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Ontario's waters are home to a variety of panfish, including yellow perch, black crappies, bluegill, pumpkinseeds, rock bass, and more. They are the perfect angling fish for the entire family as they are a reliable catch and superb to eat. Panfishing has caught onto the tournament circuit as they are a readily available species.
Crappie and yellow perch are the most popular of the panfish, since these species grow the largest and anglers say they are the best tasting. The black crappie is relatively common in the lower parts of northwestern Ontario to the French River, including the Great Lakes and yellow perch south of James Bay and the Upper Albany River.
Traveling in schools during both the summer and winter, open-water anglers start catching as soon as the ice clears, April or early May, as the fish are moving inshore to feed and then spawn. Anglers are generally the most successful during this time frame in canals and shallow bays with cover such as wood, weeds and docks. Summer time sees the fish along weedlines or hanging out a bit further in deeper water off rocky points and mid lake shoals. Traditional best times to fish are morning and evening, however, panfish bite well during the day, especially if it’s overcast. Black crappie and other panfish prefer small live minnows, spinners, panfish jigs, mini-crankbaits, and streamer flies. Late April or May, perch are readily available near shore, where they will spawn. Weed lines and rocks are the perfect areas to hit in the summer.
Perch are more bottom-oriented than crappie. Light slip-sinker rigs or split shot and a hook with a worm or small minnow are all you need to catch them. Panfish jigs, cast or hung under a slip-float, are also effective. With year round seasons and very generous limits in most of Ontario, panfish offer a great opportunity to bring fish home for a family dinner, while releasing the largest fish back into the water.
Ontario's record catch
Temperature and habitat: Spawn in shallow, weedy areas when water temperatures reach 68°F (20°C), usually May through June.
Biology: Males guard eggs and fry. For much of the year, they suspend offshore, but move to the edge of weedlines, points, or shoals, or rise to the surface to feed in low-light conditions.
Range: Lower Northwestern Ontario, the Great Lakes and connecting waterbodies to Georgian Bay and the North Channel. Spreading inland north to Parry Sound through connecting systems such as the Rideau and Trent-Severn waterways.
Ontario's record catch
Average size: To .75 lb (.34 kg).
Temperature and habitat: Summer habitat ranges from weedy areas to rock/sand/rubble shoals to mossy mud flats, but perch occasionally suspend to follow forage. Preferred water temperature is 68°F (20°C).
Biology: Spawn in early spring, scattering eggs in shallow water around vegetation and submerged wood.
Range: All of Ontario roughly south of James Bay and the Upper Albany River.
Weeding out wonderful winter crappies — ice fishing tips for catching black crappies in Ontario
Crazy crappie fishing in Northern Ontario — why crappies are popular to ice anglers who flock to Northern Ontario