Welcome to Panfish!

Part Eighty-one

BLUEGILLS . . . a brief description.
By Geno Loro



What can one say that hasn't already been said about bluegills? I describe him as "America's fish." Young, old and in-between, most of us have started fishing by catching him first, as though no-one can start fishing without him.

Ever meet someone who started out as a bass fisherman . . . learned to trout fish at 7 years old? . . . learned to fillet on a walleye? To be sure there must be a few who cut their teeth on Coho, but not in 90% of these United States!

So, I think it is safe to say that most of us have started or will start with the most friendly of all God's creatures, the bluegill.

Located in every river, lake, stream, pond or quarry to prove how versatile he is. Able to humble the best and turn around and take anything some barefoot boy will toss in the lake!

Let's face it guys, like I said in my poem, pike are mean, bass are smart and trout are proud, but the bluegill is a fish for all people and for most equipment, from a cane pole and worm to a fly rod and fly.

Now let's get down to cases, how do we enjoy this most pugnacious piscatory? With so many ways to fish for him and so many kinds of rods, reels and baits I can only sum it all up by that it can only be the way that suits you best. Choose your weapon and have at him!

My favorite way is with a fly rod and fly, generally using a sinking ant or floating spider. Small poppers and wet flys always seem to work for me also.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself, so let's start in the spring when we are all ready to start our "Fishing cycle."

Put away the snow shovel, sweep out the garage and get our gear ready. When the dogwoods bloom or the catalpa worms start to strip our trees bare of leaves or whatever your local sign for bluegill time is, head for the lake with light spinning gear, spinners as small as you can toss, worms, grubs and little minnows. Look for warm water runoffs, sunny sides of the lake and nice quiet bays that he might be in. After months of winter weather quietly thinking of bugs and ants, he is now going to be out trying to find them. It may take a little time but he is worth the effort, so have patience, use sinking streamer, jigs fished slowly from bobbers (see drawing) worms and wet flies.

Try to get the lure down in the water and retrieve over likely looking areas. When you get your first fish, stay at that depth and repeat, you may have found the whole gang!

When the temperature gets warmer, they will head for the shore or sandy areas, nice leaf bottomed bays, (they love to dig up bugs living there) and begin to fan out the beds for spawning. Spawning starts when the temperature reaches about 65 degrees in water from 1' to 10' in depth.

Some fishermen swear that bedding bluegills give off an odor of anise or melon and can smell it right over the beds. However, it is a slight odor and delicate and one that dissipates quickly.

It is at this time that the bluegill is at his pugnacious best. Hitting anything that gets in the range of his nest. Spawning will last about 2 to 3 weeks in any 10 week period. Look for the sunny sides again, exposures to the South sun position and bays with sandy bottoms. When you locate a bed see if there is not a deeper area near this, this could be the location of bigger bluegills. The larger bluegills are generally close to the smaller fish but in deeper water. Use a sinking fly like a spider or nymph or even the old reliable worm.

Rising temperatures will now increase insect life and plant life as well, so start using the surface type bugs around pads and rocks and logs . . . also overhanging trees. Cast into the area, let the bug rest for a while and then twitch a bit... brings results most every time.

I look for newly fallen trees or branches that may have suffered from ice damage or storms. They will surely attract bluegills.

Hungry bluegills will be waiting for falling bugs and wind blown insects to snatch them as soon as they hit the water.

Remember the bluegills, like trout, will be aware of hatches also . . use nymphs and midge pupas at this time to produce large size 'gills, fish slowly and deep as possible.

One thing sure about bluegills is their constant acceptance of the many varieties of fishing methods. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter they are there.

The cool fall season is my choice for bluegills fishing when I use the fly rod and poppers for hours of fishing pleasure. The plant life is taller and insects are everywhere. Bluegills will hit surface and sub-surface flies, ants and spiders.

A matter of trying various combinations to see the best working setup. It provides a very interesting and not to impossible test of fishing techniques, I mean it's FUN!


Two methods that work well on 'gills are shown in the drawing. Allowing great control with a spinning rod, it will let you use various flies and poppers without a fly rod. Use a 4 lb. test line and a 7' leader along with a slip bobber and split shot sinker. The top drawing is set for a popper or surface fly . . . casts like a bullet and is very effective on windy days or for getting into hard to reach places.

The bottom drawing is great for crappies as well as bluegills. Slip a 4 lb. test line through a sliding bobber, tie on a 7' leader and attach the fly. Place your stop knot in front of the bobber to allow 4' or 6' of line to sink into the water. A smaller sinker will get it down sooner but with a jig, it may not be necessary.

Between the slight ripples and some twitching on your part, the jig will have a very tempting movement. It casts so well because the bobber slides down to the split shot during the cast. When in the water, the jig will slide down to the desired depth. I caught my largest crappie to date with this set-up. A 2 lb.- 2 oz. fish . . . no monster but very respectable in any ones book. ~ Geno Loro

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