I love to bass fish in open water and have caught my share of nice Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass. But for some reason, pulling a 10" plus Bluegill through the ice is a bigger thrill for me. I can't explain it, but there is something magical about jigging up big Bluegill through the ice. Only 3 1/2 months or so until safe ice here in CT.
There are very nice smallmouth in Candlewood, I saw a 22.03 lb. limit of 5 Smallmouth brought in last year in an early seaon tournament. I have no idea on the Bluegill though, as my ice fishing for Bluegill is all in eastern CT.
I love both! I go ice fishing because I dont want to wait for Spring! Caught lot of nice size bluegills, crappie, jumbo perch and bonus bass on ice! I fished two nice lakes near my house that is not allow boat so only way to go anywhere on the lake is ice fishing! During ice fishing is fun to watch big bluegill think about to take my bait or not on my FISHTV!
Cook county tried the 8" min. because of a new theory of not taking out only the small ones would increase the size & since it worked on the trial lakes or seemed to they put the limit on more lakes. the problem that i saw when the word got out about bigger gills people filled their buckets.
Out here in sunny, warm southern California, (sorry guys) we don't ice fish, but I'll tell you this, when I caught my giant 12 inch Bluegill a few years ago from a San Diego Lake, the feeling of excitement I got was way better than when I caught my largest bass, which was about a 7 pounder. There's just something so special about hooking into and landing a really big beautiful Bluegill!
The same reason as me catching a big bluegill on a light flyrod or UL spinner - it's a direct tactile connection involving tremendous life energy coming from small package which one has to admire and from which one gets tremendous pleasure and appreciation of nature which God has given us. I too have caught some big bass but that pleasure pales in comparison in my opinion.