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Where do the Bluegills go in moving water in the winter?

This has perplexed me all of my fishing "career".  I can catch bluegills in the local lakes and ponds up until they ice over in January or February, but in the moving waters of the rivers and canal, they disappear.  Usually around late October, when the water temp gets into the 50s and they don't show up again 'til the end of April, when the water temps are getting into the 60s.  

I assume in the rivers that the 'gills seek out the deepest pools to hangout, out of the current.  I've seeked out these areas but can only catch yellow perch, pickerel and an occasional smallmouth.  The canal though, is essentially a uniform ditch, with constant depth and width, so there is really no slow current areas that would be preferential.  Again in the winter it is just yellow perch and pickerel.  (this disappearing act happens with all sunfishes - bluegills, red breasts, greens and pumpkinseeds)

So, in moving water, do they just stop eating?  Pack their bags and move to Florida?  What am I doing wrong? Do any of you experience this too?  BTW, I'm in central NJ.

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Probably move downstream until they find a suitable wintering area??

I haven't been able to find these areas in the rivers.  In the canal, they can only go downstream to the next lock and I can find them there either.  There is something different about these sunfish in moving water.s

Have you tried further downstream, past the lock?

The latest ive fished B'Gill during open water season has been the past two seasons leading right to hard water. ive found fish with my Elite 7 HDI every single outing. When the B'Gills were not in shallow feeding in the weeds they were on the edge of the drop offs and hovering along the deep basins. the schools were less in number and the fish were more densely populated.
just recently we fished a lake that has a 3-4 acre deep basin approaching 20-25 ft. scanning the whole basin area with my sounder i marked waypoints on 3 schools of fish numerously populated and tightly packed. scanning the shallow flats we discovered 0 panfish. going back and vertically jigging the waypoints  right into the schools produced a significant bite and action. fishing just feet away from these waypoints you were out of the zone. fishing without electronics statistically we would have been skunked. so much vacant water. As schools of bluegill move shallower or may be resident in nature feeding amongst the green weeds under the ice ive found the schools less densely populated and thinner per surface area of water. so they are harder to find. Side imaging sonar would be helpful there open water fishing in finding the schools.
So i believe IMO fewer schools, more fish per school and tighter packed is the pattern for the lakes i fish in my area during the fall cold water period.

Yup, I think you right on the money. Gotta get a new cable for my Helix 5 SI GPS.

Lots of good info there, Slip.  I have no problem catching in the ponds & lakes.  It's the rivers and canal that got me stymied.

I have wondered the same thing about rivers Steve C. I can only imagine they migrate to deep holes . I'd try the steepest bank areas I could find near last area  I caught I caught them at . For what that's worth .Good Luck . BTW ,I'm in NENJ and live in Ringwood and am curious what waters you fish and where in NJ you are from .

Hi John! I'm from the Somerville area, so that puts me right in the middle of the Raritan & Millstone river drainages.  I'm also close to the Delaware & Raritan canal.

Thanks for the reply Steve . Gonna have to get myself down there sometime and fish those areas! I 've fished Delaware out by Skinners Falls for smallmouths .Beautiful area.

just looked on google earth... some nice looking waters your fishing. im thinking just some tighter schooling of B'Gills your dealing with. Side scan imaging should put you on the schools... what type of sonar are you running now.?

Unfortunately, no sonar for me.  I'm strictly bank fishing or wading.

I know what your saying... ive mainly been stuck shorefishing since I put away the kayak when water turned cold. looking back a few years ago my shore fishing spot produced panfish right till thin ice. not so much this year. only explanation I see when I do get the boat out (when a friend wants to go fishing we use his suv) I see the pattern of large very tight slow moving or stationary schools probably just out of our reaches.

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