Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

The first fish I ever caught was a sunfish, a smallish big-mouthed creature my dad said was a 'bream' and that I later learned was a green sunfish. I would venture to say the first fish many, many kids catch is a sunfish...and bluegill are the kings of panfish.
As a professional fisheries biologist with 30 years in the pond management business, helping people design, build, stock and manage private fishing lakes and ponds all over the nation, bluegill are head and shoulders above all fish as my personal favorite.
Sure, largemouth bass are "king" of the waterways in the south, but without bluegill, what is a bass but another undergrown, undernourished overcrowded big mouth fighting with its brethren for every living morsel willing to venture outside the semi-safe confines of a nest? And, I love the challenge of growing giant bass. It's a big part of my career.
Ah, but bluegill are the essence, the backbone of the foodchain for giant largemouth bass. That makes the irridescent, shimmering dinner plate-shaped fish a creature with a purpose. They spawn a lot...and often. That's a key component when bluegill wear the hat of keeper of the food chain.
Ah, but there's more.
Not only do bluegill serve a gargantuan purpose as a bass smorgasbord, they are a terrific game fish in their own right. Then, throw in a third important factoid...not only do bluegill have good taste in a fishery, they taste pretty darn good filleted, dipped in corn meal and fried at 350 degrees. A virtual triple threat.
Speaking of hats, my second one is editor of the worlds leading pond management magazine, Pond Boss. . And, yes, for those enterprising pondmeisters wanting to tag up with facts and experiences about bluegill, our writers pay special attention to these fabulous fish.
From a personal standpoint, I have raised and observed bluegill in almost every environment possible, from tiny little frog ponds to the biggest private lakes in the country. My love for bluegill grows every season.
Why, you might ask?
I won't even mention how aggressive a wad of bluegill under my dock are when my four year old grandson tantalizes them with a pinch of nightcrawler on a small, long-shanked hook. He catches fish and giggles until his short attention span tries to drag him back to The Backyardigans.
Bluegill have lots of babies. Some will become fish food, some have a larger destiny. The fact we can produce four or five generations of bluegill in a single year allows people with a "fast food" philosophy the opportunity to genetically select fast growing fish. Then, toss in the fact that bluegill only must be 2.5 inches long to have babies and we have the potential to select the best fish, fast. Then, do like Bruce Condello does and hand pick your best "children" and give them the finest gourmet food you can possible design, add clean, healthy water in the best environment, stir and wait. Presto-Chango, you have the best bluegill on the planet...maybe.
It's that teeny-tiny little "maybe" that keeps guys like me going, moving, dancing and trying to figure out what little genetic tweak we might add, what key habitat point or nutritional component we might find that could make the difference to grow a truly giant 'gill.
See those photos here and read about it in Pond Boss.
In the meantime, I truly wish a sincere "go get 'em" attitude about all of us bringing long deserved attention to my favorite fish.
Oh, and yes, I'll keep trying to grow many, many bigger fish and compare notes with all of you....Fish on!

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Comment by dick tabbert on March 9, 2012 at 8:59pm

Yes indeed a fish in hand and a huge smile does say it all. We have no idea what's going through this youngsters mind but the realization in the smile we know it was a moment in time that will flash back in his memory time after time. Thanks for sharing the picture I love it when kids are introduced into fishing and them smiles are really automatic, the fun and memories they achieved to get to that point.

Comment by Greg McWilliams on March 9, 2012 at 8:07pm

Bob, This is interesting, so it would be better to stock a pond with larger bluegill than little ones!!!! For genetic purposes anyway!!!!! I did not know at 2.5" bluegill could reproduce!!!! I now have access to a pond that was rebuilt a year ago that has nothing in it, some small trees, moss and few frogs, lots of insects... It is about 2 acres. How should I proceed???

Comment by Ray Danders on February 4, 2009 at 10:36am
Excellent thread. Kids, fun, great eating, sport fish and good science. The picture below is my grandson and the smile on his face says it all.

Comment by GLENN MARTIN MILLER on February 4, 2009 at 10:23am
Interesting read. Is a "frankenfish", a genetically engineered or genetically selected bluegill on the scientific horizon such as the Florida strain of bass or the Seaforellen trout?

Just out of curiosity, is there a standard ratio of bass to bluegills in stocking? Is a closed bedding season a solution for management?
Comment by Bob Lusk on January 15, 2009 at 8:19pm
....and then we see the Pond Boss resident researcher/librarian/knower of things large and small, Eric West cover our backs with rock solid science that only he knows how to find and share with the rest of us in the fisheries planet. Speaking of Superstars....
Comment by Bob Lusk on January 15, 2009 at 12:25pm
Bruce,
I have a bachelor's degree, December 1979, from Texas A&M in Fisheries. Hung out my shingle right out of school and began raising mostly catfish on a fish farm west of Wichita Falls, Texas. That was the same year the state of Texas stopped giving away free fish for recreational stocking and for farm ponds. Guys like me had to pick up the slack. As far as I know, there were maybe five or six pond management pros in the nation in the very early 80's and we plied our trade in local markets. By 1983, I knew I wanted to make a living helping people build, stock and manage private fishing lakes. I have been blessed, believe me...I get to help some big names with some cool properties. Now, I fly all over the nation doing what I do. Now, I'm in year number 30 as a private fisheries biologist/consultant, living my dream, working (playing) at my passion. It's an absolute ball. Then, I get to write about it in Pond Boss and do some television stints. But, the most fun is meeting guys like Bruce Condello and Nate Hermann, guys who have a deep passion to be the best stewards of their fish and water as possible.
Thanks for letting me play here.
Comment by EWest on January 14, 2009 at 8:01pm
There are substantial scientific studies that verify the soundness of not harvesting the largest male and female bluegill from a system. Bob stated them in his post. If you are interested in learning about bluegill a good source in addition to Big Bluegill and the Pond Boss forum are a series of studies by Neff in Canada. Here are some links.


http://publish.uwo.ca/%7Ebneff/papers/nestling_recognition.pdf

http://publish.uwo.ca/%7Ebneff/papers/genetic_paternity_analysis.pdf

http://publish.uwo.ca/%7Ebneff/papers/dna_fingerprinting.pdf

http://publish.uwo.ca/%7Ebneff/papers/microsatellite_evolution_in_sunfish.pdf

http://publish.uwo.ca/%7Ebneff/papers/nestling_recognition.pdf

http://publish.uwo.ca/%7Ebneff/papers/Solitary_nesting_in_bluegill.pdf
Comment by Nate Herman on January 14, 2009 at 6:23pm
Ice fishing season is when we harvest lots of 'gills. We have ponds specifically set up for ice fishing bluegill and we keep them overcrowded with 14" largemouth, just like Bob mentioned earlier. I actually learned that and a couple other tricks from Pond Boss Magazine several years ago and now have some really fun ice fishing holes!
In ponds that we manage for balanced overall fisheries, we spend countless hours harvesting small gills and bass to keep them from "stunting", but in my ice fishing ponds, we dont ever have to remove small bluegills or bass, just the occasional bass that makes it past 14 inches in length. (bigger bass eat bigger bluegill, and we want to eat the bigger bluegill!) 6.5-8.5 inches is the average size bluegill to catch, with 9-10 inchers not uncommon every trip. We keep the bluegill fed from May to September with Aquamax 400 and 600.
Comment by Rainman on January 14, 2009 at 4:18pm
Glad to get expert observations from the Pond BOSS himself! I can't wait to get myself some of the famous condello strain 'gills. Like you Bob, my first fish I can recall catching was a greenie and I can still remember the incredible colors. It gave me a true respect for the beauty of all wildlife. I don't post nearly as much on the Big Bluegill forum as I do the Pond Boss forum because, even though a gill is a common fish, there is Soooo much more I need to learn about them before I can do much more than reply to great posts---Like this one!

Thanks Bob and Bruce!
Comment by Bruce Condello on January 14, 2009 at 2:43pm
Great conversation here. Really good stuff.

I'm really impressed with the fact that most of the banter here is based on good science and direct observation, as opposed to conventional wisdom or old wive's tales. Bob, what kind of education and experience have you accumulated when it comes to pond and small lake management?

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