Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

Why is it that in areas that the lakes freeze over in the winter, fishermen can fish through the ice and do very well, catching lots of Bluegill, and in places like here in southern California, where it does not usually get below freezing and the lakes DO NOT ice over... we have really slow Bluegill fishing, even though we have found a group of fish with the help of electronics?   My question is this. If Bluegill still feed and bite good thru the ice for the northern states fishermen,  how come they almost stop biting completely when the weather and water gets cooler in the warmer southern states?  How does a thick layer of ice make a difference?  Any thoughts or does someone know the actual reason for this occurrence?  I would love to be able to go out in the wintertime to my local lake (that is fantastic in the spring, summer and fall) and catch more than 1 or 2 Bluegill, if even any at all...

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What David writes makes perfect sense to me - I was thinking the same thing, though not as completely and cogently.  Northern bluegill still eat during the cold months because there are three times as many of them - they'll starve if they don't.  They're adapted to feeding throughout the period out of necessity, whereas balmy-clime bluegill can just go to the bottom and pout until spring rolls around.

 

Don't forget the anglers Walt....My dear wife sometimes asks, "Are you going to pout all Winter?"...I'll answer, "No, just until I can catch some nice gills again!"

I think you're knocking on the door David. The techniques and gear that ice heads use developed out of a need to fish in spite of the fact that there was ice covering the water. We need this stuff to enable us to catch cold water BG, but, we need the ice more....

The ice is the platform, the framework that enables the system to work. It is the key, the one element that allows our system of cold water fishing to work to it's maximum potential. Without it, we struggle, the same as our southern brothers and sisters.

It's not so much a question of having gear/techniques to catch fish in SPITE of the ice, rather we use the stuff to let us take advantage of the ice, and what it can do for us.

Certainly, I beliece that Coppernose gills might "shut down", in lower water temps. But, I also believe that if it were possible to flash freeze the top 6" of a southern BOW,  an accomplished ice angler could pull some Northern strain Gills out regardless.

This is in no way meant to say that southern anglers aren't accomplished at what they do, only that a northern angler has the cold water experience that they do not.

To boost, the ice capping does create an ideal environment locking in the temperature below, and preventing the wind from churning the lake even further, creating an unstable environment for fish to constantly readjust to..speaking in the manner of an environmental scientist. I notice the same behaviors here for the endanger sucker fishes that live in the upper mountain lakes. They tend to shut down during high windy environment, but once the water surface locked down by the icy layer, they get active again below the portion of the icy areas, but not the areas where the water is exposed to the windy environment. So, Tony is correct on the "we need the ice more.." statement. Nice nail on the coffin Tony!

My feathers weren't ruffled, Tony - just defending my bluegill moxy:)  I think you hit the nail on the head with your suggestion that perhaps the northern-strain - which comprise 99.5% of the bluegill in my area, as coppernose are not native here and only appear when enlightened folks such as myself stock them - and the HBG (again, very small percentage, only found in private ponds unlike some states where DNRs stock them) have developed the same behavior that CNBG display in wintertime: when it gets cold, they take their ball and go home. 

 

I'll echo what Jeffrey said: I've caught a lot of fish in wintertime in the South - just not bluegill.  I could go out today and catch largemouth or crappie, sauger on the Tennessee River, trout below spillways, etc.; two Decembers ago I caught twenty-two largemouth in about two hours from a pond that the owner wanted them thinned in, and I lost several others that hung me up in cover.  But I would not have bet my lunch on being able to catch even one of the bluegill in that pond, which has some good ones in it. 

 

I'll also echo what Jeffrey said about the bite being amazing when the southern 'gills emerge from hibernation/lockjaw.  Typically the fastest action of the year is the earliest trip; when we get four or five days in a row of sixty-degree weather, I know it's time to get to my best pond because the 'gills will have the feedbag on.  Two years ago on my first trip, sometime in March, I had a bite every single cast for the duration of a three-hour trip.

Nice work and good testimony.....A bass was the only fish that even mouthed the jig right....Thanks for sharing...

That's so freaking awesome! What camera set up did you use? Such clarity and high resolution for underwater film capture. WOW. Love how those boys just get yanked straight up LOL Oh..the humor of it all! "Beware of the dancing food!"

That is absolutely nuts, how those fish just mosey around and look things over - but little else. An underwater camera seems like a must-have for ice fishing.....

I saw a couple of those fish approach the bait with a little more enthusiasm than the rest, then just stop, look it over, and swim away.... You would think that they were going to take it, the way they came up, but something just didn't look right to em' and they wouldn't commit. Also noticed how the ones that did bite just sat there, turning the bait in their mouths without moving away. If that hook had been attached to a slip bobber up top, then 20-30 feet of line back to the angler, the take would probably not be noticed , especially with the wind and wave action. Tightlining is so important to the winter bite.

Awesome topic and excellent info! I'm still learning and collecting data, but let me toss a few info into this wealth of knowledge. The same body of water that Jeff and I fish at, people that fish with jig or dropshot rigs, smaller segments of worms, and stationary with minimal movement, such as piers or shoreline fishing, they tend to land fishes at greater chances. When I'm on my float, well, wind can cause havoc to the stationed point I want to be at and the stability of rigs on light lines. However, larger boats with good anchoring and compensating trolling motors aid the bass hunters with high chances in landing the large picky eaters due to more stabilized vertical jigging. So..everything is about the calmness of the lines. Windy ways, find the calmest areas to fish. They will bite there. But I have no clue about winter effects on these panfishes. So much to learn still..

This topic is very interesting to me....especially because it's after Jan 1 and there is still no fishable ice in Northern Illinois. Normally, our ice season begins in mid Dec, and ends in mid March....typically 12 weeks.

I have never fished the South or experienced its cold water bliss, but I would have to say that there is a simple explanation why southern anglers find a seemingly non-existent bite at this time....

Have you ever watched an underwater video of bluegills taken while ice fishing?....gills become zombie-like when water temps drop into the low to mid 40's.....They also become quite concentrated, and incredibly finicky......During mid November in Northern IL. surface temps fall into the same type of conditions that the South experiences in Dec., and Jan......Fishing gets tough. Many anglers search, and draw blanks, while only a few strike gold.

Most of you know that the majority of my fishing is done with spoons.....but during this strange period, I retire the spoon, and opt for bobber presentation. As Tony mentioned earlier, sensitivity is paramount.....the ability to actually detect a bite under these conditions can be extremely difficult. Zombie-like gills have no virtue as they slowly approach your offering.....stop, and stare at it for three minutes from a centimeter away.....sniff it awhile....hold it in their mouths for a second or two.....spit it out, swim away, and never be detected.

During ice cover, water temps near bottom generally hover at 39 degrees....very similar to a lakes surface temp just prior to ice-up.......Super sensitive ice rods, 1 lb lines, microscopic jigs, insanely sensitive spring bobbers, electronics to detect fish, and the ability to see how they react to your presentation with said electronics, all the while fishing on a motionless solid platform.......This makes a huge difference when the Zombies move in, and may explain the reason why the southern winter season is difficult when compared to ice fishing.

Difficult, but not impossible.....finding the gills is obviously key, but conditions play a huge part in cold water scenarios (40-50 deg surface temps).....light wind at best....cloudy conditions(if lake is clear). Many wintering areas still have a few green weeds....you can be sure the gills will use these areas...some are devoid of weeds, and fish may roam shallow basins.....The variables are vast, but once you locate fish on your particular body of water, I suggest you try my cold water presentation.

I use a 12 ft B&M Crappie pole that I customized for casting(larger guides).....this rod allows me to fix a bobber on the line as deep at 10-12ft....rigged with 4lb test mono, and a small ice jig. Any long rod will do providing its long enough to fix a bobber to desired depth and still cast. Using a shorter rod in this scenario would force you to use a weighted slip-bobber which might be sensitive, but simply not sensitive enough. The fixed bobber is a standard pencil like float...the only line weight is that of the jig.....no swivel.....no shot. After the cast, the float dithers aimlessly on the ripple as the jig slowly settles to the target depth.....once there, the base of the bobber becomes partially anchored by the weight of the jig, but remains laying flat.

When the Zombie gills move in and simply mouth the bait, the bobber will slightly stand.....the 12 ft rod allows for quick hook sets....the fixed bobber never has to slip and remains extremely sensitive.

Wind and wave action can kill any attempt at subtle presentations.....True dead sticking is not an option during open water. In essence, it's ice fishing during open water, where bite detection teeters on a fine line, and it's difficult.

I was curious if anyone remembers a year without ice fishing......

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