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Red, White and Blue….gill

If there was ever a fish that represented the USA it’s the bluegill, hard fighting, spirited and found all across the country. Widely distributed and eager to bite bluegill can be big fun on any tackle but especially fly rods and light tackle. Lake, river, pond or creek they are likely to have a solid population of these small packages of dynamite. Pound for pound they fight as well as any freshwater fish and are excellent table fare. Most places have liberal limits and encourage the harvest of bluegills as well as similar looking subspecies. Seasonally they, the bluegill can be found and caught in inches of water, deep and even through the ice. Not picky eaters again the game is wide open as to how to fool these fish. Live bait, artificials and for the kayakers that favor the fly rod many patterns will draw hits form the surface to bottom bumping creations. Natural food sources include insects, small crawfish, snails and tiny members of the minnow family. As far as the other baits they’ll bust you can open a bass type tackle box and just downsize the same lures to throw at these “mighty mites.”

Kayaks give you access to any size and depth of water making bluegills a great target. State managed lakes are a gold mine, as are large ponds, small rivers and the big lakes too. Positioning in a kayak is almost pinpoint and gives you the ability to make presentations from every angle. Another plus is the inherent silence of the kayak. I make it a practice to carry a panfish specific tackle box. This family of finny friends (the panfish category) includes bluegill, goggle eye, rock bass, redear, crappie and is also suited to Kentucky spotted bass but also fool their cousins the smallmouth and largemouth bass.

The bluegill bonanza occurs when the surface water temperatures reach 70 degrees and there is full moon, at the time the “spawn is on.” In many places this is a May or June occurrence. The trained eye will be able spot round fanned out nests in shallow water. Normally the best areas have a “honeycomb” of nests that may contain dozens of bedding bluegill. To find these spots consistently check the north or northwest side of the waters. These places receive the most amount of sunlight so necessary to incubating the eggs deposited by the bluegill. Gravel, rock, sand or hard bottom are perfect locations to nest because these places radiate the heat of the sun and again assist in the incubation and eventual hatch of the babies. The bluegill will guard the nests and readily strike anything that comes close or hovers above their territory. A little tip; when fishing bluegill beds fish the ones closest to you as not to spook the whole spot. Systematically work the edges to maximize your catch. While there may be a large population I have a self-imposed limit of 12 to 15 fish for a meal or two. Most states apply a “no limit” mentality to these tasty titans. As side note, the bluegill will spawn every full moon as long as the water temperature is at or above 70 degrees.

My preference for the spawning season is a five weight fly rod to present a sponge spider. Two colors white or green seem to satisfy the top water take of the bluegill. In early spring when water temps are in the high 50’s and sixties an ultralight spinning set up is ideal for the pre-spawn “gills.” Tiny soft plastic tubes, curly tail grubs, finesse worms, in-line spinners and mini crankbaits have all earned a place in my species specific tackle box. Spool your spinning reel with six pound test braided line and a fluorocarbon leader about the same length as your rod, mine is a 6 ½ foot model. Shallow water spots that have submerged wood, aquatic weeds, scattered rock and even around boat docks are all potential bluegill territory. Bonus to the bluegill are crappie catches, other subspecies and often bass hitting the same baits.