How to Catch Sunfish: Tips, Tricks and Techniques

learning to catch sunfish
Photoby sabareq / CC BY / CC BY

Sunfish fishing is a ever increasing sport that is perfect for both getting people into the sport along with professional anglers looking to get some easy fishing in. In all honesty, this is one of the easiest fish you’ll find yourself getting and some even claim them to be the best tasting.

How to Catch Sunfish
You are probably wondering, well.. How do I go about catching these sunfish then? Its not too hard and with these tips, you’ll be catching them in no time!

First and foremost, when learning how to catch sunfish; you want to make sure you are using ultra-lite tackle and light line that is rated 2-6 pound test. You shouldn’t need any high test line as these fish only can get so big. This is often one of the most ignored tips when learning how to catch sunfish.

Where To Find Sunfish
Usually, you will find sunfish to be in the shallow water that is often near the shore. They will be found during the spring and summer months there and in nothing more than 20 feet deep of water. You will have the most luck by fishing off a dock or sometimes right off the shore.

When the weather starts turning cold and going towards the fall/winter months, you will find sunfish in the deeper water such as 10-30 feet.

When you are sunfishing, you are bound to come onto a bunch of other fish in the process. With sunfish though, you will most likely end up catching other panfish such as crappie, bluegill etc.

Sunfish Tackle
When learning how to catch sunfish, one of the most effective rigs that you should use is simply a bobber/slip bobber and a #6 or #8 hook. Arm this hook with some corn, minnow, leach or worm and you’ll be getting bites in no time!

Just make sure that your bobber is sensitive enough where you can see if there is a strike on your hook. Sunfish don’t get too big so they will have trouble pulling big bobbers down. If you want something really sensitive, use a slender stick like bobber as you will be able to see all the action.

If you are fishing near the bottom, you will want to use something like a small 1/4 to 1/8 oz sliding sinker and a 12 inch leader. The bigger sunfish you are going for may require stronger line so keep that in mind.

You can also simply just use a few slipshot and go bobberless. We’ve found this to be one of the best methods to use when the water starts to get choppy due to the wind. Personally, use a decent sized minnow and you’ll learn how to catch a sunfish in no time!

Bait Options for Sunfish
Learning how to catch sunfish will allow you to learn what they like to eat. Thankfully sunfish will go after a variety of bait, sometimes even nothing. We once threw a blank hook out in a pond and sunfish started striking it due to the splash alone. They aren’t the smartest fish per-say. Learning how to catch sunfish will require you to be a master of bait though. Here is a list of bait we’ve used and have had success with.

If you are going for bigger sunfish, the leech is your friend. They not only stay on the hook but also will make other smaller sunfish avoid it and only the bigger fish will go after it. Only use leeches that are roughly 1 inch in length.
Earth Worms have also brought in a lot of sunfish too though. Usually we just go around and turn over a few rocks as they seem to be everyone. If you end up buying some, you will find them to be easier to find around town along with just cheaper in general. Make sure you wrap your worm enough or the sunfish will be able to just pick it right off the hook!
Classic corm bait works too when learning how to catch sunfish. It may not be our top choice but it can work. If you end up not being able to get any other bait, corn is a perfect substitute. You will find though that only the larger sunfish are able to get the corn off the hook and sometimes the fish will just be more pickier and not even strike at your corn. We’ve used both corn from a can and right off the cob with success. When baiting up your hook, you will want to put a few kernels.
Minnows have had great success and you will be able to catch a variety of fish with them. Since minnows are fish too, you will only find bigger sunfish being able to engulf your minnows.
More often than not, you will find me armed with artificial bait when teaching people how to catch sunfish. Not only does it allow me to be able to always have bait at hand, it also allows your to go for other fish too. My favorite so far is the small tube jigs, beetle spins, and sometimes just throwing powerbait at the end of the jig.
Ice Fishing for Sunfish
Ice fishing is one of the more unique ways to learn how to catch sunfish. You will easily have success with a small spoon (1/64 oz to 1/32 oz) or just a small jig. Through a small worm, wax worm, or minnow on it and you’ll have bites eventually. You will want to use a slip bobber too that is slender to show the most action. Along with that, you will need to try to set the hook earlier as they might try to pull it under the ice.

During the dead of winter, sunfish will hover near the bottom (sometimes just inches or even as much as 3 feet). When learning how to fish for sunfish in the winter, you will want to use the lightest line possible such as 4 pound test. These fish may be dumb, but they will still be able to see heavy line going through the water.