By Dan Johnson

You might not think the wind is a big factor when fishing spring crappies and bluegills, especially when you’re casting from the bank or bobbing around in a boat tucked safely inside a protected bay. But in truth, wind is an ever-present factor that affects both the location and behavior of early season panfish.

Wind influences the underwater world in many ways. It can whip up whitecaps and reduce light penetration in a matter of minutes, which often sparks a fast bite on the walleye front. But if you’re angling for a shot at spring panfish, the wind’s affect on water temperature is of greater concern.

When a breeze blows across the lake, it pushes surface water toward the downwind shore. In fair weather, this raises water temperature along the receiving bank, especially in bays and other areas where warm surface water collects. As a result, winter-weary crappies and sunfish are quick to funnel in and feed. But on cold days, just the opposite is true. As chilly surface water pours into the shallows, panfish make a speedy exit or hunker down and play hard to catch.

While the wind can dictate which areas hold active panfish, the connection doesn’t end there. Once inside a bay, canal or other promising location, look for an area that might collect warm water a bit more than others.

For example, the other night son Josh and I visited a large public fishing area on an east-central Minnesota lake. There were two canals and a large bay at our disposal, with anglers scattered around the entire shore. By focusing on the corner of a canal blessed by a steady supply of warm surface water blowing in from the main lake, we hit the mother lode of beefy bluegills—and enjoyed catch rates significantly higher than those of anglers fishing more sheltered locations.
Our go-to tactics in the hot zone were straightforward. We tipped Lindy Ice Worms and Little Nippers with small chunks of nightcrawlers and then suspended them beneath Thill Pro Series slip floats.

The presentation couldn’t have been easier. Cast. Watch the bobber go down. Reel in a fish, and repeat. It was a great spring evening that produced plenty of fine memories, along with a reminder on the importance of playing the wind for panfish.