Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

Between Ice-Out and Bedding bluegills - what to do, what to use?

Fish when you can, where you are, with what you've got, for what you think is there. Change and move when it is clear that you need to try something else.

In the ice-out to bedding period ( pre-spawn?) where to find fish and what tactics.

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I do not know if it is a good strategy or not because I never took bluegill fishing serious enough to find out until now. But, I have been using a nymph tied behind a popper the last few weeks and have caught more large fish than I ever remember. #14 Copper Johns seem to work the best in our ponds but I have caught them on all kinds of sub-surface flies tied on to that popper. And often I catch one on the popper at the same time.

And - this is unbelievable (you know, if you don't have a photo it didn't happen - but I have witnesses! And I can still hardly believe it! ) but last week I caught TWO almost identical 9.5 inch gills at the same time on ONE Copper John (it was on a #12 hook) - one had the hook coming out the side of its mouth and the other must have been fighting to steal the fly - it had the point of the hook going into its mouth and was almost perfectly positioned next to the first fish when I reeled them in.

Yes, that is a fish story - but it's a true one!
What a fantastic (and timely) topic. As we prepare for a snowstorm this weekend in Nebraska and as I plan for a two day fishing trip next week into Missouri I ponder the same question. I confess that I do not have the answer. My first reaction is to plan on staying in the cabin and play cards. I am anxious to hear from those who know a lot more than I. Is it too early even for crappie? Please join in on this one guys.
This is the time of year when you may just catch that 'Fish of a Lifetime'... The first spawn and immediately before it when the Big females move up closer to the bedding areas. Fish the deeper water and any slopes leading from the shallows into deep water... and fish slow... slow.... slow...
Got it. And I am a natural slowpoke anyway when fishing ( after I get over the excitement of being out of doors again). But what, what, what is your "go-to lure, bait or set-up"?
Fast action Ultra-light rod... 2LB test line... small hook (10's or 8's) I use a 1/100th ounce jig tied with a little marabou at the tail and tip it with a cricket.

But, failing that... the simplest method is to put a cricket on a hook with a BB shot (or two) about 12" above the hook and fish slow. Watch your line on the sink.... Strike at the slightest 'Twitch'... and once your bait is on the bottom... let it sit there for a minute or maybe two... then drag your cricket as s l o w l y as you can... back towards you.

I mentioned this in the forum before... but many people don't know how much line their reels retrieve with just one turn of the handle. My spinning reel retrieves 24" of line for one full turn of the handle so 1/4 turn pause 2 or 3 seconds... another 1/4 turn... pause and so on.... vary the pause from time to time... you'll be surprised how successful this method can be... remember the water is cold... the fish can be lethargic... but they are also hungry ... Just prior to the spawn... The best chance of the year for a Big Bull Bluegill...
Tight Lines

Rob
Great advice ! Tough to find the 1/100ths in the retail over-the-couter trade near me. . . looking over the "grizzly jogs" catalog" any other suggestions where to find the tinier jigs? Any "go to colors" or patterns?

Thanks again !
Glenn...

There are several tackle supply places that carry the 1/100th ounce jigs... 'Tackle Craft' is one. Google fishing jigs... you'll be surprised what pops up.

But honestly you don't have to have the jigs... the hook and cricket with a BB shot 12" above will work just as well sometimes better... Colours... I use black a lot with a little fine tinsel underneath... .. I've also had great success with yellow...(not chartreuse)... One year I tried something unusual... I painted my jig with the closest match I could find to the natural colour of a cricket... the idea being.... the fish can't see any jig at all.... all they see is this big cricket... it really worked very well...

When the fishing gets tough I experiment.... I'll use all sorts of colours and different materials... marabou... deer hair... that's part of the fun... and as wel all remember.... there's always the famous nightcrawler float combo.

Tight Lines
Rob
This is an excellent question. Over the years, I have learned that bluegills will migrate vertically more often than not just after ice out. One spot that produced bluegills year after year was near a steep drop off on the north side of the lake. This spot produced from last ice through the next couple of weeks after ice out.

As the water warms, I always like to fish shallow (18") or less bays where there is little or no current and the blacker the bottom the better. Fish are always spooky in shallow water so baits had to be small and lines light. Again the north or north east bays produce best in these situations. Often you need to use tiny floats or on the best days fly fishing with light a light tippet (7x) work great.

The infrared rays of the sun only penetrate about 12" and black absorbs the rays better than lighter colors and is why the water in these shallow bays warms up faster than other sections of a lake. The warm water also warms up the insects who live on the bottom and is why I think the big gills are there.

This early pre spawn period is one of the best times to catch big gills.

I also find the biggest bluegills spawn in deep water often 12' depending on clarity on NE ends of islands in big lakes or on NE points. When bluegills are spawning shallow I can catch them in the 6 to 9" range, but in the same lake they will run 9 to 10 ½" on the deeper beds. Before spawning starts, you can catch them staging in the deeper water near where they bed. At least that has been my experience.

A couple early spring fish.



Notice the light winter colors.


The fish get darker closer to spawning time.

great thinking. I lucked out by fishing some beds near an island with a 8'-10' depth within casting range. Did a lot of cath and release, and that's where I'll start ( though I think it was shady in the June heat, so maybe..... well I think I've got it anyway. . . a good map and the depth finder whould poitn the way.
The lake I like to fish has alot of shallow water, 5-7 ft. with a sandy bottom. Most weeds grow along the breaks into the deeper water but the shallow has alot of small isolated weed beds that the fish hold on. With the water as clear as it will be all year this is a great time to look for those out of the way spots that the fish have been on all winter but were impossible to find thru the ice. I use a weighted bobber and a teardrop with spikes or a piece of nightcrawler, letting the unweighted teardrop slow fall to about a foot of bottom. Use a gps or land marks to find them thru the summer. I have 30+ spots that I fish all summer just moving from spot to spot until I find the ones that have Big Gills on it. I pull up to a spot and if I catch a couple of small fish I leave and move to the next one. Some will have 4-5 good gills, some none, some you can fish all summer.
Here in Maryland, we seldom have cold enough winters for safe ice fishing, so I ice fish without the ice. Here are a couple of things I have noticed over the years...

Several warm, sunny days can push gills in shallow, especially if a southerly wind is shoving warmer surface water into the northern sections of a small lake or pond.

Drift-fish these areas with 'wind-blown' bobber rigs with sensitive floats and small jigheads tipped with bait. Small live earthworms work good at this time too.

Fish shallow, woody cover on the northern shores of a lake where all kinds of aquatic life is setting in motion and hungry panfish, to include gills, will follow.

When cold fronts come, and they will, you might want to drop back into deeper waters near these areas and suspend baits deeper than up in the shallows...small baits and lures are the ticket on gills long before prespawn. Look for gills to elevate higher in the water column as weather moderates or gradually warms.

Good Luck! Jim Gronaw
Thanks Jim! The lake I usually fish ( a two tier fisherey: coldwtaer walleye/trout/perh and all warm water species) usually has shallow water bays never far from the old valleys of this old impoundment. One of the things to figure out about this lake is when it "trun's over, especially when windy and sunny occur together.... In summer, fishing the thermocline can yield lots of surprises.

Since the lake's built up with docks and boat houses, I look for concrete docks/walls near depth, and often find big bluegills taking position prior to the bedding season. . . maybe I should start to keep a fishing journal...

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