Part Fifty-six

Redbreast Sunfish

Fishing Bluegills [Bream] in Spring, (Continued)

By Tom Keith
Excerpt from: Fly Tying and Fishing for
Thanks to Frank Amato Publications!

Some bluegill feed at the creek inlet for a short time and then move out of that area. They move to warmer spots along the north side of the lake, where the spring sun's rays fall for the longest period during the day, and quickly warm the shallow water there. That warmer water is not only more comfortable for the fish, it also causes aquatic vegetation to begin growing, which provides a ready food supply for the bluegill.

This warm shallow water is a good place to try your Girdle Bugs and Lightning Bug flies. Use the unweighted styles, cast them near standing grasses and weeds, and let them sink slowly in the water. A slow retrieve will work better this early in spring than a fast one, so try to limit it to short jerks of 4 to 5 inches and pause a few seconds between each jerk.

Fish are extremely nervous at this time of year, so careful, deliberate wading is essential. Loud noises and sudden movement will drive fish out of the shallows and may make them so cautious they won't resume feeding for some time.

Casting along a weed edge is much more productive if you cast parallel to shore rather than at right angles to it because casts keep the fly in shallow water throughout the whole retrieve where fish are most likely to be. Casting toward the weeds and retrieving the fly into deeper water, allows the fly to be shallow for only a short portion of the cast. Make your casts as close as possible to the weeds at first, then progressively work deeper water further from shore until you locate the fish. Use the countdown method to find the proper depth as you work your casts slowly into deeper water.

Mother Nature induces fish to feed heavily in the spring as a means of providing nourishment that will see them through the rigors of the coming spawn. The female fish needs plenty of food to nourish thousands of eggs developing in her body, and males have to sock away some groceries for the hard work of building a nest and defending it and their offspring from predators.

It isn't long until the water temperature climbs into the high 50's and low 60's, and the bluegill begin preparations for spawning. Warming temperatures cause the males to head for shallow water to find suitable nest sites, while the ladies congregate in deeper water waiting for nest construction to be completed. A male never seems to be in much of a hurry to pick a spot - or maybe he is just very particular - but the process of selecting the right site may take a week or more. During that period he makes several trips from deep water to shallow each day, apparently searching for just the right location.

He eventually locates a suitable spot where the bottom is sand or gravel and he hollows out a depression 12 to 24 inches wide with his tail. Most often the chosen spot will be in direct light, but it may also be shaded by trees during parts of the day. Generally a number of bluegill beds will be found in the same area.

After the bed is formed, the male hovers above it and periodically sweeps it clean with his tail. When the water temperature rises to about 67 degrees the female moves onto the bed and lays her eggs. The male fertilizes the eggs and stays at the bed to protect them while the female drifts back into deeper water. After a short recuperation period she moves to shallow areas where she feeds on aquatic grasses and weeds and rests undisturbed while regaining her strength.

The eggs hatch in 2 to 5 days. The male keeps the young fish corralled in the bed and continues to guard them from predators for several more days.

Bedding areas can be spotted from the shore, or from a boat, and finding them is pretty easy if you wear polarized glasses. Some veteran bluegill fishermen say they can smell a spawning area by walking along the bank. The smell is distinctive musky, fishy odor and some fishermen's noses are so sensitive to it they can find a bedding spot as easily as a pointer can locate a covey of quail. Another method is to watch for spots where bubbles are caused by gases being released from the lake bottom when the male fans sand and gravel with his tail are a sure sign of bluegill activity. ~ Tom Keith

More next time!

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