Into The Outdoors 4/29/14 Issue

Well, folks, by the time you read this column, it will be almost May.  In my personal opinion, May is the best month of the whole year.  Winter is definitely over, and summer is just around the corner.  I know that there are a lot of summer people out there, and it’s time to celebrate.  May is great for a lot of reasons.  First of all, for teachers and students, it means that school is almost over for another year. With all my years as a student and teacher, I still feel a bit giddy at this time of year.  But, that’s not all.  There are still a lot of wonderful things about May.  For one thing, a lot, if not most of our birds are back for the summer.  Although I have not yet seen any, the hummingbirds are probably back around.  I saw a rose-breasted grosbeak at our backyard feeder.  I know that it seems a bit early, but it was there.
By the time this month gets old, the leaves will be fully out.  The juneberries, a favorite of Helen Bowser, old Bub’s mother, will be in full bloom.  The birds will be nesting, the weather will be warm, and new life will be in the air.  How can you beat that?
There is yet another great thing about this time of year, and that is panfishing.  Of course, panfish include those fairly small fish that fit neatly into a frying pan .  Around here, these include yellow perch, (a little cousin of the walleye) bluegills, pumpkinseeds, rock bass and crappies.  Now is the time to go after them.  
From the time I was a kid, panfish have been a favorite of mine.  I suppose it is the fast action that they provide.  When you fish for them with live bait and a bobber, the action never seems to end..   Watching that bobber go down invigorated me as a kid, and it still does today.  If you use an ultralight fishing outfit, virtually every panfish will give you a good fight.  Even better, they are great in the skillet or deep fryer, as they are simply delicious.  There are a lot of places to catch them around here, but Lake Oneida and Lake Arthur stand out in my mind.
 There are so many recipes for panfish that I could not attempt to cover all of them in a single column .  For my money, there is no substitute for deep frying.  Coat them with your favorite coating mix and toss them into the hot oil.  Of course, you shouldd filet them first.  For me, the biggest turn off about eating fish is picking through bones.  I just can’t stand that.  With filets, the problem does not exist.  
When it comes to fishing for panfish, most of the anglers I know use live bait almost exclusively. That does not mean that they cannot be caught with artificials.  It’s just that live bait is so good.  For crappies, there is no better bait than fathead minnows.  If crappies are around, they just cannot resist them .  Fatheads are also good for yellow perch, but, for perch and bluegills, (which include pumpkinseeds) worms seem to be the best.  Perhaps I am still a kid at heart, but all of that fast action is   still a thrill for me.  The thought of all the good eating to come just makes it better.
We had a long and brutal winter.  We’ve earned some fun.  The time is now.  Whatever you do, get out there and enjoy it.

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