Tips to help make you a better Bluegill fisher:
* Bluegill do not grow to huge sizes so select your rod and reel accordingly. An ultra-light rod and
reel with light line will allow you to feel the bluegill's bite more effectively and you will catch more
fish. In clear water, light line is less likely to be detected by fish. Line weights from 2 to 6lb test work
* Florida strain bluegills, like Florida strain largemouth bass, are larger and more prolific than other
strains of the same species. A lake or reservoir stocked with Florida strain bluegills will usually
produce fish from 1 to 3 pounds on a regular basis.
* Regardless of whether you prefer to use live bait or lures, you will need to keep them small if you
want to catch a lot of bluegill. Hook sizes from #6 to #10 are most effective. Hooks with long shanks
will allow you to more easily remove them from the bluegill's tiny mouth and thin wire hooks work
best for holding small baits. Live bait works especially well for bluegill. The most common baits are
worms and night crawlers because they are readily available and bluegill love'em. The key is to use
only a piece of a worm - just enough to cover the hook (keeping it small - remember!). Other
productive baits include crickets, grasshoppers, red wrigglers, and meal worms. Artificial lures also
work well for bluegill. Some of the best lures are black jigs (1/32 ounce and smaller) and tiny
spinners. Small flies and poppers are very effective and can be used while flyfishing or in
conjunction with a bobber for easy casting.
* Bluegill spawn in spring and early summer and this is a good time to catch them. When water
temperatures exceed 70 degrees F begin looking for spawning bluegill in shallow water. The
tell-tale "elephant tracks" will give away their location. Once a spawning colony is found, take care
not to spook the bluegill as you are fishing. Cast beyond the nests and retrieve your bait through
the colony. Male bluegill will guard nests against intruders and will aggressively take small lures.
* Bluegill can be readily caught after the spawning season, you just need to look in a different
location. Although bluegill can be found in very shallow water in spring and early summer, they
move into deeper water as summer progresses. In summer, bluegill can be found along the edges
of weed beds, around brush piles, stake-beds, and flooded timber, especially if deeper water is
nearby. Bluegill are commonly found in water over 10 feet deep in summer and typically locate just
above the thermocline (the depth where water temperature changes dramatically and below which
oxygen levels are usually low). Best fishing is usually in the morning and evening when the fish are
* In fall, bluegill are usually found in similar locations as late summer. As the water begins to cool in
early fall, bluegill will often move into shallower water more often. Look for bluegill in the same
locations as late summer and also fish shallower water near weed beds, brush, or other types of
cover. While morning and evening are the best times to fish during summer, mid-day fishing
success often improves as water cools in the fall.
* In winter, bluegill are usually found in deeper water, usually 12 to 20 feet deep. They school near
underwater structure, usually near the bottom. Bluegill do not feed as actively in winter so the use
of small baits and slow presentations is of utmost importance. Using light tackle and line is also
essential because bluegill bite very lightly in winter and these bites would go undetected with less
* Bluegill experts agree that fresh, lively bait is vital for Bluegill fishing success. Keep minnows cool
and well-aerated in your boat's livewell or in a bucket with an aerator pump. Night crawlers should
be kept cool and moist in a container packed with worm bedding or moss. Crickets should be dept
out of direct sunlight in a screened container; they'll stay hoppin' fresh if you feed them some moist
bread scraps between fishing trips.
* Small soft-plastic jigs are tremendous lures for all Bluegill, but don't use one that's too heavy.
Start with a light (1/32 to 1/16 oz.) leadhead - this will have a slow, enticing fall, just like an injured
minnow. White, pink and chartreuse are proven colors. Cast them around shallow wood cover and
swim them back to the boat with a slow, steady retrieve. If fish happen to be deep, or if the wind
picks up, switch to a heavier jig. Store Bluegill jigs in a multi-sectioned clear plastic utility box and
write their weight on the lid above each section with a waterproof marker.
* Worms are a good bait for bluegills - so good, in fact, that you'll go through scores of worms in no
time unless you economize. Once you've attracted a large school of 'gills to your fishing area, use
progressively smaller bits of worm on your hook - these panfish are competitive, and when there's
a school present, they'll readily bite even the tiniest chunk of worm the instant it hits the water.
* Crickets are the most effective bait on many waters, though bluegills will also bite mealworms,
waxworms, redworms, earthworms, nightcrawler chunks and maggots. Larger bluegills will even eat
the same size minnows that are used to catch Crappie. When using worms, be careful not to put
too much bait on the hook, as bluegills are accomplished thieves. Smaller pieces will force the fish
to bite at the hook, resulting in more hookups. Where legal, some fishermen like to chum for
bluegills by launching maggots from specially modified slingshots. There are also special panfish
chums made commercially, which can be purchased through tackle catalogs or at larger retail
* Bluegill lures include ice tick jigs, microjigs, small spinnerbaits, small in-line spinnerbaits, small
grubs, small tube jigs, and miniature soft plastics. Many bluegill anglers tip jigs with a small cricket,
piece of worm, or other bait. Bobbers are often used to suspend the lure or bait at the right depth
and to detect the often subtle bites. Bobbers can be very simple and traditional or very high tech,
like slip-floats or tip-up designs. When jig fishing, try a 1/32 ounce or smaller jig, with two wet flies
or nymphs above it at 1 foot intervals. Bounce the jig on the bottom as you retrieve it, and the wet
flies or nymphs will pick up fish that are suspended near the bottom. For very active fish, try a small
yellow roostertail with a wind-wind-pause-wind-wind-pause rhythm.
* If you're out to catch small bluegills as bait for bass or catfish (where legal), remember that it's
often possible to catch bluegills on anything little that moves. As a kid, I used to catch bluegills off
the end of a dock by gently vertical-jigging a bare size 16 golden treble hook. Since bluegills are
both bold and curious, this trick works anytime the fish are even moderately active. It doesn't work
during the spawn, though, as the fish do not congregate around docks when they are in the
* Fly anglers use almost any dry fly or terrestrial and almost any nymph. There are also specially
designed panfish popper flies, many of which can also be used with ultralight spinning tackle. The
most popular terrestrial patterns are crickets, grasshoppers, foam spiders, and ants. A clever fly
setup, especially at spawning time, is a panfish popper with a dropper line and a weighted nymph,
such as a beadhead hare's ear. (This can be done using ultralight tackle, as well). Try popping and
stopping at different speeds. When the fish are active, work the rig quickly and they'll strike the
popper. When they're less active, just pop a few times and stop for up to 1 minute at a time. The
nymph will swing down and suspend in front of their faces. They won't be able to stand it, especially
if they're guarding a nest. For dry flies, remember that bluegills may take much longer than trout to
smack your fly. If you're not getting bit and you know the fish are there, try letting it sit a while
longer, up to 1 minute at a time.
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