Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

Have always fished them - but recently have decided that I really wanted to learn about them. I've spent a real decent number of hours fishing Bluegill this summer, and recently fall - and have already picked up quite a bit of new information.

1. They taste as good as Perch. This surprised me, because my recollection of eating BG as a kid was a bony, overcooked fish that I insisted on keeping. Well years later, having fileted my own - and cooked several different ways (fried is still best!) - I have a whole new appreciation.

2. They can be hard to catch when the water gets in the 50s. I still see lots of BG - but have trouble getting them to take a fly or even a bit of worm. Some fish are still agressive and I caught 20 "keepers" (over 6-7" on my home lake) in about 2 hours time. Many nice fish would come up and study my offering and never bite.

I'm curious for you northern BG fisherman - should I keep downsizing? I know lots of Ice fisherman in these parst use waxworms, and maggots - as well as ise fishing "jigs".

Any suggestions on fishing BG in Late fall? I see them most right now on the outer edge of the weeds. They are still "surface feeding" at times - looks like they are chasing emerging insects - but not as much as 2-3 weeks ago.

Thanks - Great Site here -

FH

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I'm really hopeful that a couple of other Big Bluegill members will chime in, but here's my initial take on your comments and questions.

I agree with your feelings about eating bluegill. My three favorite fish to eat, in order, are yellow perch, crappie, bluegill and walleye. Fried is great. We have another really good member, Jeremy Mayo, who has posted a killer recipe for bluegill. You must check that out!

Here's my unscientific take on your fall fishing funk that you see with bluegill. Biologists will sometimes say that a fish's metabolic needs double for every ten degree increase in water temps. Consequently, when your water temps have dipped by twenty degrees, the fish only needs about 1/4 as much food to continue on doing what he does.

Now in some systems you will continue to see hatches of invertebrates throughout the early fall. I've been seeing midge's hatch by the thousands in my own ponds. I think this allows bluegill to cherry-pick these fat little emergents at will. Sometimes to the point that they can barely swim they're so full.

This doesn't leave the angler much opportunity to catch agressive fish. They're already a little sleepy, and then completely full, and on top of that you're presenting them something that doesn't quite look like anything they've ever seen....

You get the picture.

That being said, when I fish in the fall I like to fish with little chunks of crawler or lively waxworms on a tiny jighead. I start by fishing the edges, like I always do, but I need to absolutely discipline myself to get out and fish the main body of water up and down in the water column. Those bluegill could be camped out anywhere, at any depth, waiting for those midges to make their tiny struggle up to the surface. You need to find that depth.

Experiment.

Drift your boat or float tube across the main pond or lake, trying to use varying speeds so that your offering is one foot down, then three, then five, then seven, etc. Sometimes those bluegill are right out in the dang middle of the lake. Once you've found them the action can be really good, because now you're targeting fish that are on an active feed.
Bruce gives some great advice there, even though counting is his strong point.... "My three favorite fish to eat, in order, are yellow perch, crappie, bluegill and walleye"

It doesn't matter if I'm in the float tube or fishing from shore, I start at the edges of the water, hitting the weedlines and rocks. If nothing is biting there I "fan out" much like bass anglers, going deeper, and farther out from shore with each cast. If that doesn't work, and I'm in the tube, I kick out to deeper water to try deeper depths. Smaller bait, in my opinion, can become more useful as fish are becoming sluggish with water temps dropping and them gills are looking for an easy meal.

Fried is about the only way I've ever gone for eating, but I'll have to hunt down that recipe!
Welcome to the forum FH - it is certainly a great location!
Looking at your bullets, here's where my mind went as I read them:
1) bony, overcooked fish - must have been a familky that scaled, gutted, and ate whole. hmmmm, for some reason I don't enjoy crispy tails as much as others do. I'll fillet them then either broil, flake apart for fish cakes, or deep fry. Our family prefers to actually taste the fish, so if and when we do fry it's usually with a milk/egg bath followed by a toss in Progresso Italian bread crumbs.
2) I'm extremely biased in regards to bluegills - they get a bad rap from the general angling community. Sure young bluegills are easy - they're shallow, they're insatiable with the food chain, and they're just starting life's learning curve. These fish are indeed made for anglers holding a rod for the first time. However, they do get older, and wiser.
While I don't give fish the credit to be able to reason, I do appreciate their conditioning abilities.
That being said, mature bluegill that are in a neutral or negative mood will test the sanity of the best angler. (whatever "best" is) These fish study, watch, then study some more before they commit to feeling what it is they have been looking at. Don't let frustrated by seeing 'gills reject what you have to offer; It's more then likely they know something isn't right and are dealing with their survival mechanisms.
Another aspect you need to keep in mind is that these fish rely on the lower food chain to sustain them. Although it's been documented that panfish will seek out the largest zooplankton first in a pod, it's also been documented that they will stay very short sighted to a given type of zooplankton. This condition is one I've been watching/learning for years now - being on a school of 'gills that rejects any size, shape, or color of baits/lures only watch the entire school feed constantly on a suspended food source that appears as tiny specs on the UVS.

Being from south central Pa., I can't claim northern location to you, but will say yes to downsizing......kinda.
I'm an ultra-light junky, so I fish 1/64oz. offerings at the top end of the yearly spectrum for bluegills. I'll let conditions dictate where I go from there; 1/80, 1/00, or unweighted nymphs, dry flies.
I say conditions, what I really should say is the fish themselves. I spend a lot of time studying hook placement in the fish I catch, and adjust presentations and/or bait sizes from what the fish tell me. If I continue to hook fish at the corner or tip of the mouth, I know the fish are interested but not quite willing to commit. I'll usually start changing colors to see if the fish start taking the bait deeper (a hookset deeper in the mouth). If nothing changes, I'll start changing overall bait size - while still watching where that hook is ending up.
Here's an example of what I mean:
This was something that worked OK:


This is what they seemed more keyed in on, more commited to actually eating rather then just "trying":


As fall wears on here, we'll start looking for fish suspended over deep water. There seems to be a transitional period from shallow flats when they are feeding heavily, to moving over where they will winter. It's my opinion each waterway will have it's own set of specifics where these places actually are. case in point: I have one lake that will find them around bridge columns over 45ftw - while another won't draw a fish around the bridges, but collects them along fast tapering shorelines (creek channels).

After this long winded write, I'll second Bruce's comment: Experiment.
Bruce, Zig, Alex amazing post with lots of great info. Man a person can really learn a lot from this site.
Yep, experiment. You just never know. Or at least I still don't! ;o)
Yesterday we had a cold front move in, lots of rain. Today's temperature is about 20 degrees colder than yesterday.
I fly-fished a local public pond during lunch. Started out with a woolly worm. Caught 1 bass. Started running out of time with no other action, so I switched to a bluegill-sized foam popper. I caught 4 nice bluegills and another bass on that. It was fairly calm, but the water clarity was greatly diminished compared to my previous trip to this pond. No visible surface activity to speak of, and yet the fish hit that topwater willingly!
Even though I witnessed it, I'm still confounded!
You just never know 'til you try!
Jeremy R. Mayo gave us this great recipe in an earlier discussion on www.bigbluegill.com

Crispy Fins!

8 to 10 whole bream (scaled deheaded and gutted...leave on the tail and fins)
2 eggs
2 can coors light
2 cups lemon juice
3 table spoons butter
box of zaterans fish fry.(pay no attention to the part that says do not add seasoning on the box)
1/2 gallon of penut oil.
salt
pepper
paprika
Tonys cajun season
LEMON PEPPER
tabasco

mix eggs, 1 beer, melted butter and lemon juice in large bowl and put it in the freezer. While that starts to chill you need to take your whole bream and cut him from top to bottom 3 times to the bone on both sides.(let him cook all the way through and there easier to get off the bone for kids.) When your done set em in the mixture and chill em for about 20min. When it starts gettn ice chips its ready.

Turn on grease to 325

Throw them suckers in the batter then back in the wet and back in the batter for extra good coverage and then your ready for the fry daddy.

I like to let mine cook 1 1/2 min after they float.
season with salt, pepper, paprika, tonys cajun season, and lemon pepper. LOTS OF LEMON PEPPER.

The last beer is for when your samplin cause boy them thangs are hot when your pullin em off!
Thanks for all the information and advice.

I was very interested in the midge hatches. In fact I keyed in on "surfacing" BG areas, I mean I knew to try certain spots because of surface activity, sometimes out over open water. It was easier to find the BG on calm, evenings. I figured they were keying in on a hatching nymph of sorts - but never saw any.

Next week I have off work - as its the opening of our Bow season for deer. Early in the season - its pretty much a Morning/Evening hunt - so me and a couple of the guys hope to fish Bluegill/Perch down at the lake at mid-day. We are kind of hoping for a Fish Fry one night if the weather holds out.

I'll post some pics if me make out OK

FH

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