Bluegill Fishing 101: Beginner’s Guide

In terms of availability, access, and willingness to bite, it’s hard to beat a bluegill. The species Lepomis macrochirus is widespread across the continent and is a popular game fish among freshwater fishermen. Bluegill fishing is often action-packed, making it an ideal activity for young people just starting out with a rod and reel. Plus, they taste great on the table.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the bluegill’s range extends from Canada to Mexico. These fish are native to much of the Eastern and Central states, while bass have spread the bluegill throughout the continental United States, as well as Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Healthy fisheries typically find piles of 2- to 4-inch juveniles running around the shallows, while 6- to 7-inch fish provide plenty of sport. Diligence and patience can result in monster gills of 10 to 12 inches. Even though these larger fish are old and wise, bluegills are bluegills, which means they like to eat. Here’s everything you need to know to locate, catch and cook bluegill.

Although faint in this image, an easy way to identify a bluegill is to look at the black spot on the tip of the dorsal fin. Randy Anderson/Adobe Stock

Bluegill Fishing: How to Locate It

Sunfish can be found everywhere, from huge lakes and small ponds to drainage canals and reservoirs. Any body of water that maintains a few feet of habitable depth year-round is a good bet for bluegill. These are not difficult fish, but a few points will lead you to the most promising areas.

Minnesota fishing guide Brian “Bro” Brosdah notes that the two keys to a thriving bluegill population are weed lines and some type of muddy bottom. The latter, he said, is the insect hatching factory that provides much of the bluegill’s daily forage. It does not matter whether this mud is widespread or relatively concentrated near streams, canals or bayou outflows. Mud equals meals, and these areas will support healthy populations of bluegills.

Weedlines provide multiple benefits, not the least of which is protection from pike, bass, gar and other predators. Additionally, aquatic plants pump out a lot of oxygen, so weed lines provide comfortable digging with moderate shade and temperature. More importantly, weed lineages host entire ecosystems with plenty of insects, minnows, grass shrimp, and juvenile crayfish that sunfish love to gorge on.

“The lakes that hold the most food have a lot of weeds and a muddy bottom,” says Brosdahl. “Look for the deepest emerging weeds to hold the largest bluegill. Plus, diverse habitat – different types of weeds growing together – always supports the best fish. Add a newspaper or other type of secondary cover and you may not have to move around all day.

Spots, gaps, and any other irregularities always deserve close attention, but Brosdahl emphasizes the edges: the perimeter of the weed line where bluegill can capitalize on wind- and current-driven food deliveries with quick access to safe cover, i.e. the edges of interior holes and mini lagoons. , which offer a similar advantage. Other habitat options include docks, bridges, laydown trees, and riprap banks. Also, don’t be surprised to find blue gills feeding in open water, especially after an insect has hatched. They are rarely far from cover, so stay close to the weed lines and you won’t go wrong.

Billgill Fishing: Tips and Tactics

Feeding indiscriminately, sunfish readily prey on live crickets and various earthworms. The local tackle store is a good starting point for purchasing bait, but if time permits, involving young anglers in digging up earthworms or catching crickets and small grasshoppers deepens the fishing experience. fishing. Putting a whole earthworm on your hook often proves counterproductive unless you find the giants capable of sucking up a whole worm. Too much bait hanging past the hook point allows the sneaky bluegill to steal the bait without becoming hooked. Instead, get the fish to engage by pinching your worm into smaller pieces, threading it onto the hook, and leaving just enough to move.

For beginners who may be slow to respond to the bite, Brosdahl suggests Gamakatsu #6-8 circle hooks to avoid deep hooking. For the most part, a long shank Aberdeen style fish hook with a depth-appropriate split weight and an adjustable bobber gets the job done.

Artificial bait

For impromptu bluegill missions, bread balls made from any soft, moldable baked item are an easy sell. Grab a slice of plain white bread and you’ll have plenty of bait for a few hours. The crispy edges make a great panfish chum. Toss pieces of gifts and watch for surface foods, or drop wadded bread balls into the water, see how long they sink before suddenly disappearing, and note the depth range for proper float setting.

Berkley PowerBait Panfish Nibbles offer a soft synthetic bait infused with scents formulated to stimulate feeding. Put a jar in your pocket or fishing bag and you’re ready to fish.

Artificial baits

During ice season, Brosdahl likes to drop Northland tungsten jigs because the density allows him to quickly present a plastic bug or shiner in a smaller form than lead jigs of equal weight. After the ice melts, he uses the same gill baits in open water. To help panfish find your baits amid dense cover, Brosdahl offers this rigging tip: “Add a spinning blade and bead above the hook for just a little attraction. You don’t troll it, but when you drop it into an opening in the weeds, the blade spins. This vibration in the water will bring them out of the weeds and attract them to your lure.

For open water crappie, fish tiny hard baits like the Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow, Rebel Teeny Wee Crawfish or a Rapala Countdown CD01 or CD03 near weed edges or in front of a dock. Practical with a fly rod? Bluegill easily catches flies like poppers, moss spiders, and tiny versions of the Clouser minnow. A 3- or 4-weight rod is still fun, but if bass bycatch is likely, opt for a heavier outfit.

bluegill fishing
The author with a healthy sized bluegill. Brian Brosdahl

Bluegill Fishing Equipment

Bluegill fishing can be done with simple spinning rods or light spinning outfits. However, for more serious activities in locations where you may need to negotiate the retrieval of a large fish, light to medium-light spinning equipment offers greater diversity. For maximum fun with enough power to pull panfish out of cover, Brosdahl uses a 7- to 8-foot St. Croix Avid Series Panfish casting rod. He’ll spool a matching reel with 10-pound Sunline SX1 braid with a 6-pound fluorocarbon leader for the right mix of strength and stealth.

“In tough rods or reeds, I’ll go with the 6- to 8-pound Sunline Supernatural monofilament,” Brosdahl says. “Unlike braid, mono does not cut through vegetation or get stuck.” Having more than one bluegill queue setup with different lines for different situations can be very handy.

How to Cook Bluegills

Brosdahl suggests releasing larger panfish while targeting medium-sized adults for the table and only keeping what you can eat in a meal or two. Her favorite preparation is filet pan-fried in panko breadcrumbs, topped with a slice of sharp cheddar and served on a fresh biscuit with jalapeño tartar sauce.

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