple yet delicious technique for your panfish fillets:

    Ingredients for a fish fry.

  • Rinse panfish fillets well in cold water and pat dry
  • Prepare a bowl of beaten eggs and another bowl of fine cornmeal
  • Heat oil (vegetable or canola) in a deep fryer or cast iron pan to 375 degrees
  • Dip fillets into egg, then cornmeal, then egg, then back into cornmeal and into oil
  • Cook 2-3 minutes until done and drain on wire rack
  • Enjoy with chips, coleslaw, and beverage of choice!

Panfish cooked in a fish fry.

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Please contact the Fisheries Division with any questions. 

Phone: 860-424-FISH (3474)
E-mail: deep.inland.fisheries@ct.gov

Content last updated February 2021