Habits] [Feeding Habits]
[Sporting Qualities] [Eating
[ Fishing for Bluegill]
bream, blue bream, sun perch, blue sunfish, copperhead, copperbelly, roach.
Bluegills have small mouths and oval-shaped, almost rounded, bodies. Body coloration is highly variable with size, sex, spawning, water color, bottom type, and amount of cover. In general, they are somewhat lavender and bronze with about six dark bars on their sides. Males tend to have a copper-colored bar over the top of the head behind the eyes. The breast is silver to slightly blue most of the year, with some yellow or orange during spawning season. Females are generally lighter colored than males. Two distinctive characteristics are the prominent black spot on the rear edge of the gill-cover and a black spot at the base of the posterior portion of the dorsal fin.
The Bluegill and other species of the sunfish family make up some of the most common and fished for fish in the US. Although relatively small (usually less than ten inches, rarely over a pound) bluegills and other sunfish are easy and fun to catch. You will often find them in large schools, and can catch dozens of them. They have an extremely good flavor meat when cooked, and you can find them in just about any pond, lake, or river in the US. They are one of my favorite fish for their easiness to catch. Usually if I'm not catching much else I can still catch sunfish. Larger ones of more than 6 inches can be fun on ultralite tackle. Fishing for any species of the sunfish mentioned above is pretty much the same as the techniques mentioned for Bluegill below.
Bluegills prefer the quiet, weedy waters where they can hide and feed. They inhabit lakes and ponds, slow-flowing rivers and streams with sand, mud, or gravel bottoms, near aquatic vegetation.
Bluegills are well known for "bedding" in large groups, with their circular beds touching one another. Bedding occurs in water two to six feet deep over sand, shell or gravel, and often among plant roots when the bottom is soft. Spawning occurs from April through October with the peak in May and June, when water temperature rises to about 78-80 degrees. A female may lay 2,000 to 63,000 eggs, which hatch 30 to 35 hours after fertilization.
Being the smallest fish around, they have to be willing to eat pretty much anything they can get!
of its willingness to take a variety of natural baits (e.g.,
crickets, grass shrimp, worms) and artificial
lures (e.g., small spinners or popping
bugs) during the entire year, its gameness when hooked, and its
excellent food qualities, the bluegill is one of the easiest fish to
catch during the warm part of the year.
Fish have to eat in cold weather, but they don't eat as much and they tend to go into deeper water where they are harder to find.
During warm weather you'll find them in fresh water between six inches and six feet. Often they form large groups when they "bed". If you see round sandy spots of something that looks like moon craters then you might have found bluegill on the bed. Bedding is referring to the time when the fish raise there eggs in the sand. The bigger fish will be in the center of the patches.
You can't lose when you find that.
Excellent; the flesh is white, flaky, firm and sweet. They are generally rolled in cornmeal or dipped in pancake batter before frying. Many rank the bluegill as the most delicious of all freshwater fish.
Fishing for Bluegill
Bluegills congregate in schools and tend to live close to structure such as submerged trees, rocks or weedbeds, docks and even the shoreline. Trophy fish are more solitary and usually stay deeper than their smaller kin. Though bluegills may sometimes be caught through the ice in late winter, they generally do not begin feeding actively until water temperature warms to 50 degrees F. They feed on insects, crustaceans and small fish, relying heavily on scent to help them verify prey items. Especially in cool waters of early springtime, the natural scent of live baits, or adding commercial scents to artificial lures, may increase the number of bites.
As water temperature approaches 60 degrees, bluegills begin feeding heavily in preparation for the spring spawning period. They move into shallow water where sunlight helps warm their environment and jump-starts submerged vegetation growth and invertebrate activity. At this time, bluegills can be caught with insect larvae such as wax worms, on 1/64th oz. jigs, or on wet nymph imitations using fly-fishing gear. Slow presentations are crucial, since the fish are not yet active enough to chase fast-moving lures.
Spawning occurs when water temperature reaches 69 degrees in water 2 to 3 feet deep. It is during spawn that all panfish are easiest to catch. Fish return to the same spawning beds year after year, so discovering a hotspot ensures fishing success every spring. Male fish sweep out circular depressions in sandy bottoms, and then fertilize the eggs when females visit the nests. Males guard the hatching fry for several days, and then leave the young to fend for themselves.
During the spawning period, adult males will attack any lure that comes near the nest. Some anglers use topwater popping bugs in shallow water to enjoy the action of surfacing bluegills. Better yet is the use of small jigs or spinners that work deeper through the nest zones. One tried-and-true method uses live crickets fished under a bobber. However one goes about it, the key is using baits or lures small enough for the tiny mouths of sunfish. When seeking trophy bluegills, minnows or minnow-imitation lures may be most productive.
Equipment need not be expensive. A simple cane pole with attached line has accounted for untold numbers of panfish. Spinning gear, open- or closed-faced, is adequate. Ultralight gear brings out the best battles with sunfish, and therefore is more fun to fish with, yet fly-fishing gear is also ideal. Large bluegills tend to be line-shy, so it's best to use 4-pound-test line (or lighter) that is invisible in the water. When bobbers are used, small pencil models will outperform the plastic ball-shaped bobbers, though both will get the job done. Generally, hooks should be in the range of size 6 to size 10 for best success. Decent panfishing gear can usually be purchased at discount stores for about $25
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