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Hello fellow bluegill hunters!

This is my 1st post.

I haven't been fishing seriously since I was a kid spending entire days out on local docks. I'm looking to get back into fishing and would very much appreciate some advice from you veterans/pros.

I have tons of questions, but no need to answer all of them. Mostly interested in the blue highlighted questions. Just comment on what you feel like (although if you really feel you have expertise on something, I'd really like to hear what you have to say on that subject). Links to helpful answers/articles/videos are cool too.

1.-How to tell the difference between male and female bluegill?

2.-Is it better to keep male bluegill and release the females? Or how do you determine which to keep and which to release to best help population and size for an area while keeping enough to eat?

3.-What is the best way to map out structures (weeds, dropoffs, brush, etc.) and depths of a lake/bayou (topo maps, lake maps, etc.)? Is there a good fishfinder for cheap that would work well on a rowboat? Are there any good lake maps you guys recommend?

4.-How deep of water do the big bluegill school in (in a mucky/weedy body of water)? My bayous are roughly 18-20ft at the deepest points.

5.-What is the best way to fish for bluegill in deeper water (best bait/setups [slip bobber, jigs, tubes, etc.]/depth)?

6.-What is the best way to catch big bluegill in early spring before they move to the spawning beds? I'm not sure what water temps are currently...is there some kind of temp gauge you can drop down into the deeper water to record temps? Is there some online site where I can find water temps?

7.-What is the best size pole (and brand/action) to use to catch bluegill/bass/perch/walleye (mostly bluegill)? My brother really likes the ugly stik brand. He says he also loves a 5'6" size, but I've heard conflicting arguments suggesting a bigger size (6'6" to 7' mostly). I really liked the 5'6" size for precision casting under overhanging trees and such when I tried it, but I'd also like to be able to cast far, create correct jig/lure movement, set the hook properly, and good strike detection. If you could include an Amazon link for your recommendation that would be awesome. Also, I'm pretty confused by all the light/med/heavy action stuff if you could help clear that up.

8.-What is the best reel to use to catch bluegill/bass/perch/walleye (mostly bluegill)? I'm considering the Okuma Avenger ABF 30 Graphite Bait Feeder Reel, but maybe the ABF 20 would be better?

9.-What is the best # line to use to catch bluegill/bass/perch/walleye (mostly bluegill)? I was/am considering 6 lb Berkley Fireline (Crystal, 300 yds), but I read somewhere that thickness-wise it's equivalent to 2 lb mono, so I'm not sure if it will properly fill my reel to within 1/8 inch.

10.-Will ultra light (4/6lb?) line cast lightweight (foam spiders/nymphs/flies) lures well using other ultra lightweight equipment (pole/reel/etc.)?

11.-What is the best way to fish with crickets?

12.-How to find a "Honey Hole"?

13.-What depth to fish at what temp?

14.-Is "baiting" legal (West Michigan)? What to use (rabbit pellets, bread, corn, etc.)?

15.-Is sinking stumps/brush legal (West Michigan)?

Thanks for any help,

-CD

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Welcome Craig. You're never a prodigal. Just a family member got lost in the darkness until  you see this site's light..LOL


1. I'm still learning that myself. Apparently, according to the masters of breeding here, the best time to tell the male and females are during spawning period. I'll have tons of notes on that, but I'll let the masters here spill more of the knowledge for me to record.

2. Once the female released their loads, keep the female. My rule of thumb is to keep any female between 6.5" to 8.5". Release any smaller or larger ones. Keep all the males between 5" to 6". Release all of them larger than 6" and smaller than 5". Of course, this is for my neck of the water. Yours may be different. We're attempting to manage the population of dominant males, and also to promote a healthy population management. Others may not take on what I vow to do serious, but a bit of education and prayers offer to them wouldn't hurt.

3. Body of water changes way too rapidly due to different conditions arise yearly. The best is to map it out with your own fish finder and a bit of time. My invested in a cheap Humminbird 720, with quad sonar, and it works out real well. If you have a bit more cash, chose one that has down imaging..which will set you back a nice $700 to $3500. Chose your poison wisely. Humminbird and Lowrance are good two companies to invest in.

4. Panfish go in as shallow as 3ft during summer time/spawning periods, and as deep as 82ft (the larger ones) during winter time at our local waters. You just have to search for them.

5. This is one discussion that will take a few pages to discuss. Plenty of info here, from Bill Modica's famous spooning techniques, to tons of bobbers and slip/drop rigs to play with. Best one is the slow verticle presentation techniques during winter time, and anything goes during spawning time. Slow vertical sinking presentation with a light jig (1/32oz to 1/64oz) and live/plastic/skirted baits will be the hot button. We're all experimenting different approaches still. Redears/stump knockers, use nightcrawler right off the bottom. Bluegills, hover your presentation just about 1 to 2 feet off the bottom.

6. Gills still bite in frigid water, but very shy. Once the water approaches in the mid 60°F, they will hammer anything you toss at it.

7. Ultralight is best, and if you're on shore, 5'6" to 8' is good for both casting and dropshots. If you're on boat, 3' to 4'6" is good, unless you're casting. Casting should be between 6' to 8'. You can use a Barbie pole that costs $15 or the $5000 setup, as long as you catch fish, that's all it's matter. We use gears that cost $25 at yard sales and online to $500 gear setup. There's no heavy critic on poles, but a good reel to prevent snag during a good drag session is crucial. If you drag gets snagged during a good battle, you'll lose your prize catch.

8. Good choice. We're using Okuma, Plueger, Shimano, Pinnacle, etc.. Everyone has a certain preference, and budget.

9. Light test pound is the way to go. Mono in the 1# to 4#. Same with braid. All about personal preference. 6# is a bit much. But when you get hammered by a monster fish, well..that extra 2# will come in handy.

10. I have 3 ultra light setup, with 2# to 5# test braid. All casted flies without any problem. Add a bobber and a bit of tiny fly shots, you're golden.

11. Cricket masters! Chime in. Keep them alive as much as you can, either be wiggling at the surface of the water, or as it goes under. Regardless, gill will bite the drowned/dead cricket. Only two effective method of hooking the cricket to prevent the panfish from ripping them off the hook.

12. Do a lot of research, and spend a lot of time on the water.

13. Use fish finder. Unless you're a fish, it's all about searching and hunting.

14. Do a bit of research on the local fishing ordinance/regulation for your part of the water on the Department of Natural Resources or Department of Fish and Games, under Fresh Water.

 

15. Any woody structures are not illegal, unless the sunken structure poses threats to watercrafts and human life. Beside that, as long as the woody structure does not contain chemical that will kill the aquafauna population, you're fine. Just to be safe, research at the local DNR and DFG website for your areas.

 

I'm always impressed by the amount of knowledge you share Leo! Awesome!

Chris you have much stuff here and as far as equipment you would be hard to figure. There is much on the market and everybody has there own preferences with mine being Pflueger as do some others at BBG and others having different preferences all together. My suggestion is to go to the local sporting good store many have displays on the floor for you to examine, I'm talking reels now. Pick them up open the bail see how crisp it opens and closes, then turn the handle and see how smooth it turns. The one thing that is important that you can't check is the drag unless you find one spooled and I don't think that will happen. It should pull off smooth so you will want to stick with name brand reels.

Again Graig you are covering lots of topics and I will only touch on a few at a time. Again pole length is a preference and different circumstances predict your different poles and pole lengths.  I use mostly artificial and tend to cast and retrieve when I'm on the water. Again I have different brands of rods like St Croix, Fenwick, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Daiwa and for lengths they are from 5' all the way to 12'. I find myself 90 % of the time using my 5'6" Berkley Lightning rods in the ultra light or light actions. Again it is a preference I have many rods to choose from in my arsenal but that is mostly my rod of choice and it won't break the bank. Again go to the sporting good store pick the rod up hold the handle shake it all my rod most the flex is in the upper 1/3 of the rod. Tap the tip ever so lightly and you should be able to feel it in the handle. I do not own any Ugly Sticks but have made many for different people many years ago but back then they were heavy and I didn't want to cast all day with a heavy rod but like anything else the Ugly Sticks have lightened up and the Ugly Stick Lites are in the ball park as far as being light. Again there are many rods on the market and many good ones you just have to see what works for you the best.

I personally fish Michigan 90% of the time being blessed to live in Ohio being a holler from the Michigan line and knowing Michigan is blessed with lots of good lakes. I fish the Irish Hills area out of Brooklyn Michigan with many good lake in that area. I fish out of Hilldale County which is my go to places to fish. I have a few spots for gills and crappies that are exceptional. I also love the Coldwater area of Michigan. 

If I know where the fish have bedded I will fish the outside weed edge in the deeper water before spawn and as the spawn starts move to the inside to the spawning areas. These areas will be the same from year to year and one good thing about Michigan lake in these areas is the water is clear and you will see the beds before you run into them. Boat control is key here never run your boat on the beds or you might as well find another till the fish get relaxed again. I throw small spinners starting on the outside edges first. Another good thing is small top water and I love the top water bite the best and then there is small cranks that can be deadly.

I also fish lots for crappies. I'll fish any underwater trees or branches I see. I find the tree's out from shore to be better for me unless it is full fledged spawn. I use twister tails in the 1 1/2 inch to 2 inch range work well for me and my color preference is white pearl. Also going around the lake if you can find Lilly Pads that exit into 6 to 8 foot of water with some weeds work well for me also. Usually if you catch one there are more around. Don't be afraid to venture out deeper next to the pads even 10 to 12 foot of water if the shallower water isn't paying off. Once you catch that first crappie remember the depth the weed and everything else you can and duplicate it elsewhere on the lake.

Craig I hope this helps you some what but as you fish you and get more experienced it will become easier. I guess I've use up my max credits so later. GOOD FISHIN..

Heck.  I used to live in Jackson, MI, for a few years.  My other half is from there.  You're right on all the little lakes.  They're everywhere.  I wasn't in to fishing when I lived up there, but would have a field day with my kayak and all the little lakes up there now.

The wolf chain is a great chain of lakes I have fished it many times in my Bass fishing days and some with my wife 6 or 7 years back. Lots of Bass, Pike Crappies and of coarse the mighty gill but the lower end is shallow and weed chocked but a fantastic fishery never the less. 

I've always heard that a male Bluegill will have an orange "throat", while the same colored area on a female is more yellow.  Look at the pictures I posted yesterday.  The first 'gill is obviously a male.

As to keeping 'gills, I've heard it's best to release the adult, spawning, male bluegills, as they keep the smaller ones off the nests, and allow the smaller 'gills to focus on feeding and growing.  After the spawn is over, keep what you want, as long as you don't exceed the limit for your waters.

Mapping out lakes:  Complex subject.  Check your local bait shops, sporting goods stores, online, etc.  Try to find a map that gives contours, marks weedbeds, fish attractors, and if you're lucky, rocky/gravel areas, sand, etc.  As far as sonar from a rowboat:  What kind of hull is it?  Plastic, metal, wood?  I have a plastic kayak, and I have an Eagle CUDA 300 in it.  The transducer is mounted inside the hull, shooting through the plastic.  I know some folks build swinging/pivoting armatures out of PVC so that they can place the transducer in the water without having to shoot through the hull.  This gives a more accurate temperature reading.  However, I can usually tell on my unit whether I have a hard bottom, soft bottom, thermocline, baitballs, even larger fish under me in deeper water.  In shallow water, you probably won't see much in the way of fish, as the cone is to narrow.

My battery source is an 8-cell  AA battery tray that I got from Radio Shack for a couple dollars.  I have an in-line 3-amp fuse wired into the positive lead, and all this goes into a Pelican 1010 (?) box, which just barely holds the battery tray.

Deep water fishing, to me, means jigs, and maybe spoons.  I'm not confident with spoons; I need to learn to use them more.

Rods and reels are, as Leo and David have already mentioned, extremely complex, personal choices.  Just about anything will catch bluegills, from 3' Snoopy poles, to hundred-dollar-plus rigs made out of the best graphite, graphite-framed reels, high-dollar line, etc.  Learning what is best for you is something that is just going to take time, and lots of practice and experimentation.  It took me over 3 years to finally settle on a go-to panfish rig, and it's not one, but two different rigs.

My main go-to panfish pole is a 7' (well, 6' 9" after an incident with a brutish Sauger earlier this year), light-action IM6 graphite pole that I found at a local Wally World last year.  It's a Berkley Torsion.  I don't think Wal-Mart carries it anymore, but you can check around.  It's a little lighter than your standard graphite spinning rod.  I have it paired with a Shimano Syncopate spinning reel, and spooled with 10 lbs test PowerPro braid.

My other pole is a 4' 6" UL Shakespear rig with matching reel.  Whole rig cost me $20.  I stripped the reel of the line it came with and put some Stren Ultracast 4 lbs test mono.  This is the rig I caught a bass and the two 'gills with yesterday.

I have a third rod that I've used for several years.  It's a cheap, medium-power graphite spinning reel paired with what has to be the cheapest Shimano spinning reel I've ever seen.  I've got 10 lbs test PowerPro on it as well.

I tend to use braid on all my spinning rods, as a lighter-diameter line gives you better casting distance.  The mono line on my UL setup is an exception, and that particular line works well for what I do.

The 10 lbs test PowerPro has handled all sorts of fish for me.  Sunnies of all kinds, LMB's as well as Kentucky/Spotted Bass, White Bass, small Stripers (1 lbs or less), Crappie, small Channels and Blue cats, Hybrid Stripers up to 5 lbs (thought I was going to break the pole with that one), Saugers, Drum, and even allowed me to have some struggles with 40 lbs. Spoonbill.  My reel and leader wouldn't hold up to the Spoonie, but the line and the pole might have.  Unfortunately, the spot I was fishing at that time is a Restricted Zone for snagging, so even if you catch one, you have to release it.  I never targeted Spoonies there; it was just an incidental catch.

Casting flies with spinning gear ain't easy.  However, a cheap and quick alternative is the "Float and Fly" method.  Use a bobber, or better yet, a casting bubble (clear bobber that you can fill with water if needed for weight).  This will give you some weight to cast with.

Hopefully the cricket masters will reply here soon.  Crickets just became commercially available down here, and I haven't tried them.  I need to teach my kids how to catch them.  Why buy when you can catch bait for free?

Finding a honey hole just takes lots of time, and trying different spots.  That's the fun part.

As far as when legal in your area about baiting holes and adding structure, you'll need to either consult the Michigan Fishing Guide for this year, or talk to a game warden.  I actually thought I was going to move up there last year, so I downloaded the 2011 and 2012 MI Fishing Guides and read them several times.  Man, you all have some different regulations up there!

What kinds of purposes do you use the different sizes for? Is the 7' or the 4'6" the one you use for jigging? Is there a specific tutorial on how to jig you recommend, or should I just google it?

Also thanks for the replies guys!

If you're on the water, 4'6" is perfect for jigging. Plenty of fun within the fight. Same goes for if you're sitting right on the deck or pier, doing purely vertical jigging. I also use the shorter ones to do trolling in the water, using a dragging dropshot method, Texas, and Caroline rigs as I search for different schools. You never what you will catch while trolling.

 

The longer pole can be used for jigging, but best if used for casting. Longer pole beyond 6' is mainly for casting purposes. You can also use long poles to reach over into the weed beds  for strategic planting of slip bobber rigs, or just plain bobber/dropshot rigs.

 

Let us know what you want to discuss first. Each question you've asked can be discussed in its own topic. It can turn into heavy discussions, especially when it comes to rigs, type of lines, or methods of fishing. However, there were plenty of discussions on those subject in the past 6 months. However, we can also add new info into old discussions. 6 months is plenty of time to research, test, and discover new effective materials to discuss on.

Leo hit that nail square on the head!

I use the 4' 6" primarily in tight quarters and/or only expecting small fish.  I've got a local crappie dock that is really tight, and going in there with a 7' rod, while possible, is not recommended.  I've also got some bank-fishing spots where a longer rod will get tangled up easily.  That rod is perfect for vertical fishing, or casting light lures about 40' max.

The longer, 7' rod, being a slightly slower action and lighter power, loads up better when throwing lighter lures, and gives me better distance.  I can cast that rig, with the 10 lbs test PowerPro, and a 3/8 oz Roostertail a good distance.  I'll have to get it out on a football field to get a good measure.

OK, well I guess I'd like to focus on the rod, reel, and line first. I'll put what I'm considering and you guys can either give the stamp of approval or recommend something that's a.)tons better for not too much more money, b.)maybe not quite as good, but a lot cheaper, or c.)both better and cheaper :)

I'll start with the reel...

Okuma Avenger ABF-20a Graphite Bait Feeder Reel

This reel is supposed to be able to spool 190 yds of 4# line...which brings me to this line...

Power Pro 15 -Pounds - 300 yard

This line is supposed to have the diameter of 4# line, which is the lowest that reel indicates to put on it. You guys seem to recommend the 10# line though which has the diameter of 2# line, so I'm not sure which to get.

I was thinking of getting a 5'6" light or ultra light pole with fast or super fast action (I have some old poles of 1x5', 1x6', and 2x6'6"). I think I'd for sure like the feel of that size (5'6") and it's also the only size I don't have, so it would at least let me experiment around a little before starting to buy some new ones and passing these down to the woman. I could really use some specific recommendations here though, and preferably from Amazon or Meijer/Walmart. My brother loves his ugly stick, but I'm open to suggestions.

Also, I need to figure all this out by Sat. at the latest as I have about $13 on ebay that will be wasted if not used.

Thanks again for all the help guys. Also, if any of you fish in the West Michigan area, I'd love to go out and learn from you. I'd spring for coffee/b-fast/bait. :)

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