Northern Minnesota has abundant populations of Sunfish, Bluegills, and Perch.
Panfish are easy to catch, are prolific spawners they repopulate the waters as fast as they are harvested.
When considering your gear setup, there are a couple of great options for fishing for panfish. The two big ones are fly fishing and ultra light fishing. Both of these techniques are both rewarding as well as fun. If you decide to fly fish for panfish, pick a rod between 4 and 6 weight. If ultra light fishing is more your style, shop for a 6 foot, single piece, fast action type rod.
These fish tend to run in schools and congregate near their food supply. Bluegill can be found in depths of 35 feet or more and all the way up to the surface depending on time of day and weather conditions. Bluegill spends the majority of their active time in 1 to 10 foot depths.
Small, soft-plastic lures such as grub tubs, and small minnow baits will work for all kinds of panfish and should always be considered when heading out for a day of fishing. Jigs between 1/32 and 1/16 once are very effective bait for panfish in streams and river. Merely cast your bait ahead of the fish, and allow the current to drift the lure by your prey, only giving it small hops with the tip of your rod. This combination is great for getting your bait under tree limbs and other shoreline cover. You also want to have bait which can be natural, such as earthworms, grasshoppers, crickets or red worms.
For boat fishing you should drop the line into the water and allow it to hit the bottom then pull it back up a little and let it dangle there. The drift will work to your advantage with smooth, life-like movements of the bait. Bluegills generally are a schooling fish, so if you find one there will often be more. My best Bluegill fishing has been in weed beds using a small piece of crawler and a small sinker to get the bait near the bottom. Water that is a little deeper will often provide bigger fish.
The yellow perch is found primarily in lakes and in slow moving streams. They prefer relatively clear water and are often associated with rooted aquatic vegetation. Lake perch are not big. The yellow-gold fish with dark-striped sides grow to be 5 to 12 inches.
Boat fishing during mid-summer is probably the best way to catch a mess of yellow perch. Anchor your boat at the deep edge of the weed beds. Drop your lure into the water close to the edge of the weeds. Lower it to the bottom, and then reel it up six–12 inches. The lure will be about ten feet deep. Twitch your line and wait for a strike. When you feel a fish hit, pull up on your rod and reel the fish in. The longer you fish, the more fish will move into the area.
Perch are often caught in our waters trolling for other species of fish. Trolling small spinner bait with a crawler or small minnow can be very effective.
The Boundary Waters has abundant populations of Panfish due in large part because they are seldom fished. Most anglers to the Boundary Waters target larger species of fish. For the ultimate fishing experience we recommend the Grand Slam fishing package, which offers three full days of fishing. With three days you will have the opportunity to fish multiple lakes for various species in the area. For more information about our professionally guided fishing trips visit our Guided Fishing Packages page.
Minnesota Fishing Licenses are available at our lodge and various retailers in Ely. Licenses are also available online through the Minnesota DNR. Walleye stamps are also available, but not required to fish for walleye.
We encourage catch and release and are happy to provide you with recommended taxidermists for excellent graphite mounts.