Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

I live about 8 minutes away from the largest freshwater body of water in Utah...the notorious Utah Lake. It is a large shallow lake home to many different species of fish. When the harbors ice up before the main lake caps, the white bass stack up in the harbors and become easy pickins for ice anglers. This year I would catch a white bass with a small jigging spoon (they love the blue fox rattle flash spoons btw) or jig and then cut up said white bass for cut bait. I would then tip my jigs or spoons with a small chunk o' white bass meat...then I proceed to catch as many as I want to clean.

Typically the white bass madness lasts for a few weeks on the lake until the main lake caps or until all the noise on top of the ice (from anglers, augers, etc.) will chase them to other spots on the lake. Once that happens, the crappie and bluegill move in. I typically don't expect to catch a gill or a crappie (much less a yellow perch) until the white bass swarm leaves. I guess I should expect to catch bluegills.

This past Friday I got a huge surprise. After about 15 white bass on my tipped RF spoon, I pulled up a nice 8 inch gill...and then another. I was using a larger (1/8 oz) spoon with a large chunk of white bass meat. Didn't think a gill would sniff twice at it but they INHALED it. I was under the impression that bluegill mainly feed on freshwater invertebrates, midges, larvae, etc. but now I'm starting to think that bluegill will feed on whatever is available. White bass are the most abundant sport fish in Utah Lake. Is it possible that the bluegill there have developed a taste for white bass flesh by feasting on the abundant white bass fry?

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Big bluegills love minnows; live fatheads work very well in Michigan. Moreover, the small bluegills can't suck 'em up quite as well, so your catch is pre-culled for you. Of course, you'll get perch and crappies too, which is downright tragic, I know.
I wish I lived in a state that would allow live minnows. I still don't understand why live bait isn't allowed in the state of Utah and no one has given me a satisfactory explanation. I believe you are right on Richard. I did a little more research after posting and found other sources of information indicating that bluegill will definitely slurp up minnows and fry of other species. It is good to hear it from someone who has firsthand experience too. I'm no snob. I'll take perch and crappie any day!
You guys are definitely on to something. Bluegill love fish in their diet. In instances when small fish are available, and easy to catch (which you don't find every day), bluegill will grow at tremendous rates. Bluegill are opportunists that will feed on any prey item that they deem easy enough to catch that provides more calories, than those calories expended to capture the prey. This is called optimal foraging theory (OFT) and if you learn to understand this concept it will make you a better fisherman. For example, there's often a debate whether you go bigger, or smaller when it comes to bait selection to capture largemouth bass. In reality, either will work. You just have to convince the bass that whatever he's attempting to capture will yield a net positive caloric return. i.e. little baits will work if the bass thinks it has a high liklihood of catching his target. Very interesting stuff.
This must be why bluegill in Utah Lake are so healthy. Even a six incher is fat enough to fillet easily and you get a nice slab of meat too. There are ten inch gills caught every year but not too many people target them so I have yet to see anything bigger than a ten inch gill from the lake. We have had extremely successful white bass spawns the last two years which has produced a ton of forage (in the form of white bass fry) for the abundant gills, crappie, channel cats, largemouth bass, and walleye in the lake.
My experience definitely agrees with OFT, Bruce. I made a trip home to Texas this past summer to see my family and fish with my dad. I took my usual arsenal of small jigs, curly tails, and other plastics. He insisted on using large lipless cranks and jigging spoons. We located tons of spawning bluegill as well as just about every other sunfish family member Texas has to offer. Lots of largemouth and spotted bass were blowing up on the surface. My dad would throw a shad imitation crank into the boil and I would throw my 1/32 oz. red/chartreuse curly tail jig. He caught 0 and I lost count after an hour. I had to take him to the local sporting goods store to buy him some light tackle. We went out the next day and he proceeded to catch largemouth, gills, sunfish (all varieties), spotted bass, and blue catfish...all on light tackle. Very cool stuff. Thanks for the input!

OFT ? I 've always heard the same concept  described as the EEP .Energy Expenditure Principle.

Bluegill start their life out eating zooplankton and tiny crustacean. As they grow, they eat larger and larger prey in these categories until they can include fish eggs (mostly bass'), minnows (chub, shinners, etc) and yearling fry. I have caught some of my biggest bluegills on minnow imitators. A one inch grub trolled on a roadrunner jig has landed quite a few 10 inch plus fish. This relatively larger bait also serves to select out for the larger bluegill in the water. The little ones may nip at the tail, but you can easily tell the difference and don't have to waste time reeling them in and unhooking the little turds.

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