In Praise of the Pumpkinseed
Today I've decided to honor the pumpkinseed sunfish (or punkinseed, if you prefer), a feisty and charming little fish that for many kids, myself included, played a starring role in their introduction to fishing. Though they don't get much larger than 7 inches in length, they can put up an impressive fight, especially if you're not that big yourself - and even as an adult I've sometimes had a pumpkinseed on my line and mistaken it for its larger cousin, the bass. They certainly have a bass's voracious appetite, and will go after baits that any reasonable fish would consider out of their league.
The pumpkinseed is also an extraordinarily pretty fish, dappled with vibrant shades of orange, blue and yellow and sporting a jaunty red spot on the ear flap behind its gills.
Worms are probably the best all-around bait for pumpkinseeds - though a full-size nightcrawler would definitely be overkill. You'll often find them hiding out in areas with weeds or submerged debris - another habit they share with bass. Don't be surprised if the lunker that feels like a largemouth turns out to be just a little smaller, and a lot more colorful.