Most spring fishermen target walleyes, pike and trout, saving their panfish efforts for the summer months. Big mistake, according to DNR biologist George Madison of Gladstone. “You can catch some of the season’s nicest bluegills in May,” he says. “And you’ll have most of the prime water all to yourself.” Madison suggests light spinning rods rigged with 4- or 6-pound-test monofilament. “I like a slip bobber and a small, bright-colored teardrop jig tipped with a wiggler or leaf worm. Small split-shot will hold your bait steady if there’s wave action. Avoid any jigging action and just keep the bait at about six to eight feet deep.” Madison suggests targeting the north shore of a lake near shoals and breaks. “The water will be warmer there, especially during the afternoon, and that means more invertebrates will be hatching to attract feeding fish,” he says. There are dozens of good panfish lakes near Gladstone in southern Alger and northern Delta counties (many within the Hiawatha National Forest), but Madison says his techniques work well statewide. The results are not only hefty bluegills, but you’ll also catch a few incidental bass, giving you an idea of what to expect when the bass season opens in late May. “I enjoy walleye fishing,” Madison says. “But I compare it to mowing a lawn. Panfish allow you to be active and have fun.” Contact: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (906-786-2351).