How to Catch Bluegill: Fishing Tips & Techniques
Bluegill fish are members of the sunfish family. They live in quiet, warm waters and can grow to be about 12 inches long. They have a large mouth with two rows of sharp teeth and a spiny dorsal fin. These fish will eat almost anything, including crayfish, insects, and other bluegills.
Some simple bluegill fishing tips before we go into further reading are:
- For straightforward fishing, try using earthworms, small minnows, or crayfish for bait. Bluegills will be attracted to most natural baits.
- Bluegills (also part of the sunfish family) are more active in sunny afternoons when the water is warmest so plan your fishing trips accordingly.
- The best time of day to catch bluegill is between 10 am and 4 pm when the fish are at their active peak feeding time.
- If yellow or red jigs do not work then switch up your color choice until you find something that works! This same advice applies to lures with live bait as well!
- When it comes to rod length, shorter rods around 6 to 7 feet will help control the battling bluegills better. If you are fishing with artificial bait then 8 to 10 foot rods offer more flexibility in what works best for that technique.
- 4 pound or heavier test line is good for catching bluegills on rod and reel whereas 2 pound test is recommended when using lighter tackle such as ultralight spinning gear, which is great for small panfish like bluegill.
- Bluegills prefer water temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit so spring or late summer would be optimal times to learn how to catch them!
When to Fish for Bluegill
The best time to catch bluegill is in the spring and early summer when they are young. At this time of year, bluegill will be very active and easier to catch. As bluegill matures during the summer, they become harder to catch.
The best time of day to fish for them is early morning or late afternoon; during the heat of the day, they tend to stay deep in the water.
Where to Catch Bluegill
There are several places that are best to catch bluegill and they are the following:
- At the edge of a creek or river, or any other small body of water
- Near lily pads
- Around weeds and grasses
- In ponds
- The best place to catch bluegill at the edge of a small body of water is where the bank drops off steeply into deep water. This will allow you easy access to deeper waters with less work on your part; it also attracts bluegills because they like to feed in shallow areas but stay out of harm’s way (away from predators). Look for drop-offs that are around 2 feet deep for best results.
- Another good place to fish for bluegill is lily pads because these plants provide cover for bluegill. In addition, lily pad plants hold pockets of water in their leaves and stems. These “pockets” will be full of food brought to the plant by insects and other organisms. Bluegills love this type of protected habitat because it is easier for them to catch prey in these areas without a lot of underwater commotion from a predator swimming through the area or boat activity near the bank.
- You can also fish for bluegill around weeds and grasses because they enjoy feeding on aquatic vegetation such as algae that grow on weeds and grasses near the shoreline. They get certain nutrients from these plants that help them survive during challenging times such as heat waves and cold snaps when other food sources may not be as plentiful.
- Last but not least, ponds are a great option to catch bluegill because they provide habitat for many types of organisms and vegetation that feed them so they will be easy to access. The best time to go fishing in a pond is early morning and late evening when the sun isn’t as bright and hot. Bluegills prefer shallow areas and these spots will hold higher numbers of fish during this time of day. Additionally, bluegills like water that is six feet or less in-depth because it makes it easier for them to find food such as snails, crayfish, frogs, insects (especially dragonflies), and other small vertebrates such as baby bass (which can reach 8 inches in length by the fall).
Are Bluegills Hard to Catch?
Bluegills can be hard to catch for many reasons. One reason is that they like open water and large bodies of water tend to have boat activity, especially in the summer when people are out boating. Also, bluegills prefer calmer waters where it is easier for them to feed such as near lily pads or other formations such as weeds and grasses where they can hide from predators because their mouths are located on the top of their heads.
Another reason why catching bluegills may be difficult is because when they get older, between June and August, they become very active and move around in search of mates which will make them harder to find and access. Bluegills also school together in large numbers during the time in order to protect themselves from predators such as stripers and walleye.
Fishing for bluegill can be done with a variety of techniques, and it all depends on the season and what management strategies are in place for this type of fish. With that being said, here are some bluegill fishing techniques:
- Use live bait such as worms or crickets for best results. Live bait for bluegill can be fished on the bottom of the body of water because bluegill likes to stay near the bottom where it is cooler.
- Use artificial lures such as spinners and crankbaits which can vary in size depending on where you are fishing – usually they will be around one inch long when used near grasses and weeds and up to 3 inches if you’re fishing around lily pads or other types of water vegetation that is larger. Lure color varies based on the time of year; however, no matter the season, your lure will need to contrast against the water’s background to be most effective for catching bluegill.
- Use a simple bobber and hook to catch bluegill when they are in the open water during the summer months.
- Try using a fly rod with a streamer or wet fly to mimic dragonflies which is one of their favorite prey items from above the water’s surface. Fly fishing is most effective when bluegills are in shallower, protected waters with weeds or grasses.
- Bluegills can also be caught by bottom bouncing, especially if you’re near rocks or other hard structures that may have sediment covering them which will provide an optimal environment for these fish to hide in. You can bounce up and down in certain areas until you get bit, but this technique takes practice so make sure you have time to invest before going out on your fishing trip.
- The last effective method would be drift fishing. Drift fishing is when you drop your line near the shoreline and then allow the current or wind to slowly move your rig along until it hits bottom. This can be effective because bluegill likes to hang out in these areas for protection from predators, but make sure to use a weightless rig so your bait floats over their heads rather than dashing away which could scare them off.
Gear for Bluegill Fishing
The following gear for bluegill fishing is required for the season and may vary based on what body of water you are fishing in, but these are basics that can help get you started.
1. Rod: Rods for bluegill should be between five and seven feet in length with an ultralight to medium action rod. The rod should also have a sensitive tip so you can feel the bluegills biting on your bait or lure without any problems.
2. Reel: Reels for bluegill should also be strong enough to handle strong bites so look for reels that are not only lightweight but durable as well, which will allow you to use lures up to one inch long. The recommended reel size would be anywhere in-between 500 to 2500.
3. Line: You would ideally want a 10-15 lb braided line because it is thinner than monofilament lines which will give you the sensitivity you need when fishing for bluegills. With that being said, monolines work just fine depending on what type of water body you’re fishing in and how large your bluegills are.
4. Leader: Leaders for bluegill should be between 12 and 18 inches in length so you can easily use a bobber and hook with crickets, worms, or other baits that require secure hooks such as spawn sacs. Your leader line also needs to be strong enough to withstand the weight of the bobber and anything attached to it, which is why you want it to be close to your line pound test.
5. Bobber: Use a simple one-inch diameter circular bobber when fishing around grasses because they’re ideal for casting small lures repeatedly without having them get snagged on aquatic vegetation. The downside is that these bobbers are not sensitive so if you feel anything, don’t wait to set the hook.
6. Hook: Bluegill hooks should be a size 10 because anything bigger may not fit in their mouths. Using a smaller-sized hook will ensure that your baits stay alive longer once you get them out of the water because they won’t have as much damage done from thrashing around on your line all day long.
7. Sinkers: A one-ounce egg sinker is a reliable option when bottom bouncing because bluegills will hold near the bottom in areas where there’s plenty of sediment or weeds. You can also use a split shot which is lighter, but make sure you only add two at a time to your line otherwise it might be too light and move around too much with the current.
8. Pliers: Always make sure you have a firm grip on your bluegill when removing the hook because they are known to break away. Pliers will allow you to securely remove the hook without losing it in the water, which is essential when you’re in an area where there’s plenty of plant life.
9. Bait: Bluegills like worms and crickets because they are easy to catch and wiggle in the water. The best way to catch crickets is to wait until dark, when they become active, and go cricket catching in your lawn. If you don’t have a lawn nearby make sure you carry a container with you so you can find them around puddles after it rains or where there’s standing water. You can also use spawn sacs if they’re legal in your state, but since these only last 3-4 weeks before rotting down, this may not be practical long term if you’re just getting into bluegill fishing and want consistent bait options.
10. License: Licenses for bluegill fishing vary depending on what state you’re in, but most sites will tell that you need one if you plan on fishing for multiple days. It also comes with coupons that typically save about $2 off any freshwater or saltwater fish license, so get them even if it’s just for a single day!
11. Bucket: Bring along an ice-filled bucket so you can keep your catch fresh during the day because bluegill is best when they’re still lively. This will also help keep your gear organized, dry, and make it easier to transport if you don’t want to bring along a backpack or other type of carrier.
Basic Information on Bluegills
Bluegills are a popular fish to hunt and eat, as well as a favorite of many people. Bluegills are usually found in the same places as other types of sunfish as well as other types of fish that they can eat or grow big enough to eat, such as small bass and crappies.
Bluegill Scientific Classification:
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)
Family: Centrarchidae (sunfishes)
Genus & Species: Lepomis macrochirus (Girard, 1856). “Common names for this fish include bluegill, sunfish, pumpkinseed, and shellcracker.”
Common Locations: Bluegills can be found in different types of bodies of water that have a bottom that consists of sand or rocks. However, they are not usually found in extremely shallow bodies of water because their eggs need a depth of at least 22 inches to successfully hatch.
Dominance: Bluegills are one of the most abundant fish species throughout the world. They only get pushed out by bass and other larger fish that eat them or live with them.
Diet: Large bluegills will eat insects such as flies and mosquitoes when they are young but to more meats like minnows and small fish when they grow larger.
Number of Bluegills in Environment: There are an innumerable amount of bluegills in the environment because they reproduce so quickly.
Bluegill Size (Length, Height, Weight): The average size for a male bluegill is 8 inches in length, 5 inches tall, and 1 pound in weight while the average female is 10 inches long, 6 inches tall, and 2 pounds in weight.
Their Largest Recorded Weight: The biggest recorded weight for a bluegill was 4 pounds 12 in 1950 at Ketona Lake, Alabama
Average Lifespan: The average lifespan is 5-6 years. The oldest recorded age for a bluegill is 14 years.” It’s not very likely for a bluegill to live past the age of ten, but they can still live up to several years after.
Bluegills as Food: Many people enjoy eating these fish because they are tasty and healthy for you. In fact, bluegills have been rated as one of the top five sport fishes by Field and Stream. They are usually fried or baked to increase their deliciousness.