I'm the type of fisherman, that doesn't care what kind of fish I'm catching, as long as I get to feel a tug on the line. I enjoy the art of making lures, flies and rods that I use to catch them.
The quantity of fish that you are able to catch while pan fishing can help hone your skills on the water. On top of that, you can catch a meal quickly without harming the trophy fish population. I know a lot of people who don't enjoy cleaning and catching pan fish. I think they are missing out on some awesome fishing and dining opportunities.
Anyone who knows me recognizes me as a pan fish fanatic. Although my Facebook pictures are mostly monster fish, I would rather be catching Gills, Perch and Crappies. Most people don't seem to be as excited with a stringer of pan fish as I am. I don't eat trophy fish, unless I harm them to the point that I think they may not survive. Even then, I feel bad for keeping them.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the fight of a Bass on light tackle as much as the next guy. I purposely downsize my equipment to get the feeling – that the fish could break off at any time. In my opinion, this provides the most exciting fishing experiences to be had. A large Bluegill on two pound line will test the skills of the most experienced of angler. You have to land them by net because they will bust you off when lifted with a single shake of the tail. If you attempt taking them out of the water using the line to lift them, it will break almost every time. This adds so much more excitement to the experience because you know that one wrong move will cause you to lose the fish.
I further enhance the experience by making my own rods and lures. For pan fish, I prefer a four weight fly rod, with a two pound leader. It feels like you have a monster on, no matter how small the fish. I tie dry fly imitations and make what are called Brim poppers down south. They look like a super downsized Hula popper, with a tiny tail and hackle for the body.
After casting, you need only wiggle the rod tip, to provoke ferocious bites. Gills hit with such force sometimes, that they propel themselves completely out of the water. I have caught over 100 fish in only a few hours on this setup. It doesn't work too well on windy days because the chop on the water makes it hard for the fish to spot the bait. But If you are lucky enough to be on the water, when it is calm and warm just before sun set, you are in for a pan fish bonanza.
I love fishing from the kayak on those special days; it seems to add to the excitement. You feel so much closer to the fight when sitting right on the surface.
Fly fishing isn't an easy skill to master. If practicing on Trout, it could take you years because you only catch a few fish a day. By fly fishing for pan fish, you are able to get weeks worth of bites in only a single evening. You get skilled pretty quick, at casting and getting the fish on the spool. Once the fish is on the spool, you can allow the drag to help prevent breakage and reel the fish in much like conventional tackle. It takes a bit of practice, but after a few trips out, you don't even notice how complicated it used to be.
Pan fish are so good to eat, but a bit complicated to clean. That is likely why most people don't bother with them. I have learned to fillet them with an electric knife, which wastes very little and takes under a minute per fish. I then wash the fillet's and soak them in Italian dressing with a little lemon juice. This takes away the strong fishy flavor. I then dredge them in a milk and egg bath. From there, I roll them in Panko bread crumbs, with some Old Bay and Cajun seasoning added. Into the hot oil for a few minutes and you have one of the best meals nature can provide.
Good wishes and enjoy the fish.