Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

Biologists are often torn between a public that wants unlimited panfish harvest, and folks who value the larger specimens. Different anglers often have different goals.

Who's right and who's wrong?

Really, nobody is wrong. If anglers can be educated, then they can achieve both objectives--satisfying both the desire to put filets in the freezer, and the dream to catch a trophy fish.

It's becoming more and more common to place daily and possession limits on bluegill, redear sunfish and other popular panfish. In Nebraska, anglers are restricted to thirty fish in any given day, combining crappie, bluegill, redears and other panfish.

It's extremely rare for me to hear a complaint about this regulation.

It used to be that if I was really nailing the bluegill, and there was no daily bag limit, I would continue until the stringer was ready to break from the sheer weight. The time it took to filet these fish was ridiculous, and I ended up regretting my gluttony.

Now, stopping at thirty fish is easy and convenient. Less cleaning time, and more time for a good night's sleep afterward.

I've also found that once I've captured and cleaned that many panfish, that it's still a while before these fish have been completely consumed. Once they've been eaten (and they're usually fresher now), I simply start planning my next trip.

No more freezer burn, and no more guilt.

Now I understand that many of you have no such restrictions, and it is completely legal, ethical and respectable to keep more fish.

But what can you do to preserve the fishery and improve the chances for fish to grow to a large size?

One possibility is to limit the number of large male bluegill that you harvest off of nesting grounds. These bluegill serve a two-fold purpose.

First of all, they have good genetics, and a good start to achieving trophy size, but that's not all.

They actually create a situation where smaller males are unable to occupy prime spawning grounds, so this forces those smaller bluegill to commit more energy to growing, and less to reproduction. End result--big fish get bigger, and smaller fish get bigger. Seemingly a "win-win".

During the spawn, you can fish for females that are just off the nesting ground, usually in slightly deeper water. It is typically more difficult to overharvest females.

You can also fish during other times of year when these dominant males are more spread out, and you will end up diversifying your capture to include more females and more immature males.

Another thing you can do is have a self-imposed harvest slot.

I often fish for bluegill in small private waters and make the conscious decision to only keep bluegill between 7 and 9 inches. This way I get plenty to eat, but also protect some of the larger fish.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating entire catch and release of big bluegill.

You have every right to keep large bluegill for the table, and for the purposes of getting a mounted fish. There are plenty of big bluegill out there and people have been keeping big ones for decades. Bluegill taste great and should be featured on the dinner table often.

But in general, especially in smaller water bodies, there are ways to temper your harvest to allow for plenty more big fish to survive.

Just something to think about.

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That'll never work around here Yer Lordship. Everybody knows the fish is always bigger on the other side. Around here, we just can't imagine a invisible line keepin' us away from 'em. I once got hung up on a barb wahr line out in the middle of a pond. After I went skinny dippin' to localize the problem and got unhung myself in the process, I shore enough found the big ones on the other side of that barb wahr line. I ain't imaginin' any of this fer management or nobody else. And there is a difference in imaginin' and axeyou'lly puttin' up a barb wahr fence underwater. I still ain't laughin' about that. I got wahr cutters now. Ha Ha!

Ok, I never said that would work down South , so here is another option for big bluegill mgmt. After every fish you catch that is over eight inches, you have to take a big slug of your favorite Alabama moonshine, this ought to reduce the harvest numbers and you still have a good time
Everybody knows the moonshine is always better from R Kansas. And are we talkin' upper management or middle management. "Cause one of 'em can almost have a good time and the other can almost stop one in it's tracks.

Wait just a minute Yer Lordship, I just re-re-read what you said. You are serious about this. So let's fish fair. You fish on that side of the line, I'll fish everywhere. You release everthing, I'll keep everything. You suck up to management, I'll suck up your shine! It's a wash. Everything is balanced, everybody is happy.

I went to sleep and woke up with this reverlation Yer Lordship. I may have crossed the line . The Line Of Respect. There is a time and place fer anything. This discussion was meant to be serious. I know that 'cause I already had read every word of it awhile back. I've read a lot of this serious talk about makin' bluegill fishin' better on this site. Deep down, I am aware that no matter how I was raised, all this talk is being worked on in a subcommittee somewhere in the back of my mind. It's tryin' to hash out our differences and find a way fer me to not only live and let live, but to help.

But, like you, (I suspect). I keep come back to my simpler thoughts. The ones about the wunderment, perfectedness and amazing resilientedness of Creation.

So, while the subcommittee is doin' it's thing, I feel a little creation of my own comin' on. I'm gonna' try to get outta' here with this catchy little tune, just fer you.

You draw yer lines
And I'll get a longer pole

You release all yurn
And I'll eat all mine

You draw yer line
And I'll go line blind

We'll go fishin'
On the managed sigh......eyed

Yer Lordship, Fishin' Buddy of Mine.

I'm sorry I may have been misunderstood with my simplicity,but I was just trying to add my 2 cents worth. Fishing is susposed to be fun,and you sound like you would be lots of fun. I wouldn't have any problem catching a mess of big ole bream with you, I'll bring the shine and we'll catch them all.
If you've read all of this post and made it thus far, congratulations! You are probably a conservationist.
First off, Boogieman, what are you smoking? Just kidding dude.

A lot of valid thoughts here. One great point Bruce had (and I agree with all of them) was in the spring, when the males are on the nests.
Here in Minnesota, a good majority of our lakes are publicly managed by the Minnesota DNR, and they do the best they can to manage the fishery. One of the regulations we have, as well as other states, is the time frame when you can harvest fish. With the main fish, walleye, northern, and bass, it's calculated from the time when that specie spawns. Let them spawn, a sacred ritual to be respected.
Some species after spawning protect the nest and the fry. The bluegill is one of them.
It's just too easy to catch bull bluegills off their nests. I don't think they're eating the bait; they're attacking it!
Sunfish and crappie in Minnesota is open year round. I'm hoping someday our state regulates when you can fish them.
Great discussion thread. My observation is that as the angler density increases, top fish are removed at a greater rate. The lake reaches its breaking point when there are no top predators available as all bass over 12" have been fished-out and the bluegill population has exploded.

On stunted lakes, near cities, it is essential to make bass catch & release only to keep the top aquatic predator culling the small & weak.

From all that discussion, I totally agree that any gill over 9" be returned or a slot limit - ( keep only gills between 6 - 8" ) - would work best.

Feeding works! The average size of the gills on one such stunted lake which is fished by our league has increased by about 1/3. Providing spikes, worms and ground bread crumb during our league fishing provides regular nutrients to some of the lake's bluegills.

Around the Chicago area, there are anglers who are from another country and/or don't read any regulations. The above only work if enforced. Lacking patrols, fines, I see poachers disregarding regulations and immigrant anglers taking any and all fish to eat. They take any size fish and can create fish cakes from the smallest of fish. Some don't care about species or regulations. I have witnessed 4 - 6" bass on stringers and in buckets on a near regular basis.

During the upcoming season, I will measure some of the fish from our events and share that on the boards. You will see how tiny the majority of our fish population is here in the Chicago area. One catch-and-release only lake does feature much larger fish- the largest in the area. I have however seen buckets of fish leaving that lake despite all the signs saying C&R ONLY. Still, this features the largest fish within a :45 minute drive from the city, hands down.

Just some thoughts.
great discussion and one that is as old as the hills,there seems to be two camps here . the kill'em and grill em camp,and the catch and release camp.
i must admit i have a foot in both,we eat fish down here in Louisiana,it is not uncommon to have fish fries where we cook up 60 head or more depending on how many people are there.
having said this, i thank during the spawn i probably release more big fish then at any outer time of the year.
it is not rocket science,when the larger fish fertilize the eggs in the nest,their genes are passed on to the fry.
90% of my fishing is done in lake chicot,a two thousand acre natural lake bottom that had a dam added before world war two,by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
i have fly fished this lake for the last fifty+ yrs. and have seen the blue gill and Chinquapin(red ear sunfish) populations fall off ,some of this is beacuse of fishing pressure and bad management ,and some is from non indiginous grass invasion into the shallow water where most of the pan fish spawn.
here in Louisiana there is no creel limit on bluegill and red ear,or warmouth,i will leave this up to the biologist,although i thank they should have a limit on redear,but this requires studies which requires money,so the beat goes on.

gators eat my fish


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