May 11, 2021
By Jim Gronaw
Quick notes on top panfish fishing from Texas to the Carolinas.
Located in Escambia County near the Florida border, Leon Brooks Hines Lake is an under-the-radar, 184-acre public lake that has been turning out bull coppernose bluegills and trophy-class redear sunfish for many years. See "Doug & Allie's Post at Leon Brooks Hines State Lake" on Facebook for the latest reports and regulations.
The tidal rivers entering the northern shore of Albermarle Sound near Elizabeth City may feature the best bluegill fishing in all of the United States. Bluegill expert Jeffrey Abney catches and releases hundreds of 10-inch-and-larger bream from the cypress-filled Pasquotank, Perquimens, Yeopim and Little river systems, with live crickets doing most of the damage. For local info, call River City Bait and Tackle (757-681-1950) or Bass Ackwards Lures (252-338-4700).
Operated by the King Fisher Society, Richmond Mill Lake is a pay-to-play outdoor paradise near Laurel Hill, and may be the best place on the planet to catch a 2-pound-plus coppernose bream. At 184-acres, the facility offers 5-star lodging with superb dining and a variety of outdoor fishing and hunting packages to choose from. For more information, visit kingfishersociety.com.
Reelfoot Lake is a 15,000-acre natural lake that was formed by an earthquake in 1812 and boasts top-end panfishing for both slab crappies and big bluegills. Numerous lakeside camps offer economical fishing packages that include boat rentals and lakefront cabins. For more information, visit cypresspointresort.com.
Huge, bass-famous Lake Okeechobee, at 750 square miles, holds an untold amount of slab-sided bluegills that routinely spawn several times throughout the spring and summer and are vastly overlooked by the masses. Visit lakeokeechobeebassfishing.com for info.
The Santee-Cooper Lakes of Marion and Moultrie offer a world-class bluegill and redear sunfish fishery comprising more than 180,000 acres. Coppernose bream over a pound and redears over 2 pounds are caught regularly during the spawning months of late March through May. For lodging and guides on this huge system, visit blackscamp.com.
Caddo Lake, at 26,810 acres, offers Deep South habitat with stellar fishing for bluegills and redear sunfish as early as late February though spawning peaks in April. As with other large, intricate waters, a guide is recommended for initial visits. For more information visit twpd.texas.gov or call Caddo Lake State Park (903-679-3351).