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Blue Gills Sipping Food Videos- Learn How Fish Feed

Float Fishing Tactics & Rigs

the Floating Blog - information for fishing live bait using sensitive float fishing gear.

In this Floating blog entry, I’ll offer up some examples of video which shows fish feeding and also fish not feeding. If you understand the mechanics of the bluegill feeding, you can then appreciate how deadly float fishing is.

Fish Not Interested

In the first example, there is a gentleman using a video camera under the ice. The good news is, he has a massive school of crappies swimming by his video setup. The bad news, he spends nearly 4 minutes with a dead bait and doesn’t alter his presentation.

This video seems to be the dead of winter judging from the crappie bellies. Metabolism slow, the presentation should be small. Also note in this video example, these fish might as well be floating in a space station. It looks like they are in air because the water is SO clear. In that clear water, a poor presentation, thick line or too large an ice jig might be your undoing.

While I believe the purpose of the video might be to sell this artificial lure, tipping it with some actively moving bait might score one of the 30 fish that swim by it.

If I were fishing this situation, I would have my bait on a tiny hook of size 14, size 16 or even an 18 hook. I would have the split shot way up off the bait so it drops slowly in the water column.

A dropping bait attracts attention. With more than one fish in the screen, odds are, several would head to the falling object. Competition alone might trigger a bite as two or three crappies all move towards the falling object. His bait is just sitting there most of this video.

Try a float and try having that bait fall as slowly as you can by using the tiniest, finesse hook possible. I would rather hook a few and lose some rather than hook none at all.

The Pendulum of Feeding - Fish Don't Bite

The second video shows a fresh water shrimp in front of a gill’s lips. This video is amazing. When you watch it you can see the water particles getting sucked into the bluegill’s lips. He has flared the lower portion of his gills and is sipping the water column to draw the shrimp in. Fish with gills use their gills to pull water into their mouth and the food follows. Notice that the fish does NOT swim up and grab the bait with its lips. This also shows you that fish don’t bite. The particles of water, along with the bait are drawn into the fish. Now, the whole setup for finesse float fishing leverages this concept. Pun intended.

If your line is thick, if your hook is too heavy or your shot is too close to the hook (or too larger) your rig fights the feeding action. You create a non-moving object. Non-moving objects in nature for a fish, usually represent something they don’t eat. If that non-moving object is your big hook on thick line, a couple of attempts to eat it fail and the fish may just swim on by.

Gills Watch What They Eat

Fish spend a lot of time eyeing things to eat. They also spend a lot of time sipping objects in to see if they are food. If it doesn’t feel like food (such as if it has a thick hook) or taste like food, they eject it very fast with a reverse flow. In warm weather they can do this faster than you can see. Bait goes in, fish feels hook or hook prevents clean take, bait goes out- ejection. Up top, this might mean you set the hook and miss.

Remember this concept with the shrimp because you can see it is attached with a line.

Swing Swing Swing

The line creates a pendulum and some resistance. This allows the shrimp to swim away from the “jet stream” into the fish’s mouth. That is, until the gill moves up tight and then generates an aggressive feeding sip. This sip was not just using the base of the gills, but involved flaring the gills out and taking more water in faster. In Spring, cold water, after rains, the angler will NOT be fortunate enough to get this aggressive sip.

That said, you want to make sure you have very flexible, thin line. 10 lb. line doesn’t flex like 1.5 lb. line does. Create a soft, pendulum and you create an improved fish-catching rig.

My hunch is that this science group measuring the feeding on video has attached the thin line with adhesive. You will need to use a hook which will add weight. Weight slows the pendulum. Again, go small, light and finesse and create more opportunities and more takes. (Not bites, right?).

There is also no split shot in this picture. The further up the line you run your split shot, then the better the pendulum action will be. Shot closer to the hook, slows the swinging action. Use this to your advantage if the fishing is tough - get those shot way up the line.

Super-slow-mow drop will be the result of moving that shot way up the line.

If the fishing is crazed, you need to move that shot down closer to the hook. This gets your bait down to the strike zone faster and as above, creates resistance which will help prevent hook swallows.

Use the Force

The final video “the Bluegill Feeding Sip” is my favorite. Our scientist friends have rigged a tasty freshwater shrimp to a fixed post to measure the pulling force of the bluegill’s sip.

This video shows the difference between a neutral, medium and aggressive sip. One could say cold water, medium and summer action can be seen on this graph. When you watch, the gills are nearly off screen. When the gill first attempts to sip the shrimp in, you see the gills flare and a regular attempt to suck that shrimp in. Lips open, gills open and water shoots in. Because the shrimp is connected to a wire, it just tugs on the measurement device and the blue graph charts the force of the tug. The first effort would have pulled a small grub in that this fish would happen upon in regular conditions.

The fish is demonstrating the regular force needed to eat a natural bait.

If this were your hook bait and it didn’t swing in easily, the neutral to inactive fish, might move on.

Since this fish seems active, it ups the stakes by flaring out its gills a little further to add some pull. It wants that shrimp. Look at its eyes picking up on subtle leg movements of that live bait. The gill eyes are checking that out. Since it is live, moving, that gills wants food. If your bait wasn’t moving to induce a second strike, this site-feeder would also move on.

The final strike illustrates an aggressive fish, using a mighty force to take a bait. This wide mouth position and massive gill flex represents your summer bite or warm water conditions with an active fish.

Floats React to Subtle Movement

As a float fisherman who believes in live bait, this video shows how a float setup can be deadly. The distance that insect would travel looks to be the length of the bait itself and add just a little bit. With a sensitive float rig, you can see this distance reflected above the water. You can see the strike while it happens and put a hook in the fish. Most importantly you can set the hook prior to the fish ejecting the crunch, inedible metal hook. A bigger hook will equal more ejections.The smaller hooks will mean that you have an extra fraction of a second in which the fish is mashing your bait to eat while your hook is in their mouth. Most all of my new float line will be accurate enough for you to see bites as they happen.

Bobbers Bob

Bobbers, can’t react up top like a properly rigged float to that sipping motion. While a float will move some of the distance that sip traveled up top, a bobber won’t move until the fish swims away. Also note in this example and others you see, this fish swims up to the bait and stops. Many times they do this. If they are stopped, this presents a problem for the Rocket Bobber, the Bobber with a Brain and all other bobbers.

If the fish coasts up to a bait and sips it in, a decent float will sink down. Even though the fish is standing still, your float will move! You get a first alert that your bait has been inhaled. You can react and you can catch this fish. The bobber counterparts will suffer fish ejections, fish refusing to take the bait in and fishing that is not-so-hot.

Do NOT be sad or upset regarding any of the products if you own them and use them. DO think about the improved capability some floats can offer your fishing in cold conditions where the fish are sipping light.

Feeding Naturally

One last look at this video I found: and you can really see a bait traveling and how our friends the gills feed. In this final video pay real attention to how the bait moves. The fish goes forward and then kicks in its fins to come dead stopped in the water column. See the distance that bait travels and how this bait (which has no line) easily zips into the fish’s mouth. This is natural feeding. I can’t stress enough how the fish are used to sipping lightly and getting their food efficiently.

Little effort is put into eating. Watch how fast it disappears. While I don’t have the video yet, I will. I will show you how fast a fish can eject a bait because it is equally as fast. In, out. Faster than you can react.

You're Fast- They are Faster

I know some of you have lightning-fast triggers. Readers of this blog are really skilled. I’m not knocking you, but the fish are used to rapid-fire sipping and ejecting to sort through their food, catch, inure and eat their food.

Now that you have seen what few anglers have seen in one sitting, do you have some ideas for fishing this Spring? I do. I have some killer rigs coming for you and some tackle that is off-the-hook. It’s actually for on-the-hook but you get the idea.

Thanks for reading & get fish’n!


Chicago Fishing School

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Comment by Johnny wilkins on February 21, 2010 at 9:22pm
I am pretty sure their vision is their superpower and the fly must not appear man-made or different from food. I would also recommend your hooks are a small as they can be and that the line allows the fish to "take" that fly. If the resistance in a fly setup is too much, I think this results in missed takes - fish swimming away.
I like what your grandpa told you because the cement will hold water, bubbles and create a distraction. These fish look at what they are going to eat and the more it looks like food, the faster the switch is triggered to take it- fire the gills and sip it in.
Anything in the way will slow and reduce that trigger from occurring. You have heard of "match the hatch" in trout fishing. If you get it right, your fly looks the same size as other food they hit, your fly won't stay in the water. It will get hit every time down the stream nearly. Same goes for bluegill fishing. Eliminate odd-looking lure drag, present at the right speed, drop or depth, present something that appears like their local food and they will sip it hard, and right away. If your hook is big, knot is not neat or there is glue all over, they will either back off it or they just won't sip it hard.
I will give you this tip- most of my gills are caught with the bait falling in the water. They love the food from the sky that drops slowly (s-l-o---w---l------y).
If you can tie some slow-dropping tiny nymphs you will be the fishing champion. Figure out how to weight it to just under neutral buoyancy. Add some sponge or foam, wrap that down on the tiniest wire hook and test them in a tank at home. If they barely sink - I mean you can barely tell they are falling, that should be magic.
If you get it close, you can always place the tiniest splitshot way up the line ahead of your nymph to create that drop.
Because I fish flies nearly every time out - well, fly larvae, I know they like that size. If the imitation fly doesn't turn them on, hook on a live larvae and that should work.
Now you have an idea of what is happening under water.
Thank you for reading through and dropping a comment.
Comment by Johnny wilkins on February 10, 2010 at 8:50am
I am still learning. I was taught by someone as well. I am positive that many of you have things to teach as well. I learn every time out and I have bad days on the water. I am sorry in advance if this is a lot of information. I DON'T want to be the know-it-all. I hope this is helpful to you. I got some great feedback on an earlier blog- keep the feedback coming.
I hope to write articles, illustrations clearly so you can experience the excitement of fishing that I have since switching to float fishing 10 years ago. I can't do it alone - I need some readers and feedback. Thank you for the support John.
I will shoot an ice fishing video if things go well and post it up here. While I am not as good at ice fishing, I was taught by World Champion Ice angler Mick Thill one of the greatest fish-catching people on the planet Earth.
I am passing on what I learned.
Comment by John Sheehan on February 10, 2010 at 8:27am
Thanks John .You're great!

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