Get out the ultralight tackle, small flies and crickets or bee moth, the bluegills are comin’. A couple of weeks ago, you could scarcely find the start of bluegill bed. Now, the tell-tell honey-combed shaped indentions near the bank reveal the presence of plenty of them scattered along the shorelines of farm ponds, lakes, and reservoirs alike.
Bluegills begin to move up to shallow water form their deep winter haunts when the water temperature approaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit. While the temperatures in area lakes and reservoirs may not be there yet, it won’t be long if this recent warming trend continues. In farm ponds and smaller lakes, it may be there now.
Bluegills are a great fish to introduce youngsters or new anglers to because if you time it right, they can provide fast action, leaving little time for newbies or children to get bored. Although small in stature, bluegills more than make up for it with spunk and attitude. These little fish feel like monsters on the end of ultralight or microlight tackle, or, as I referred to one exceptionally large ‘gill I hooked into last week, they can feel like a “cinder block” when you set the hook.
Ways of catching them can vary, and all are fun. From floating and sinking flies to tiny topwater poppers, jigs, spinners and live bait, there are various ways to enjoy what I refer to as the “fish of summer.” Who doesn’t love watching a bobber or cork plunk downward as an indication of when to set the hook? Most bluegills are likely caught with a cricket, red worm or bee moth suspended under a float, but for a change of pace you can also toss live bait out and hop it or drag it across the bottom. Either method can also be employed when using artificial lures as well.
If the bluegills are not quite up in the shallows where you are fishing yet, try fishing in deeper water and putting your bait or lures a little deeper. Sometimes six to eight feet can make a huge difference. If they are spawning, you usually do not need to fish more than a foot or eighteen inches deep (or less) to catch them. Don’t worry, the action heated up recently but should continue throughout June. Bluegills typically spawn when the water temperature is 68 to 75 degrees, providing a lengthy window of opportunity to catch them. I often refer to the bluegill spawn as marathon, not a race.
An important thing to remember when catching bluegills during the spawn is to practice conservation. Most anglers are pretty good about only catching what they can eat in one or two meals when it comes to most species of fish, but when it comes to bluegills the same principles should come also come into play. When they are spawning, they are vulnerable and easier to catch. That does not mean you should not enjoy catching them or that you cannot save a few to enjoy at the dinner table, but remember not to abuse the resource.
Another rule of thumb for keeping a mess of ‘gills to eat is to not keep only the biggest ones you catch. Bluegills are a small fish so it is easy to only want to keep only the biggest ones of the bunch to filet, but by releasing some of the big slabs and keeping a mix of the medium sized ones also, you’ll be doing yourself and future generations a favor by ensuring the DNA of those big ‘ol slabs keeps reproducing itself.
So, as the days heat up and we get into the nest that summer has to offer, get out and go bluegill fishing and take a newcomer out with you. Just exercise some restraint when it comes to keeping some of those big ‘ol knot heads.