Few anglers think of rivers and streams as prime panfish waters, but they can be a gold mine, especially for redbreasts, longears and green sunfish, because of the various types of cover they offer, as well as a rich food source.
Streams are typically abundant in panfish cover-fallen trees, brush piles, logjams, undercuts, exposed tree roots and more. Big rivers have all this, plus brushy side channels, weed-choked backwaters, wing dams and riprap.
When planning your river strategy, always consider the water level, which dictates where the fish will hold. The fish respond to water-level changes of only an inch or two, moving into shallow backwaters when the water rises and out to deeper areas when if falls.
In streams with a lot of weedy or brushy cover along the banks, rising water draws fish into the brush or weeds where they can get out of the current and feed on insects clinging to the vegetation. If the cover is dense, it could be difficult to get a bait to them.
Falling water, on the other hand, pushes panfish t the outer edges of the weeds where you can reach them more easily, a strategy anglers who fish tidal rivers use often. They fish the falling tide when panfish concentrate along outer weed edges.