WON Landing Page OCT 2022

Some advice on catching bluegills this year

Biologists tell us that bluegill prefer water that is deep and clean with a pH of 7.2.  Most of the waters in southern Illinois fit that description.  The clean water of the lakes, ponds, and strip pits are perfect for bluegill reproduction.

This member of the sunfish family is useful to the federal government in the war against terrorism.  They place this sunfish in the drinking water reservoirs near large metropolitan cities.  If the fish show signs stress, then the biologists know to inspect the water immediately for contaminants.  In particular toxins such as cyanide, diesel fuel, mercury and pesticides affect the fish.


Abby Cox from Carterville, Illinois, with a fish she caught during Free Fishing Days in Illinois. Photo courtesy of Don Gasaway

In addition to their fondness for clean water, bluegills are about as selective as a junkyard dog when it comes to what they will or will not bite.  Their favorite foods include worms, crickets, aquatic nymphs, larvae, as well as shrimp, crayfish tails, and small fish.  They are particularly fond of bass eggs which bring them into competition with largemouth bass.

In a lake with a population of large bluegill, the angler will find that the bass tend to be smaller in size.  It the bluegill are small in size, chances are that the bass will be larger.

One can catch small bluegill with ease.  This makes them popular in programs to introduce children to the sport of angling.  But, getting the big ones takes a bit more effort.  The following tips help fishermen catch trophy bluegills.

Perhaps the most effective bait for bluegills is a small piece of nightcrawler on a very small (Number 6 or 8) hook.  The tackle should include a long rod with 2 to 4 pound test monofilament line.  The light line is invisible to the fish and the long rod allows the angler to place the hook in the right spot form some distance away.  Most bluegill anglers use a small float or bobber about 18-inches above the hook.

However, the big fish lurk below the others.  To get to them it is advisable to allow the hook to fall to the bottom and then work it along by lifting the rod tip to move the bait forward, and then dropping the rod tip again.  This action causes the bait to come up off the bottom, move a foot or two and then naturally fall the bottom once more.  The bluegills have a chance to view the bait before they attack it.

Perhaps key to bluegill fishing is stealth.  This can be from the shore or a boat.  But, it is important to be subtle in approach to the fish.  Look for vegetation and brush as bluegills seek them out for two reasons: they contain zooplankton upon which to feed; and they provide cover to conceal the fish from larger predators.  Fish the open areas in the middle of vegetation rich areas.

Overhanging brush shields bluegills from predatory birds as well as the rays of sunshine. Shadows that appear on the surface spook fish.  The overhanging brush blocks out the shadows of an approaching angler.

The spawning season is excellent for finding lots of fish on the beds.  They are aggressive in protecting the beds.  The beds are usually in colonies with the beds of the larger fish in the middle.  The spawn begins around the first full moon phase in May and will continue around the full moon phases throughout the summer.  The best times are usually three days on either side of the full moon.

During the period between spawns, the fish will seek comfort in the shallow water in the early morning and late afternoons.  They school up and as one fish is caught, others will take the bait.  During the rest of the day, the bluegill move into deeper water near submerged tree trunks or other structure.  They will continue to stay near one another.

Bluegill fishing is great fun, great eating, and a great way to introduce children to the sport. Virtually, every city in southern Illinois has municipal pond stocked these little scrappers. In addition, the public lands of the Shawnee National Forest and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge also have such waters.

Free information regarding motel accommodations and points of interest is available from Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois 62959 or by calling 1-800-GEESE-99.  Information is also available online at www.visitsi.com, the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website.  Their e-mail address is info@visitsi.com.

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    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.