Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

I fish mainly from shore and I know how to catch bluegill...(I catch scuds of the little guys) but im not even really sure where to start looking for the big ones. I fish in areas that are fished a lot so there is tons of pressure everywhere. I know private ponds are my best bet but not everyone is willing to let any old body fish in their own backyard honey holes. Some tackle recommendations or new techniques to try would be welcome. Would love to find some giant 'gills in southern ohio.

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This topic comes up somewhat regularly on here, Sean.  The biggest key to catching big bluegill is simply to fish in waters where they're found - if you're catching a lot of little ones, odds are very good that there aren't any big ones in that water body.  You can have the most perfect presentation ever made, but if the big fish don't exist where you're using that presentation, you won't catch them.  

You're correct in that private ponds are your best bet, but don't assume you won't be able to secure permission.  I wrote a blog post about this - hope it helps:

Sean...right now, gills are bedding in many parts of the country, and that is likely the story where you are at in Ohio. Most bedding fish are dummies for a light-line, live earthworm approach. Basically, you need to hunt down and find water that holds quality fish. I would recommend three venue types for finding big gills, in this order...

Small private lakes or ponds

Small community or municipal lakes that are overlooked, or considered mostly bass or put-and-take trout fisheries, and

Larger reservoirs that lay claim for bass walleye or other game.

I do a lot of homework, scouting, word of mouth, and follow up to find quality gills close to home. I don't really care about bass much, but if available, I'll fish them if they are big. Most of my private contacts are people I have known for years, some decades, and trust has been built. I have done well with smaller public lakes that are just 'under the radar' for great bluegilling, and have 6 such waters within 30 minutes of my home that consistantly produce 10 inch or larger fish. I keep these venues quiet, and seldom keep any fish from them.

The larger reservoirs in my region, water supply lakes and state park lakes, will vary greatly in panfish production and quality. Unfortunately, most anglers keep too many large gills in many public venues and the fishing can go downhill quickly.

If you take a very average angler, and put him on a high-quality panfish lake, simply through effort, that angler will catch fish, and very likely some large ones as well. Put a highly skilled angler on a tough lake, with a diminishing bluegill lake in size-structure, and it is very rare that even that skilled angler will catch any quality fish...because they just aren't there! In other have to be fishing a lake, pond or river that has big fish in order to have a chance at good gilling. Sure...a trophy can show up just about anywhere. But if you want day-in, day-out bluegilling for 8 to 10 inch fish and even larger, you just have to search for them.

I would start with a close examination of the state-wide trophy fish listing or awards program in your state and inquire at every tackle and bait shop within 100 miles of your home, and a lot can happen with a phone call as well. Take note of the public lakes that have produced these big fish, and what their past track record has been for them. Realize, too, that most 'non-bluegillers' see an 8 inch fish and think it is huge, and you will likely follow down 'rumors' of 10 to 12 inch fish that are, in truth, much smaller than the excited claims.

Hope this helps...

Hey thanks a lot for the info guys. To often on sites like this I run into people that for whatever reason become closed mouthed about presentations or tackle or something. To be completely honest the newest thing I have tried lately for bluegill has been flies by bett's and for bass it has been the YUM Dinger. I know im late to the party but I don't get to fish a lot and am very leery of new things.

May I add one thing?
Aside from the spawn, most large gills are in deeper water. 10-20 ft. isn't out of the question. LOOK for structure and cover beyond the shore areas where the dinks hang out.
I like to think of, "wood, weeds and rock."
Gills also congregate by size. So when you find a large one, odds are good others are there, too. to
So, once you've found a good BOW, look to the deep side of visible and underwater structure.

Not many lakes have big or giant bluegills. When lake is hot then all big 'gills gone! I see many people keep 9 and 10 inch bluegills and return smaller fish back to water! I agree with Walt Foreman and Jim Gronaw! Do your homework, research and look at google earth to find lakes and fish there to find out!  Nelson lake in Wisconsin produce some turkey size bluegills and few over 2 lbs during ice fishing and early spring years ago so now its all big ones gone. It might come back if everybody forget about it! Bluegills can live up to 6 or 7 or maybe rare 8 years and giant can come back if everything is just right plus very little fishing pressure, Not like trophy musky or big alligator gar that need at least 15 years to grow for trophy musky or 50 years for giant gar! I keep all notes and records on big bluegills and would check out to see if it come back then I keep it quite! People should release at least 8 inch 'gills but if good number of 8 inch then release 9 inch on and on   and bluegills get bigger! Lot of 8 to 14 inch bass should be there to eat all up small 'gills! One Lake in Wisconsin have few 12 inch 'gills and that lake have good number of bass, pike, walleye and perch!

great advice. I release the biggest ones to, hopefully, breed on for another day. I also tend to avoid catching them during the spawn.
I'm sure that many anglers don't share this outlook, however.
Interestingly, I catch some of my biggest bluegill on artificials. The best ones are size 0 and 1 Beetle Spins and 1/12th oz. Silver Minnows. Fished from my kayak on the deep side of fallen trees and other cover, I'm always pleased when I hook onto a big, thick bluegill this way
Occasionally, I'll catch a biggun in really shallow water, but that its usually early morning in summer, or after several warm days in winner

Interesting, David. I agree with you in the case of bass, however I fish a clear water lake for gills and 95% of the time I catch a fish off of the bed and unhook it quickly, it swims back. Because they bed communally, they know where their buddies are and usually go back to them.

Thanks, Jacob. That is encouraging.

My main lake is a heavily pressured public venue. It is large at 56k acres, but every angler I know can't wait to get out and "tear em up on the beds...."

This attitude grates on my nerves, so it's just a personal choice of mine to chase catfish during the sunfish spawn, avoiding the beds if I find them. This isn't to say I NEVER fish such areas, since I am not that good at knowing them when I see them. But I'll go easy, release caught fish and move along if I think I've stumbled upon a bed.

Will I perhaps miss out at some point? Probably.
Will it matter if this happens? Probably not.
You might say this is something I've learned as the years have passed, I suppose.....

There's no denying that bed fishing is popular among bluegillers. It congregates the fish, it generally makes them easier to find, and in many instances they are in shallow water, accessible to anglers who don't own a boat. I have taken fish off beds, and still do if I'm pressed for time and would like some for dinner. But, a dozen fish is plenty for us, and I never take more than 2-3 from the same colony before moving on. And of course I release the bigger males.


I know anglers who wait all year for the spawn to arrive, and while I understand their anticipation,  I must admit that for me, it takes some of the fun out of it. I like pitting myself against the fish, and there are many times when bed fishing seems too challenge. I do respect each anglers' choice on the matter, and if they are operating within legal guidelines for their area then more power to them. I tend to try and spread the word about selective harvest, whilst trying not to tread on anyone's individual practices.

But for me, give me a makes catching them that much sweeter.

Today I fished in Scioto Trail State Park, two beautiful little lakes in the hills of southern Ohio. We fished for a while and I happened upon some beds. There were some 7-8 inch bluegill on those beds. I caught three o them and released them all. A the day wore on two young boys came up to the lake and began fishing in those beds, they immediately started catching large bluegill and were spellbound. They had a small (4 can) cooler with them that they emptied out to put these fish in. When I asked why they were keeping them, especially all off of beds they said they were going fishing in another small lake known more for scenery than the fishing, and they needed bait. I told them that they should let those gills go and catch some smaller ones so as to help the whole lake out a little bit. I was ignored and they took the bedding bluegills back to their campsite probably to be dumped on the ground. Now I said all this no to pick on the boys but to point out the point of view most people in my area have. The people these kids learned to fish with have probably taught them that bluegill don't matter,much in the same way people think sheep head or grunter or silver perch (whatever name you call them) are trash fish. The attitude people take when looking at lakes and the fish in them is my biggest problem finding big gills I think. *sigh* OK rant over. In all I did have a great day fishing.

A big part of the problem, Sean, lies with DNRs.  How many states today have no length or creel regulations on largemouth or smallmouth bass?  Yet there are only a handful of states that have any meaningful regulations on bluegill.  Most states have no length limit whatsoever, and creel limits generally range from twenty-five per angler per day on up.  

Considering the research that has been done in the past twelve years on the permanent negative consequences of anglers harvesting too many large bluegill - or in some instances, simply too many bluegill period - it's pretty unconscionable how regressive most state regulations on bluegill are.  

But then a big part of the problem is exactly what you allude to, the attitudes of many bluegill anglers.  It seems that some anglers feel that their bluegill experience isn't complete unless they take home a coolerful, and they don't have much concern for how that affects anglers that may fish the lake after them.  

There was a time when the norm among bass anglers was to keep a limit of the biggest fish you caught.  Here's to hoping that someday enough bluegill anglers will come around in their thinking to where bluegill fishing in public waters can approach what it must have been when our grandparents were growing up.

Think about how the giant coppernose seem to be dwindling in Lake Perris, what was just a few years ago one of the very top public destinations for trophy bluegill in the country.  Just two or three years ago it was a regular thing for a photo of a two-pound-class bluegill from that lake to be posted on here; now we see photos of nine-inchers.  LedHed commented a couple days ago that too many big bluegill are being harvested out of Lake Skinner; unless regulations are put in place, it's just a matter of time before the trophy fishery in that lake goes away.  

If enough anglers stood up and demanded that DNRs around the country come into the twenty-first century with their bluegill and redear regulations, change would happen, and fishing on public waters would greatly benefit.


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