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So here in the south where I live there are not a lot of people that attempt to locate schools of bluegills and shellcrackers in the middle of winter.  I am going to try this winter.  I have had a lot of success in ponds locally in the winter but never attempted on the larger lakes that I fish throughout summer.  So I need some help and advice from some of the experts here.  We are talking 1500+ acre lakes and what I am trying to find out is some likely hangouts for these schools.  I have good electronics that I trust so marking the fish once I am on them will not be an issue..... the issue is there is so much water to cover I just don't know where to begin.  Any ideas?  I will update everyone with my results as  we go through winter.....

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Not for sure on those winter gills, Shawn. There is a backwater lake I use to fish off the Chattahoochie River here in GA. that has plenty of gills as well as yellow perch, bass, and a variety of other fish. It has some 20' water in it, as well as weed beds, flats, and sunken brush piles. It seemed as though the gills would disappear when cold weather hit. We caught tons of yellow perch and some bass using a jig and minnow combination, well as wax worms, and wigglers at various depths throughout the winter, but the gills eluded us. You would think that we would get a stray gill or two while for the yellow perch, but it never happened. I am not sure if they migrated to the main river or just where they went. Come Spring, about two weeks after the yellow perch spawned, the gills seemed to magically appear again. I know they were feeding on something in the winter, and really would have liked to have found that piece to the puzzle. Wish I could have been more helpful with your question.

A few years ago I lived in Michigan.  Bluegill fishing thru the ice, I fished the same area as I had in the summer.  Nearly all the gills were caught within a couple inches of bottom.  Baits were very small and of necessity not moving except up and down.  Last winter living here in Florida the gills were where i expected them to be.  Same flies worked here as i used in Michigan.  The gills have not left their usual haunts.   Slow down and downsize your baits.

Ive heard this same thing. Fish deep in the winter, where you did in the summer.

I cannot add anything since I have no experience. I would say to look for deep structure, like creek channels, humps, depressions, etc. If there is cover there, too, all the better.

If you can obtain a hydrographic map, that would be ideal. But the fish look for a place to hole up and lay low, near structure and cover. Baits should be smaller, as Steve says, and not too active.

I would like it if you kept us updated with details as the season progresses. Structure, depth, water temps, baits - all this stuff is going to be interesting. I, too, live in the South and suspect that which you learn would apply to me, too.

Thanks for all of the replies so far.  I will keep everyone posted. 

I have noticed since moving to Florida in 1999 that north, east and west are directions, while South is a location.

I don't have a boat but have caught Shellcrackers in the same spots in Winter as I fish in the Summer on Lake Greenwood. In the Winter the water is drawn down exposing more shoreline allowing you to reach deeper water in places. I never found any big schools but almost always catch  a few nice fish. 

i recently read something that completely negates my impressions on gills and migration. "Bluegills are homebodies and spend most of their life in a 400 sq ft area" if that is the case i would concentrate on areas with the best spawning features as well as adjacent deep water breaks. when i fish a lake my strategy is basically that anyways. look for the best spawning habitat which are weedy flats with a mix of firm sandy bottoms and areas that are soft. these areas supply the best food source in the long run as well as spawning. when you take into consideration food, spawning and shelter or cover those are the main motivation triggers of a bluegill. when you also take into consideration that approximately 10 percent of a body of water holds 90 percent of the fish. this narrows it down a bit. A major part of fishing to me is playing the odds.

look at a lake map and find the largest expanses of flat shallow water. start there and work your way deeper. thats a basic strategy that usually works for me.

good luck!

Pretty good logic, Ken.
I've never heard the 400 sq. Ft. thing, though. Do you recall where you saw that?

I've heard something similar regarding smallmouth Bass.

It certainly is interesting.

i have seen it in several articles and studies... here is one

http://www.lakenewsonline.com/article/20120428/NEWS/304289941?templ...

It's been my experience that fish move in the winter...there can be different locations and strategies dependent upon whether you're fishing early ice, or late ice for an example. Our fish spawn in 16" of water during the spring, then migrate out to deep flats in the dead of winter....And in our case at least, that's quite a travel distance.

As a general guideline, I would suggest looking for standing weeds in around 10-12' of water as a start.

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