Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

R-wilson has a blog entry that got me thinking...........about "looking back".

The shear diversity of bluegill angling has been the reason I have come to admire and respect these fish.
You can plan a bluegill trip for sheer research reasons, or you can plan a trip for sheer relaxation - these fish offer either aspect at any given time.
The difference, I believe, comes when we specifically target the largest fish in the system. Bluegill angling tends to take on a more systematic approach when you start dealing with big bluegill.
Yes, there is the spawning season that makes it easier on the angler - but these fish can be caught off the spawn.

Can't say I'm as interested in "looking back". I came from an angling past that I believe had a hand in the status of today's local bluegill population health, and I'm not quite as proud of my decisions then as those I am making today.
(My memories are of livewells full of every bluegill caught that was bigger then your hand.)

Today, as I take my two children fishing, they hear stories that start with, "When I was your age, I fished this spot and we would catch fish bigger then a plate".
My problem with looking back is that that all I see is myself limiting what my children have to relate to my stories from days gone by.
I find myself grasping the present and looking at the future.
I don't want to go back and relive the good 'ole days..................I want to build the foundation and share the education so my children can say to their children, "When I was your age, fishing wasn't nearly this good. You were lucky to get three big bluegill in a trip."

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I can certainly relate to not looking back......and for many of the same reasons. Fortunately when we do look back, we begin to realize the impact of over harvest, or should I say the lack of selective harvest, and the effects it has on the future of fishing....Although looking back will always be a constant reminder of what was instilled in all of us as fisherman, the future holds great possibilities and more avenues then ever before.

With todays new technologies....i.e..underwater cameras.....side imaging locators, braided lines, Fluorocarbon.....etc...many could assume that the angler has the upper hand....and in many cases they do.....Afterall, it's no longer a canepole and cork thing....and many people are catching on. This fact alone forces the issue of selective harvest and it's importance to the future of Bluegill fishing.

Gluttoney.....I recently accquired a nice lake front home on a chain of lakes located 40 miles north of the Chicagoland metropolitan area.....quiet, peaceful, good fishing.....Unfortunately it is over-fished by non-locals every winter, that are clueless to the effects of non selective harvest....targeting only the largest Gills.....this has had a noticeable effect on the numbers of 10" plus fish over the last few years.

In one of the many fine discussions on this site, the words "Maximum Bluegill size" was written....I must say that these can truly be words of wisdom, as these types of regulations may be the only hope for states with no size or take limits.

I've been connected to several fishing sites over the last 10 yrs and have seen my share of 100+ gill pile pictures.....it doesn't impress me, but seeing a pic of someone releasing 10"s and keeping 8"s certainly would.

Many a fine angler, for whatever reason, have deemed themselves as "catch and release" fisherman....and in certain circles that's good. Advocating selective harvest in hopes of preventing someone from having to look back is even better.
I agree. I live in Texas, which has no limits on BGs, size or number. I'd like to see a maximum size limit of around 10" or so imposed. They breed prolifically, so I don't see a need for a bag limit; but we DO need to limit the size, and turn the big ones loose to continue to breed. I really want our kids and grandkids to be able to catch BGs (and other species) and teach THEIR grandkids how to fish for them.
This is getting more confusing everyday.
Confusing?
This discussion comes up where I live most often when discussing trout. As fishermen we can have a short term effect on bluegill in almost any lake. About 25 miles from where I live is a 2580 acre lake that has been a terrific bluegill lake.

It used to get ice fished pretty hard, but the main reason for the decrease in size were people who lived on the lake. Actually a lot of retired guys in pontoon boats trying to out gun each other. Our limit is 25 panfish a day and on this lake the locals would hit the beds get a limit, take them home and do it over again. Because of this competition the bluegill fishing pretty much sucks there now, but as the pressure decreases it will come back. If all the elements are there to produce numbers of 9 to 10 inch bluegills they will return. That is unless they over populate and then it will take longer.

As long as a fisherman or women is following the rules it is very difficult to destroy a fishery, no matter what kind of fish. It is a good idea to return some of the bigger fish, but not required. I always try to practice conservation but it is the fisheries guys in your state that have the responsibility of managing our fisheries and it is up to them to set size limits and quantity limits. It helps if we only take what we can use, but like I said, I don’t believe it is necessary.

Besides some people use these straw dog examples to prove they are ethical. If someone is breaking the law and it reaches your level of intolerance, you should report the behavior.
I have to disagree with the "follow the fishery management program" to a point.
I can understand the fisheries management has a much better grasp on the state fishery as a whole then I do, but tend to disagree with the management practices on specific waterways.
I have proven time and time again on a few select local waterways that they are not being managed to their highest potential. PA has "Panfish Enhancement Lakes" that are presented to be managed for exceptional panfishing. (Panfish being the broad term by definition.) The waters carry a minimum length limit and lower creel limit on panfish and largemouth bass - which in theory should work. This program was based on looking at the waterway as a whole: exploitation and recruitments calculated.
But it doesn't work......................to the extent these waterways have a lower quality panfishery then waters that have been left alone.
(This statement is based from first hand documentation of sampled fish lengths, weights, and ages from different waterways.)

As far as the "As fishermen we can have a short term effect on bluegill in almost any lake." thought, I carry the mindset that a collection of educated anglers can have a lifetime effect on any waterway.

So, (as far as I'm concerned) if I can prove, factually, that a program doesn't work to reach the intended goal, I am going to do what I can to make it better. Looking at the topic from your side of the fence, I can only think that by following the rules of a managed fishery; if it's mis-managed, it's the easiest way to destroy it.
The problem is I can only improve it with the help of others, and PA's panfishery isn't high on the majority of the state's angler's list of priorities. We're a bass and trout state - the panfishery is an after thought.

In regards to a panfishery bouncing back from overharvest - I'm out with the jury on that one as well. There is a small waterway that once was a sleeper for trophy largemouth and bluegill. Once word got out, the lake got hammered and coolers maxed out with legal limits of bluegill that were taken out on a regular basis for a two(2) year period of time.
That was in 1979.
To date it hasn't "come back".

Please read this as a discussion, as no disrespect is intended. It appears as if I view the topic(s) from a completely different stance as you do - yet we obviously are both viewing the same end result.
I think we are pretty much on the same page Zig. Michigan does not have one lake that they primarily manage for panfish. It is good that PA is even trying. If they just pick any lake and regulate size, limits etc. and the lake doesn’t have all the necessary conditions to produce a quality panfish fishery, its probably not going to work anyway.

I don’t know much about PA, but in MI there isn’t enough emphasis by pan fishermen on our fishery division to move them to develop such a bluegill fishery. I know they did it by accident on a lake in mid MI about 30 years ago. The dammed a small creek and built a dam to create a 400 acre lake. They thought it would take 5 years to fill, but it happened in two years. Originally there was a small pond which they flooded over that had some panfish, but they poisoned the lake and planted thousands of 8 inch largemouth bass.

I lived only 10 miles away at the time, but every time I took the family there all I caught was bass, bass, bass. Got one on almost every cast. I kept thinking there had to be bluegills there, but according to the park manager there were only bass in the lake. The next year I took the family swimming at the beach and me and my young son went fishing.

I used a jig and wax worm under a bobber and again a 9 inch bass on almost every cast. After about 30 bass I was about to give up when my bobber slowly dipped below the surface. I set the hook and thought I had a big bass on my line but it turned out to be a 12 1/4 inch bluegill.

For the next 2 years, I was the only one fishing for bluegills and always away from people No matter how hard you try, someone will find out and then its just a matter of time. The lake is shallow, 28 feet at the deepest and weeds grow in up to 10 feet. By the end of May you can hardly fish from shore but fortunately I had a fishing boat. (NO motors allowed).

Five years down the road the fishery was still super. On the Fourth of July my young son kept 50 bluegills as we were having a family get together. Those 50 bluegills weighed 62 lbs and I doubt one of them was under 10 ½ inches.

We heard that the following year they were going to let people keep all the small bass they wanted because it was clearly overpopulated with them. The guys who were bluegill fishing pleaded with the park manager not to do it as it was a suburb bluegill lake. Hard core x marine wouldn’t listen to anybody including the fisheries people and within a month most of the bass were removed.
Today it is possible to catch a limit of 7 to 8 inch gills, but only an occasional big fish. They have a lot of bass tournaments there now a days, and some decent bass are caught on occasion, but what a shame.

In Michigan they don’t have the funds to micro manage our lakes but we are blessed with many. I still catch big bluegills in some of them, but it tests your skills.

Since I was never one to take a lot of pictures until I joined a Michigan web-site I don’t have many from back then. Once I joined this web-site and we started talking about fishing, the inevitable happened. Someone started a thread “What was your biggest brown trout?” After about 30 posts and the largest trout listed was 12" someone asked me to post. When I told them they basically called me a fabricator so I went out and purchased a digital camera.

Thanks to them, photography is now one of my favorite hobbies. I started posting pictures of the trout I caught since 2001 and by the end of summer, some of the ones that called for proof of my fish now were calling me a braggart. It proves you can’t please everyone.

Anyway now I probably take to many pictures. When I joined the Big Bluegill site, I went through my pictures and picked a few to post. I numbered them just so I could keep track of them easier. I probably wouldn’t have posted these two for quite a while, but I am, because these two bluegills are very similar to the bluegills we use to catch from the lake I was talking about.



In the end, I think we mostly agree and maybe if fisheries people see that there is a demand for big bluegills they might be persuaded through web-sites like this one to do something about it. Well here’s hoping.
Here's to hoping and two beautiful, big bluegills!!!

(cheers)
well stated Zig, I like the way you think.
looking back to the memories and fellowship of the past is something i enjoy,and yes the big gills in that old wooden boat's live well.the smell of the lake and my dad and old great uncle telling me about the good old days.
i plead ignorance on their part and mine at the time,a different time and a different world,but one that i will remember for ever and wish i could return to for ever.
but like you Zig i live here and now and you are right if we had only known then what we know now.
all we can do is pass it on to the young ones,and teach them to conserve our fisheries and never ,never,never,take more then you need.
something my dad always told me "son always turn some of those big ole big'uns back" i guess he knew ,i sure hope so.



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