Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

Daryl Bauer speaks about big bluegill--where they are in the Midwest and how to catch them...

The following is an excerpt from Daryl Bauers commentary on big bluegill. Daryl is the Lakes and Reservoirs Program Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The best Nebraska waters for a really big bluegill on the fly-rod might be private ponds, maybe some private pits. Some of those have excellent water quality and habitat and do not have excessive fishing pressure. So, if you can gain access to some of those waters, that might be your best bet for your quest.

But you asked about public waters didn't you? Well, I have some ideas, let me throw a few out. One that comes to mind is totally catch & release and is for kids under 16 and adults fishing with kids. I and my kids have caught plenty of 1-pound+ bluegills there, but I don't know if you are going to find any approaching 2 pounds. If you have a kid to take fishing, Jenny Newman Pond at Platte River State Park has some big bluegills. Otherwise, the waters I would be thinking would be sandhill lakes. Smith Lake south of Rushville would be a likely candidate and in years past some fly-fishing during the summer was an excellent way to catch some of those fish. Pelican Lake on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge also comes to mind. You probably know most of the big bluegills are caught through the ice at Pelican. The past few years have produced very few of those fish, short ice seasons, lower water levels and clear water/spooky fish being possible reasons for that. Sandhill lakes are generally shallow and have lots of submergent and emergent aquatic vegetation--in short they are wall-to-wall bluegill habitat. I believe the fish are hard to catch during the summer at Pelican because they scatter all over that habitat and can be difficult to find. There are some big bluegills there, take your fly-rod and cover lots of water, expect to fish a long time to catch a bluegill, and then expect to fish a long time before you catch another one, but you could catch your quest-fish therepo. One last candidate comes to mind, another Smith Lake, Smith Lake on the Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Now that lake is open to fishing only Nov. 1-Feb. 15 each year. Yes, that is mostly ice fishing, but some nice fall weather in early November could produce some of those big bluegills on a fly-rod.

I have a whole speech on "optimal foraging theory" to explain why I am a big believer in "big baits = big fish". I won't go into that whole speech right now, but let's just say you ain't gonna grow no 2-pound bluegills on zooplankton. The reason the sandhill lakes grow such big bluegills is because they are so productive and have LOTS AND LOTS of aquatic insects, lots of LARGE aquatic insects. The bluegills get very large there because they have all the food they can eat, they are relatively large food items, and growth rates are phenomenal. I have seen bluegills from our sandhill lakes that were chuck-full of large dragonfly larvae and the largest caddis fly larvae you can find (literally) in the middle of the winter! If I was fly-fishing for big bluegills, I wouldn't be wasting my time with size 16, 18 and 20 flies. Something that looks like a big "bug" would be on the end of my line most of the time. Also if I am fishing for the biggest bluegill, I don't want to be bothered with all those little ones. But that's just my opinion.

Daryl Bauer
Lakes and Reservoirs Program Manager
Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

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Comment by Slimdog on August 24, 2011 at 2:18pm
Daryl is always full of great info.  The only thing better that reading his articles is listening to him in person!
Comment by Jim Gronaw on July 29, 2011 at 10:35am
Wow! Thanks for all that great info!

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