Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

I never thought about this until I read a recent post. What size pan fish do you harvest? I believe most of the gills I keep are 7" and the crappies have to be at least 9" in PA.

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Seem to taste better through the ice , firm ,clean tasting . Plus the invigorating conditions of ice fishing makes ya hungry!

Seems like they always taste better through the ice all species..

Question ? What size bluegill  do I harvest  ?       Answer .      All of them ! First let me say that our Daily Limit in my State is  50 and anything under 4 inches does not count toward the limit.   Bluegill has been the focus of my fishing for the last 56 years. I mainly fish  lakes , oxbows, swamps, and rivers in the South.  Now to my Harvest Strategy,  I keep 2 ice chest in my boat  and  the reason why is that  anything under 4" goes in one box that 1. is used for catfish bait  , 2. my cats like fish too, and 3. this helps reduce the numbers of fish to help the carrying capacity of the BOW  and it's my effort to help reduce the chance of fish stunting in a BOW.   My second cooler is used to keep the fish above 4 "  I look at harvest like a statistical survey , a bell shaped curve , with the size of the fish falling somewhere along that curve until the legal limit is reached  , there is no culling or grading of the fish , with this info you can judge how well the BOW is producing   and what the average fish size is , you could also take a random sample out of the cooler to get a better average of legal sized fish , " The Central Limits Theory " ,  notice that I did not catch and release  anything, in the heat down here that we have right now any fish played to exhaustion  has a 40% chance of not recovering and will die from the experience , that would be counter productive in maintaining a healthy population of bluegill. This method of keeping all the fish protects  the uncaught fish from being caught and facing the Catch and Release Mortality .   My creel  will hold  5,6,7,8,9,10 .11, and 12  inch or bigger fish,  we have to remember that bluegill are a renewable resource .  There is a lot more to growing big bluegill than just throwing back the big ones, a lot of different influences are at play here , that's why I tell you  a big Free Range Trophy Bluegill is a better Trophy than one that has been raised in a pond and feed like hogs , this is  Aquaculture ! You can tell yourself these are just as good but you know they are not. Wild Fish got big without all the pampering,  Aquaculture fish are raised, and there is nothing wrong with that if you like to eat bluegill but it just does not have the Trophy Value of a Wild Fish that was raised by Mother Nature !

   Now with all that said , after a good fishing trip and the electric  fillet knife has stopped humming  I divide the fillets into enough for a good fish fry and the rest go into the freezer till winter and those cold nights and we say " Lets  have some bluegill for dinner "  LOFR

LOFR can you tell me where you got the statistic for 40% mortality rate for catch and release…personally I have just recently caught thousands of panfish and believe I have only witnessed mortal wounds on just a couple fish that have died in my livewell. Over 300 panfish crossed my gunwales the past 2 days I believe not one has died from the experience. The most traumatic experience a fish goes thru is the act of spawning… so, so  much damage to scales lips and fins… they live thru it!...fish heal fast!... pinching the barbs off the hook like i do greatly minimizes tissue damage and time out of the water.

The other thing why so hard on the CPR fisherman?... statistically don’t they provide you more opportunity for your table and freezer?

I personally believe trophies are appreciated differently with each angler and their opinions… a trophy in my mind is that master angler… to some fisherman harvesting for the table as a reward views his trophy as a gill that will fillet well enough on its own to fill a plate. Whatever makes them happy!

For me I see a steep decline in b.gill quality and quantity…since I picked up a rod. I would love to see my state laws change to benefit Michigan fishermen as a whole as well as improve the fisheries. With correct regulations and limits fish quality would be up as well as size you would fill the total meat weight for a meal in less than ½ or 1/3 the amount of fish… more trophies for those who seek… who wouldn’t be happy with that scenario?

 Slip , let me say that a few years ago I  was reading some university studies on catch and release , they were the ones that said that playing a fish to exhaustion would give a mortality rate that was  25%  and would increase to 40 % in extreme hot conditions and that the effect of the  experience could cause their death up to seven days later.   Imagine running a 100 yd dash and at the end someone puts a plastic bag over you head , that analogy would be the  same as taking a fish out of the water after a good fight . I have also visited with several of  my States  G+F   fisheries biologist  and they confirm these finding for my State down here in the South . Hey  , I'm not telling you how to fish or what to do , I  wish you would be aware that there is  a down side to Catch and Release .Evidently Tony didn't read my complete reply to my answer of  "What size of fish do you Harvest", My reply was up to the Legal Limit , after that I leave the Bluegill population alone and don't even chance fish mortality from Catch and Release just for  "Sport" . There are a lot more to a big healthy bluegill Population than just catch and release  for example , the Bass to Bluegill Ratio, and when this  is out of balance which apex predator is going to eat the bluegill young of the year which I feel is the major cause of stunting  Do what you feel  you need to do to improve your population , I behind you all the way , and I'll do what I think is best for managing a renewable harvest strategy in my waters . LOFR

LOFR does have a point. I've seen reports that place morality rates for CR fishing at between 5-40 % depending on multiple factors such as

Circle vs J hooks

Fly vs Bait fishing 

Natural vs Artificial Baits

Quick catch vs Playing the fish

The downside with simple CR is that it does not account for cryptic mortality. Cryptic mortality  is something the angler does not see in real time  since death can be hours or days after the catch  because of stress or physical damage inflicted during hooking, retrieval or release. Unintended action is that many more fish may be killed if CR is not done responsibility. By way of example, in New Jersey we are allowed a daily limit of 25 bluegill and I can catch and kill 25 and be done. In a CR seriro, I can catch and release say 100 fish and depending on technique and tackle kill between 5 and 40. Death is not in real time but the net effect to the BOW is the same 

Don't see any easy answers but we all do make a personal choice

ive read stats like that too joe... most of the text i found was related to bass tourneys and the catch and release mortality of the bass involved. some tourneys have switched to on the water immediate release after weighing by an on board official. 

hate the tourneys that pros will slam dance a LMB on the deck of the boat .... because this is what the audience wanted to see!? i quit watching and supporting...

Quote from LOFR:

"This method of keeping all the fish protects  the uncaught fish from being caught and facing the Catch and Release Mortality"

Were you able to write this without laughing aloud, LOFR?? I read it with a straight face the first time, but broke down after that!!

As a rule if I catch it the fish has fulfilled my need and put back to fight another day. Couldn't tell you the last time I kept a fish and If I did it would be 6 to 8 fish in the medium fish class for 2 meals for the wife and I. Now perch is another story If I ketch one and its big enough I'll throw it in the live well and take them home. If I feel like cleaning them OK but 99 percent of the time they are release into my pond along with sunfishes. Thats just me I just as soon catch them as eat them not saying I don't eat them just not often. 

Most of  my bluegills are released to fight another day. When we are in the mood for a fish dinner, I prefer to keep 8-9" fish, preferably females but will keep some males if the action is slow, and no more than a dozen. Strangely, I've noticed they stop growing once fileted. Swimming and growing in the water is my freezer, as I prefer to catch fresh fish all year long. if you haven't tasted fresh  BG filets pulled through the ice, you're missing out!

CATCH AND RELEASE IN THE GREASE,LOVE IT  

Catch and release in the grease, I love it. Like I said, I harvest a meal or two or three for the year.

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