Do you love big bluegill?
I fish mainly from shore and I know how to catch bluegill...(I catch scuds of the little guys) but im not even really sure where to start looking for the big ones. I fish in areas that are fished a lot so there is tons of pressure everywhere. I know private ponds are my best bet but not everyone is willing to let any old body fish in their own backyard honey holes. Some tackle recommendations or new techniques to try would be welcome. Would love to find some giant 'gills in southern ohio.
Very well put, Walt. Maryland enacted a 15 fish per angler, per day limit on gills and crappie about 12 years ago, and I think it has done a lot to salvage some up and coming fisheries. Still, I occassionally see anglers trying to sneak way more than their limit out of some parking lots at our local public lakes. Almost all panfish regs in the country are long over due for an overhaul in the direction of conservation. Since panfish don't 'appear' to be a money species, DNR mentalities tend to blow them off and permit ancient, outdated regulations on creel and no size limits. Since they won't do it, we have to regulate ourselves for the most part.
walt has the right idea- same as david and jim! catch and release is the best way to ensure we have big gills for tomorrow. unforntunaly most anglers want to take a prize gill home to show off or eat. and some guys like to go over their limits as well!! even if some areas do put limits on our prized fish!
Walt don't give up on LP yet. Conditions for the big boys are heating up..
Catch and release is great but you have to be careful on how you handle the fish. Holding the fish by the jaw can't be helping the fish much. Especially if you are pulling fish of the beds. The BGs use their mouths to defend the nest. Wet your hands before you handle the fish and use rubber nets. Fishing barb less is also a good thing.
Remember also that a "blanket" legislation could, in theory, have an adverse effect on some BOW. Managing for big BG isn't quite the same as managing for trophy LMB, as BG will pull off multiple spawns in many locations. I do believe that the science behind many of our current regs regarding BG harvests is outdated, but I also feel that if legislation is the answer, it would almost have to be applied on a lake-by-lake basis, with each one evaluated independently of the others. That's a lot of manpower and $$$ that many states simply don't have.
I think slots could work, and I would like to see a few trial lakes managed for big BG here in my state, before implementing blanket legislation....we certainly don't want to make things worse than they are. And, check with your local DNR's and see what they consider a harvestable sized BG......here in the Hoosier state, it's 6 inches. And they manage for sustainable quantities of these fish, rather than larger, quality specimens.
Good points, LedHed - I always make sure my hands are wet, and I just recently began mashing down the barb; I never hold a bluegill by the mouth, though I need to start insisting on the same when I'm guiding someone (that rare occurrence).
Tony, none of the studies I've read on length and creel limits for bluegill have found that angler harvest contributed positively to growing big bluegill. The biologists expected it to, but it never once did; what they invariably found was that overharvest was the overriding factor that kept water bodies from producing exceptional 'gills. So I don't think it has to be done on a lake-by-lake basis. That would be ideal, just as it's ideal for lakes in terms of managing them for big bass; but any sort of informed regulations would be a vast improvement over what we have now. For example, Tennessee has a statewide creel limit of five on largemouth bass, and even has a statewide limit of fifteen on crappie - whereas for bluegill, they list them in the same category with several other species including bullheads and "nongame species" for which the limit is "no limit". It's really pretty insulting to any serious bluegill angler.
I've read more than a couple articles by trophy bluegill nuts who live up north, and invariably every one of these articles cites finding remote, unpressured lakes as the key to finding trophies up north. Bluegill overpopulation is known to be a bigger problem in the north due to largemouth growing more slowly; so if there were anywhere that angler harvest could make a positive difference, it would be there.
I personally have had the experience, more than once, of fishing a lake at some point in time when it was open to the public and finding less-than-giant bluegill, only to fish that same lake years later when it had been closed for some time and find much larger bluegill.
I hear you Walt, but think of the size that most anglers harvest: the biggest of the bunch. You and I both know that seining, or using fyke nets to remove the smaller BG in a BOW can have positive results....it simply means less biomass and fewer mouths to feed for whatever amount of forage is in the pond/lake, resulting in more food for the bigger fish that are left. Therefore, it stands to reason that if angler harvest were limited to the smaller gills, that similar results would be obtained.
Unfortunately, in the studies that I have read, anglers were allowed to harvest whatever size they wished, which almost always meant the bigger fish got removed, leaving the smaller ones behind....and you know what that means....mature BG at a physically smaller stature. I think that's why the biologist in those studies didn't see the results they had expected. And that goes back to what I'm fond of saying, Quality is more important than quantity, (to a point) where harvesting BG is concerned. Of course, the size of the BOW in question plays a HUGE role here also......smaller ponds and lakes are impacted to a much greater degree by angling pressure than larger ones are.
I certainly agree on finding those sweet spots that don't receive much angling pressure if giant gills are the target. But I also believe that there's more to it than that: The dynamics of that BOW have to be conducive to churning out bigger gills. (Predator/prey relationships, water quality, forage availability, vegetation amount) all play key roles. I don't think simply avoiding a BOW filled with smaller gills will automatically result in bruisers in a few years, without the other "support systems" being present.
And I know that you already know what it takes to produce big gills.....I'm simply posting for the benefit of others who might be curious.
California recently (in 2012, IIRC) enacted a statewide 25-fish aggregate daily bag limit for crappie + all species of sunfish. I guess we'll know in a few years how much that helps, at least on popular BG waters.
As for the closed lake thing, we have a textbook example of that here in San Diego's Barrett Lake. It was closed for 40 or 50 years, until they opened it to limited fishing a few years ago (you buy tickets through Ticketmaster) with simple rules: artificials only, barbless hooks only, all species are catch and immediate release. I'm told that a 30-bass day is typical there (the bass aren't huge by California standards, being northern strain, but there are lots of them and some are big) and 1 pound bluegill are said to be common there. In most SoCal lakes, a 1 pound BG is not an often-seen fish.
I've yet to fish Barrett, may not make it this year, but I'm hoping for next summer.
Thanks Ledhed I'm going to quit holding them by the jaw now.
On the topic of "harvestable size," for a lake with a lot of smaller bluegill - there's a lake in San Diego from which I have never caught a BG over 7" and I know places in this lake where you can go and catch aggressive 3 - 5" bluegill on literally every cast through much of the year (as long as they don't get your bait first) - would it be best to keep all BG under 7" from such a lake?
This lake does have a pretty healthy LMB population (you can see them all over the lake) and last year a very large redear was caught here (the lake has quagga mussels, helps the RE grow fat) although in my experience RE are not common in this lake; I rarely catch them, it's almost all BG when I go there. It also gets stocked channel cats in summer and there are some holdovers, but it's not really known as a catfish lake. Rainbow trout are stocked in winter, but there are probably few if any holdovers. It's a warm-water lake, max depth at the dam is 80 feet or so.
Other notes about the lake: the water is fairly clear (not gin, but decent visibility), it has decent weed growth in most parts of the lake to shelter BG. The spot I referred to has a lot of hydrilla and other weed, and is immediately adjacent to deeper water, and is regularly patrolled by LMB looking for BG, I guess. The 17" LMB I caught a while back while bluegill fishing was taken while wading in that area. It's a drinking water reservoir, but levels are usually pretty stable.
To be honest im interested to see the answer to your post. I would think to maybe look in deeper water first but im just a "newbie" to the site so the guys here may have MUCH better info than that. Another thought is that if it does have a healthy LMB population them maybe there aren't many giants to be had there. But as I said that's just rookie thoughts and a little bit to do with what I have read on this post. Super informative by the way. im glad I could read all of this info.
I face a similar situation in some of the Chicago area lakes. The main cause of little bluegill in my area is a large population of northern pike. They can eat any size gill so they wipe out the big ones. My best guess is that you have too few largemouth bass. They would eat those 3-5" gills otherwise.