Bluegill - Big Bluegill

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New year and trying to step up my game a little in the fishing department. I have been fishing for about 50 years and caught all sorts of fish, but panfish have always been one of my favorite. I think a lot of it is that I enjoy actively catching fish more than I do stalking elusive ones. Bream have a reputation of being easy to catch and that is often the case, but not always. It certainly isn't true with the larger trophy sized panfish.

I am setting a goal of getting a NC "Master Angler" patch this year. In order to do that, I have to catch six fish that are large enough to ear certificates from the NC WRC:

N.C. Angler Recognition Program

It actually isn't clear whether it has to be six different species (I don't think it does) but I am going to try to earn it that way. There are about a dozen fish I consider panfish on the list (if you include white perch, white bass and yellow perch).

So, how am I going to do it?

There is a discussion on this site:

Twenty words or less for folks wanting more successful bluegill fis...

to which I replied "There are no fish in the tackle box. Don't over complicate. Don't over simplify. Small marabou jigs nearly always work."

The first statement is a quote from a great uncle. It's what he would say when I was rummaging around in the tackle box. Most of the time on the water should be spent fishing not digging through the tackle box. it doesn't mean I shouldn't ever change what I am doing. I should have some thought out options if what I am doing isn't working.

Don't over complicate. This is about not having too many things that I want to try on a single trip or trying to do things that are just too intricate to easily do with success on the water. Taking it further it's about trying to track too many variables to figure out what's working and what's not. It could make fishing too much like work!

Don't over simplify. This is about not leaning too heavily on one technique, bait and/or location. It's about making sure I do have options. It's also about paying attention to conditions and tracking at least some meaningful correlations for future reference. Just because it is working great now doesn't mean I should always try it first and just because it isn't working doesn't mean I should banish it from my box.

So what's the sweet spot? That's the tough question. I want to be broad of vision but narrow of purpose. Have some options but don't overwhelm myself. Is there a magic number? Probably not, but I am deciding that there is a number I am going to work with; four.

Why four? Because 2 + 2 = 4. I am going to have no more than two primary options and two fallbacks that I pretty much always carry. Sometimes my fallbacks may be primary options and I may go with less than four. But I am going to try very hard to stick to a four option limit per outing/day.

On to my last point. Small marabou jigs nearly always work. So that's one of my fallbacks and will often be one of my primaries. In fact, I really have three fallbacks - plastics, small lipless cranks and hair jigs. Almost invariably, at least one of those will be a primary. 

What - no spinners? Not unless I pick it as a primary. I have picked out tackle for my outing in a couple of days and there are no spinners packed except for a beetle spin that is part of the plastic fallback.

No bait? Again, not unless I pick it as a primary though I do have some small pieces of Gulp worm for tipping jigs.

More posts coming; setting my groundwork. This one is philosophy. I will do one each on a few common places I fish to refer to them in later posts about actually fishing. I will do one on what I will commonly fish from and with also.

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Comment by Andy is OptiMystic on January 28, 2015 at 10:37am

I have decided to change one requirement I was going to put on myself - I was planning to limit my citation quest to public water. I changed my mind because I keep having opportunities come my way that are private water, but not trophy stock ponds. If the trend continues, I may do half my in state fishing on private water.

Comment by Andy is OptiMystic on January 18, 2015 at 3:55am

I was bass fishing with another guy at that lake who was following a road bed across the lake. We were throwing C Rigs with large plastic worms and had caught a couple but it was slow. About 2/3 of the way across, a few boats were scattered fishing for crappie and hauling them in. I switched to fishing a little 2" grub (much to the disdain of the "purist" bass fisherman I was with) and hauled in a couple. Then what I thought was going to be a third one double over my rod and I brought in the biggest bass we got that day, about 4.5#

I may be paddling to that very spot in a few hours.

Comment by Jim Gronaw on January 17, 2015 at 9:31pm

We have several local reservoirs that have an over abundance of white perch and I will tell you that a 12-13 inch fish in these lakes are almost a 'lifetime' catch. Most of the perch are 7-9 inches, but a few lakes have decent 10-11 inch fish for the pan. They are among my favorite fish to eat.

You may well find that you'll catch an award-sized fish while targeting another specie. I'll be a third of my best fish are 'non-target' by-catch species that happen to happen by. Go get 'em!

Comment by Andy is OptiMystic on January 16, 2015 at 6:28pm

Jim G - My "home lake" is a pretty good bass lake. 3 months ago at a local tourney, a 5 fish limit weighed in at 24.25#. They came in second, trailing by almost 10#. 34.10 won it. There is good crappie fishing there; big numbers in the 10" range with some bigger. I know a couple of people that have sorted through hundred of white perch to get a certificate size one; they have over populated and a lot are stunted (so much that netting them is allowed) but some are still getting big. I am not really as sure about big bream. There are lots of bream there, but I don't see many reports of large ones. But I never see anyone targeting them deep.

Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 16, 2015 at 6:14pm

Andy I got mine with different species.......I'm not sure if they can be in the same species or not........being a panfish guy first I wanted to catch them all but still need a couple so I stay hungry........Most of mine met the length and weight requirement.........but it's fun and I have a personal goal of getting my guests a citation fish......been able to do that for more than a 20 friends and family........it adds fun to my addiction........

Comment by DAVID L EITUTIS on January 16, 2015 at 6:11pm

Andy when ya get the advise from the likes of Jim G. or Jeffrey, TAKE IT AND DON'T WORRY, it will be the best free advise you'll ever get.......

Comment by Andy is OptiMystic on January 16, 2015 at 6:07pm

Jeffrey - Do you know the answer to my question about the patch? Does it need to be 6 species or could a couple of the certificates be the same species but different fish? I really want to get all different species. They only have one for crappie, but if I were to get both a black and a white I would send in both.

Comment by Jim Gronaw on January 16, 2015 at 6:06pm

Hey Andy, you might want to add another aspect that could help you achieve your angling goal...location.

Not a specific location in terms of a fallen tree or a drop-off, although these 'specifics' will eventually come into play. But rather the body of water or lake that may, or may not, have those citation-sized fish you are looking for.

Every year I am always on the lookout for water that has big fish, and that is where I concentrate most of my efforts. It is almost always for panfish, with a major in gills, but I'll minor in yellow perch, crappies or even stoop to bass fishing if need be. I believe that more than any other single determining factor that...when in quest of larger, award-sized fish, you HAVE to concentrate efforts on waters that historically produce big, individual fish year after year or at least are currently producing a 'hot bite' for those fish at the present time.

I have about 6 public, local venues that are currently yielding bluegills over 10 inches, a few that are giving up crappies to 16, and several that are capable of coughing up a 15 inch yellow perch. If I go to private water options that number is likely to double, and the big bass options really increase. But even at that, these 'big fish' lakes and ponds are slightly less than a third of the total waters I fish. Big fish just aren't everywhere...we need to hunt them down, even panfish!

Good luck in your efforts for 2015, and I think if you aim for quality fisheries you will surely be successful.

Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 16, 2015 at 5:46pm

NCWRC does a great job with this program......the certificates are awesome.........

Comment by Jeffrey D. Abney on January 16, 2015 at 5:42pm

Go get'em Andy......your in the right state!

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