The Toughest Sunfish Of Them All
by Don Jordan
Just 60 days ago, we were wallowing in
cabin fever. Today, morels are up in the woods; crappie are spawning
in our lakes; wild turkey hunters are in the field; and, the most illusive
sunfish of them all, the redear, is about to make itself available to
your frying pan.
the favorite panfish in this state (crappie, bluegill, perch, redear),
there is little doubt, in my mind, that the redear is both the most
highly-prized and hardest to catch, but this is the time of year they
are easiest to catch for most anglers.
First of all, finding redear isn’t all
that easy. There are a few places where they are abundant, but those
spots attract redear fishermen in large numbers. If you know a farm
pond stocked with them, by all means fish there, because your chances
are so much better of catching a mess of good slabs.
If you don’t have access to a good farm
pond, there is some good public water. Number one is West Boggs Creek
where 12-inch redear turned up in coolers last season.
Number two used to be Indian Lake, located
in the U.S. Forest Service recreation area off I-64 across southern
Indiana. I haven’t fished there since the forest service turned the
place over to private industry for management, but I suspect the redear
are still there.
Number three is Lake Lenapi at Shakamak
State Park where the water is usually extremely clear and the redear
and bluegill are just a tad nervous.
Number four is Lake Griffy on Bloomington's
north side where redear make themselves available to bank anglers.
Number five is Dogwood Lake at the Glendale
Fish and Wildlife Area.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with redear,
this is a member of the sunfish family that we so love to catch and
eat. Other members include crappie, bluegill, largemouth, smallmouth
and all the other so-called “black” basses and assorted smaller sunfish
like the punkinseed.
What makes redear stand out is the small
red-colored “ear” or tab located on the rear tip of the fish’s gill
cover plate. It also can get very large. The world record redear (called
“shellcracker” in the South) weighed 5 lbs., 7.5 ozs. It was caught
by Amos M. Gray at Santee-Cooper Diversion Canal, South Carolina, in
You can see a picture of this fish on the
internet at http://realindy.com/recordfish.htm
Indiana’s record redear is a 3 lb., 10
oz. monster caught by Robert Peckham of Nashville from a private lake
in Brown County, way back in 1975.
Redear are bottom feeders, although I have
caught some on the fly rod over the years by casting a sinking fly into
visible nests. That is a rare thing in my experience, and the one time
I caught several using flies, the remaining fish spooked and never returned
Most of the time, redear do nest in shallow
enough water to spot beds if there is decent water clarity. Their beds
look just like bluegill beds, except in most cases there won’t be as
many nests as there might be if they were bluegill beds.
The thing about redear is that they are
shy and a bit finicky about what they eat. Since fresh water shrimp
aren’t on the bait list for most Hoosier anglers, redworms, bits of
nightcrawler, and sometimes crickets will do the job.
Redear are not as prone as their relatives
to hit an artificial lure, so if you’re out after this species, be prepared
to fish bottom with live bait. Don’t’ make a lot of noise or commotion
if you’re fishing for redear, or you won’t catch many.
There are plenty of different ways to rig
tackle for bottom fishing with live bait, and the type of rig you decide
to use should depend on how deep you are fishing. If you are fishing
extremely shallow water, you can’t beat a casting bobber with about
three feet of line affixed to the running end of the bobber.
Don’t use any weight on this rig. Use a
No. 10 to No. 6 hook, depending on how big the redear might be where
you fish. Bait up with either a piece of ‘crawler, a redworm, beemoth
or cricket. Crawlers and redworms have always been best for me on Hoosier
If you are fishing slightly deeper, you
can try a clip-on or a slip-type, stand-up bobber and adjust your depth
to match the water’s depth. You will need a small split shot to carry
your bait to the bottom with this rig.
The other alternative is to tight-line
your weight and bait with no bobber. This is the most effective, but
it also means more snagging, and it requires a lot more attention than
a bobber does.
Variations on this rig include the Carolina
rig where a weight is fixed to the line about two feet above the hook.
The idea is that the weight drags bottom and the bait sort of floats
along behind it. Be sure to stick with light wire hooks so you can pull
lose from snags without breaking off every time. The Carolina rig works
great in streams, as the current keeps the bait off bottom. Redear do
not hit hard.
They don’t tease as much as crappie, but
they don’t rip the rod out of your hand like a big bluegill or a smallmouth
can. Keep your finger on the line, and most important, keep your line
tight or you will miss bites.
©Copyright 2002. Jordan Communications
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