For gill enthusiasts we watch the tv shows and bass center on the weekends and our species sometimes pops up. I would love to have a reality show on bluegill fishermen like Deadliest Catch. I do know of one such show in the works called IceMen detailing the life of ice fishing teams in the upper midwest.
Still, I think we can do better for the toughest fish pound-for-pound in any freshwater pond.
Europeans by my home town had a fishing league going for a few years, on our ponds around Chicago. When I joined it numbered over 50 anglers meeting to fish and compete. Many of the competitions were won based on their bluegill weights. I remember fishing in my first US Open and beating several pros in my section of the lake who came in from England. They went for carp, I caught a mess of bluegill. They couldn't master the aggressive bite of the bluegill so easily. Also, I was using a cane pole so I was fishing much faster than they were with their long rods.
The league changed and migrated to a carp league. I think this was it's death as that 50 angler league quickly diminished to a 3 person competition last year. The death of the league was due to both infighting and changing venues to carp-heavy venues which lacked bluegills.
I think it is high time to recognize the awesome spectacle that is the bluegill competition. If you have never seen one, it is really great to watch this speed fishing session for bluegills. Image 25 - 50 anglers, each 20 feet apart on numbered spots. Each person draws a number and then walks out to that numbered spot. Ideal ponds or lakes offer a constant depth and similar features on shore. A depth of 3 - 4 foot only 10 feet out is best so that there are fish all along, close in for the competitors.
When I say competitors, I mean any average Joe who wants a taste of a weekend fishing match.
Anglers have a setup time period say :30 minutes after reaching their spots. Allow time for everyone to walk on bigger ponds or with bigger crowds you might need an hour. After the setup time, when everything is quiet, a whistle sounds. Lines are then wet and the fishing begins. Fishing is furious when it is good. Some of the best competitions occur when the bite is slow or after a cold front. We call these grinders. Winning a grinder means really working at every single bite.
Timed sessions are best run for a 4-hour period. At the end of that period, sometimes when you are dripping wet from bluegill action, the horn or whistle sounds. This ends fishing and all lines come out of the water.
Fish are kept in very long, framed mesh bags. These keep nets offer a 10 - 12 foot framed live well in the water. These offer shade and a recovery space for all fish caught. Officials start at the far end as anglers clean up. A scale is used and each bag is taken out of the water next to the numbered space. Fish are quickly weighed all at once and then returned directly to the water and area where they were caught.
The weight is entered, people look at the catches, try to guess who was catching the most. Some spots are just better than others like points, or near certain parts of the pond. Great anglers catch fish on the not-so-good spots and on not-so-great days when fishing is tough. New anglers might luck into a great spot. Some contests are decided by just one extra bluegill. Once all are weighed in, a winner has been decided. All gather for a reading of the official results and the awards are handed out. Great clubs offer many awards, not just to the top 3 but to the bottom, to the jr. anglers, biggest fish, least fish, skunk award etc. so that all share and all have fun.
Our old club died out because only the top 3 people won anything. When we fish one public pond, individual weights of 14 lb. of fish were average for 4 hours of fishing. Great weights were in the 30 and even 45 lb. of bluegills in 4 hours! Our fish are smaller here near the city so that is a bunch of fish. My best bag of fish numbered 512 fish but only weighed a measly 23 lb. These were the tiniest fish I have caught on average but as stated, I was soaking wet when I finished and it was a blast!
Because we fed grubs and ground bait (flavored crumbs) to attract the fish, the average size fish on the lakes where we compete is much larger than other ponds in the area. If you get a league going on your local pond, you will notice the gills increasing in size. Pay pond owners who want to juice up the size of their gills should offer spikes (maggots) for sale by the 1,000. Get a league going and your league anglers will boost the size of your fish!
There are so many great ponds where you could run these and so many could enjoy it. If you are interested in starting a league, I would be happy to discuss it with you to get it rolling. Work with your local bait store to get them going and have a ton of fun. Some of the gear can be a little harder to locate but I can help you find it.
Start one up and maybe you can get a big league going and we can convince ESPN to have a GillCenter on Saturday morning. Seriously - reality tv needs some monster gills. Well, we are going to get a league going near Chicago- let me know how you do. Oh, lastly, a league can start with just 2 or 3 people! Ask your bait store and get going.