Like largemouth bass, bluegill are very cover (structure)
oriented. Very seldom will you find them in open water except
for over a submerged weed-bed that can't be seen from the surface.
To find bluegill look for some kind of cover - a thick weedbed, an
area of stick-ups, a boat dock, or a pier. Sometimes a submerged
brush pile, a bush or tree growing in the water along the shoreline, a
point where willows and reeds grow near shore, or an area where
there are logs and broken timber in the water will hold fish. The
Golden Rule in finding good bluegill fishing is "look for cover".
Some of the most important types of cover are areas of aquatic
vegetation like weedbeds, stands of reeds and cattails, lily pad fields, and
submerged areas of thick grass. Aquatic vegetation is very important
to bluegill because it provides places for them to hide and escape from
predators - places where they can find food, like insects, crustaceans,
small minnows and the plants they sometimes consume - and is an
excellent source of dissolved oxygen, all necessary for the fish to survive.
BLUEGILL FISHING THROUGH THE YEAR
It's too bad, but some anglers limit their bluegill fishing to the spring
because they think bluegill are easiest to locate and catch when they are spawning.
Those people are right to a certain extent, the fish are easy to locate and can
be easy to catch during the spawn, but there are other times of the year when
the fishing is just as good and sometimes even better than in the spring.
Unlike some other species of fish, bluegill stay active all winter.
Though their metabolism does slow in cold water, there is really no
dormant period during any part of the year. Ice fishermen can tell you
bluegill bite well during winter, and large numbers are taken through the
ice in those parts of the country where the lakes freeze over.
However, in the northern states where freeze-ups do occur, there
is one time of the year when it's tough to catch any bluegill at all. That's
the period that starts in the later winter when the ice is too thin to
support a fisherman, and ends about the time all of the ice has melted
from the lake. There may be open water near shore during part of that
period, but for all practical purposes bluegill fishing virtually comes to
Then, as the number of daylight hours increase, and the spring
sun starts warming air and water, bluegill begin moving and feeding
again, and another fishing season is underway.
I'm always surprised by how quickly water temperatures warm in
the spring. It seems like I can be wading or float tubing one day and the
water seems very cold, then the very next day it seems to have warmed to
a comfortable level. In reality it may not change that quickly at all, but
it seems like the lake warms overnight. The point is, when you're waiting
for the water in your favorite lake or pond to warm and trigger spring
fishing action, check it often, the temperature may rise very quickly.
That change can produce good fishing tomorrow even though nothing
was biting today.
The best way to get a jump on the season and start fishing as early
in the spring as possible, is to get permission to fish a farm pond, or
concentrate your efforts on smaller public fishing areas. Water
temperatures in those small shallow bodies of water rise more rapidly
than in larger, deeper lakes and reservoirs.
In early spring the best fishing will be found in two particular places:
at inlets where flowing creek water enters the lake, and in shallow-water
coves on the north side of the lake.
Early in the year fishing can be fantastic near the spot where a
creek enters the pond or lake. Water flowing into the lake is warmer
than the water that has been standing it it, and the flowing water brings
forage from throughout the watershed into the lake. Bluegill and other
fish species, too, position themselves near the inlet and take advantage
of items being swept along by the current. It's like a never-ending
smorgasbord and is a welcome treat for hungry fish after a winter of
The best spots to fish are along edges of the inlet and the creek
channel. Those areas are typically bordered by shallow flats where lots of
emergent vegetation grows. Fish lie along the sides of dropoffs waiting for
the current to bring a selection of groceries past.
To take bluegill very early in the season, stand on the bank along the
creek channel, and cast a size 8 or size 10 weighted black, brown, or dark
green Woolly Worm up the creek channel and let the current carry it into the
lake. The proper technique is a little tough to get the hang of when you first
try it, but with some practice it becomes easy:
1. Strip a good amount of line from the reel to allow for the distance the
fly will be carried by the current, as it floats down the creek and into the lake.
2. Make the cast upstream a short distance and try to drop the fly where you
can see the current is moving at a decent pace.
3. Keep the line from developing a lot of slack as it floats downstream
past you by raising the rod tip and lifting slack line from the water as the
fly approaches your position.
4. Slowly lower the rod tip and let out line as the fly is swept past
your position and into the lake. Cast upstream far enough the the fly
sinks before it enters the lake so its entry appears to be very natural.
It shouldn't take you more than a couple of casts to get the hang of
it. You'll know you did everything right the first time a big bluegill
takes off with your fly. ~ Tom Keith
More next time!