Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

I've done tons and i mean tons of fishing in my life and would like to get into some bigger panfish and crappie. God only knows how many i've caught. The thing is i see people catching these bluegill in particular that are 10" plus fish. I've been places and caught bucket fulls and never cross the 8" mark. Is this because their not here or just because i've not fulfilled the law of averages and not got any yet? My biggest bluegill ever was 9.5". Just wondered what you guys thought. Do i just need to keep covering different bodies of water until i find one that produces? thanks

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Public waters are by far the most challenging Jason but I wouldn't beat myself up over it.......I suggest expanding your Bluegill horizon if it's feasible......As many pictures as I post I still keep a couple places a secret because it took so much work to find these fish.......In 2003, I decided to draw a 60 mile circle around my house and didn't rule out any water.....Yes, it's more costly to go further but I always kept the BBG goal in mind.....Many of these places looked great but still haven't produced fish and one small one less than an acre with no management has brutes in it, go figure.....The owner says no fish introduced since the early 70s.....I've watched hundreds of 10 inch plus gills harvested from the western branch of the Cooper River in S.C. and I can still go there and catch trophy gills, it's defies the over harvesting logic and most people that fish Bushy Park regularly will even consider releasing Bluegill because they have fished it there entire life successfully with no impact.....Another spot in Virginia that is almost inaccessible by boat or bank and there's pound class gills stacked in there even after a major fish kill in 2003 from Hurricane Isabel......Take for example my home river here in Northeast N.C......I did alot of research too include reading and riding around and the word was "No need to go South of the 158 bridge for sunfish, they're not there like they used to be." I'm stubborn, the water looked to good to my fishing instincts so I had to find out for myself.......Two old man-made barge slips that are no longer used but have perfectly sloping sides and a sandy base.....translation......big 10" plus Coppernose more times than not when I visit this location also south of the highway 158 bridge ......Also make sure you have a good mix of apex predators...... largemouth bass, bowfin, gar and catfish are all welcome additions in my favorite and most productive fishing spots.....In every location that I catch trophy gills, I also catch these big predator fish........It can be intimidating to try new large bodies of water and pass up on that sure thing but I've become adventuresome over the years and when that float snaps down and begins to make tight circles and zipping drag, I know I made the right choice........You obviously catch fish and good numbers Jason....that means trying something different at the same place or applying what you know on new water......In my opinion, you would have caught your 10" fish already if your water had them...Good luck......

Jeffrey's post is pure BBG gold so I really don't have much to say at all. He's an expert and I feel a bit of your pain in that I have caught literally thousands of public water gills and less than 10 have been over 10 inches. Private water gill fishing is great if you can get some good private water. Otherwise,  finding some big redear sunnies or big goggleye aka rock bass can be very rewarding, as they grow to over ten inches relatively commonly. I began catching them as by-catch for bass and crappie and then began targeting them which has been very rewarding.

Jason, only a handful of us will be as lucky as those who have managed to discover relatively low to non-existing fishing pressure, and managed to land gold and trophy size gills from honey holes, or private lakes. Jeffrey is one of those exceptions. His skills, time, flexibility, and a huge pair of Lady Luck's wings blessed him the title if BBG master. Aside from Jeffrey, you have Bruce, Tony, and Walt doing miracle growth monster size BGs to show off their skills. Our public waters here in California yield some monster size BGs as well, all thanks to those who prefer to fish for bass as games than BGs in the deep areas. However, the large size BGs are dwindling due to over fishing without proper responsibility and fishery management. I still dream of landing a fish that is 11" plus or more than 1.75lbs. Most of us are in the same boat. Just wait..Bill Modica going to haul in some 15" BG with a 3lbs weight to show off this ultimate spooning technique. Then Bruce glorifies us with a 20" behemoth weighing in at 4lbs. Then Jen and Greg will drag in some sort of prehistoric BG that make all of us look like infant in our ames with their 2wt fly rods.

Like a lot of things, big bluegills are often closer than you'd think. I catch most of my 10 inch plus fish from small private lakes, but I have three small public venues that are within 30 minutes of my house that routinely yield 10 inch fish with some shellcrackers over 11. I keep quiet about the public waters, as angling pressure can serverely reduce the top-end size structure of these fish due to overharvest. Often, larger, popular bass fisheries have untapped bluegill and shellcracker options.

I fished a pair of 'new' ponds recently that dudded out...seemed to be almost void of fish. But I will try again in the spring just to see if I overlooked a few things, which is very possible when exploring new water. It may be best to just keep searching for lakes that have larger, potentially 'trophy-sized' fish.

Good Luck!

i fish this huge public access resevoir near my residence. the bluegill in this lake have always puzzled me in all seasons but spring until recently. the depths reach to 42ft and very clear due to the heavy zebra muscle population. while trying out my new humminbird depth sounder i located a stand of trees that were probably topped at twenty feet standing in 40ft of water. the fish alarm was going off like crazy. i dropped a tiny icefishing spoon tipped with a berkely maggot over the side and got hit before it was halfway down. i got rewarded with several bgs between the 7 - 9 inch range. they were suspended next to the trees.

I would suggest scouting in the spring, during the spawn. If a BOW holds big BG, you should be able to locate them at this time. Remember however, that the fish are extremely vulnerable to overharvest during this period. Also, do you fish flowing water, such as rivers and streams, or stagnant water like ponds or lakes? I believe that ponds are much easier to fish out than rivers, as the fish are in a captive environment.......as a boy fishing the neighborhood creeks, every high water event had the possibility of introducing new fish...not so with a lake or pond.

I wouls also pay attention to the fish you catch now. Are they stunted, or in less than excellent condition? if so, the chances of catching a trophy BG from that BOW is reduced. Look for predators, as Jeffey suggested. If you're catching tons of 8-10" LMB, that's a good sign. The smaller the population of BG's, the more food there is to go around, which equals bigger fish. That's where the small LMB come in, they keep the BG numbers in check.

Mike, you ever make it up to my neck of the woods and you'll see a few more ponds with very specific release rules on Bluegills.

1) Never release a female BG, unless it is a truly outstanding specimen.

2) Male BG over 8" are released.

3) All BG around 7-8" may be kept.

4) All BG under 5" are culled.

These guidelines are tweakable as time goes on, and conditions warrant. I will allow an angler to remove a Bass if it's over 14", all smaller Bass stay put. A LMB can consume a BG that is approx 1/3 of it's own body length. For example, a 12" LMB is capable of taking a 4" BG in most circumstances. Walt would probably disagree with me, but I'm not a fan of big Bass in a trophy BG pond.  In my opinion, it comes down to biomass..... I would rather have 3, 1lb Bass eating 3-4" BG than 1, 3lb bass eating 6"BG. I'm talking ponds or lakes with no moving water here, rivers or streams might be different.

So, the goal of those release rules is to wind up with a a lot of male BG over 8" and a relatively small number of very large female BG?

In our ponds it is. Most unmanaged and heavily fished BG ponds that I am familiar with typically have far fewer large males than a managed pond. They are just too vulnerable during the spawn. The females are on the nest than right off, while the males remain and are harvested. Very very few females are required to sustain a population of Bluegills, AND the males usually have the capability to grow larger than the females, hence males are the most desireable. It's a bonus if you can somehow select what few females remain on the basis of genetics, which is why we release only the females that are outstanding, and the rest are kept or discarded.

thanks alot guys; i appreciate all the input and i'll keep ya posted on my progress

Jason, you live in a state that has produced giant bluegill.  Only three states have produced bluegill over four pounds - and yours is one of them.  But, just as the average public water even in the state that produced the world record, Alabama, is not going to have many bluegill, if any, over 10", just as the average public lake in southern California does not produce numbers of bluegill over 10", so it will be in your state.  There are public waters that are the exception to the norm, such as the honey-holes Jeffrey has found (don't know how far those are from you); there are several public lakes in southern California that have produced quite a few two-pound coppernose bluegill in the past twenty years.  But those waters are rare, because public water these days is synonymous with far too much fishing pressure, and, particularly in the case of bluegill and redear for which angler attitudes toward catch and release are roughly where they were with bass thirty years ago, the fishing pressure typically has a far more dire effect even than it does on the bass.  When bluegill anglers pound a public water, most of the time they're also keeping every big 'gill or shellcracker they catch, which in the case of bluegill has been proven by fisheries biologists to have a permanent negative effect on the genetics of the population.  

All this is just a long way of saying, you can find them, especially in your state...But my personal $.02 would be to take the money and time and effort you're spending on tracking down the big fish, and re-direct it toward a more pro-active approach, that being, creating your own honeyhole.  Before I began spending my money on improving (other people's) private ponds in exchange for fishing permission, I had caught five bluegill over 10"; now I've caught hundreds, including a couple 11" or better, and I expect to catch a two-pounder within the next year, probably by sometime next spring.

I put an article on this topic on my blog if you want to check it out - bluegilladventures.blogspot.com.  If you talk to a few landowners, odds are good that you'll be able to find a pond that already has bluegill that average 8" or better, and with a couple years of smart management you could have better fishing than you've ever dreamed of.

Good luck either way.  If you stay the course with public water, look for lakes with lots and lots of largemouth 14" and under - this means the lake is overpopulated with small bass, which is ideal conditions for growing big bluegill.  But more than anything, read newspapers and local magazines, go to baitshops, ask on local fishing forums, until you hear of where the big ones are being caught.  And don't spend much time on a lake that has lots of small bluegill - the big ones just won't be there.

Good read Walt....

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