If you have been reading my columns for long, you probably can tell I prefer to chase bass or walleye when it comes to fishing. But if you want some kid friendly fast action this time of year and put a mess of great tasting fish in your skillet, bluegills are a great choice. When the kids were younger, we spent a lot of time chasing these tasty guys and they can be caught without too much investment or effort.
Bluegills are one of our most common lake and pond species found in Ohio and you couldn’t ask for a better fish for kids to chase after. Sure, catching a nice size bass is a thrill, but to youngsters with short attention spans, bluegills offer a much better option. Catching bluegills is very easy compared to bass or other types of fishing and the action can be red hot when you find a school of them. Constant action is a key when kids are along and bluegills are usually willing to comply.
The best part about fishing for bluegills is that you can get by with inexpensive equipment. Using ultra-light rods and reels allows you to use smaller line and will increase your fun when fighting a bluegill, but my kids have caught tons of bluegills on their Snoopy poles when they were little tikes. You can also get along fine with cane poles but you don’t see those used too much any more, at least not as much as when I was kid. Want to increase your fun? Chase after them with a fly rod. Now that’s a blast!
As I mentioned, using ultra-light gear is the preferred method because you can use lighter line. Six to eight pound test line is the best choice. If you are using live bait, which by far is the best method for catching bluegills, stay with hooks in the 6 to 10 pound test size range. I also prefer to use longer shanked hooks as they are easier to remove from the small bluegill mouth, which can be difficult at times especially when they swallow the entire bait and hook.
If you are using live bait, add on a split shot sinker a few inches above the hook to keep it down and I also recommend using a bobber to detect bites and more importantly to provide some weight to help with casting. The most common mistake made in pan fishing is using too large of a bobber. Try to get by with as small of a bobber as possible. Using a bobber that is too big can cause you to miss a lot of strikes and often a bluegill will grab the bait and feel that resistance of the heavy bobber and let go before you can set the hook.
As far as bait, there are lots of options but I prefer using live worms or nightcrawlers. They are easy to find and bluegills love them. The key is to only put on enough of the worm to cover the hook. Any more than that and the bluegills will just sit there and nibble at your bait creating lots of frustration for you. Crickets, meal worms, wax worms, grasshoppers all work as well. If you want to go the artificial route, small spinners and small flies (both dry and wet) work fine as well. I have even had success with the boys using an artificial fly behind a bobber on their Snoopy rods when they were really young.
Finding bluegill is really easy in most ponds. The easiest time of the year to catch them is now when they are spawning. You can practically sight fish for them looking for their dish shaped nests in the shallows and usually when you find one, you will find dozens. During this time, they will attack any bait that enters their nest. The spawn is on now but many bluegills will spawn again in mid to later summer if the pond isn’t overcrowded.
Later into the summer when the water temperatures soar, you will need to search a little deeper water. If the body of water has any quality weeds at all, start your search there, especially along the edges where the weeds stop and the water gets deeper. Weeds provide oxygen, food, and a place to hide from bigger fish. Also check out deep humps or areas that break into flooded creek channels or other deep water. Summer-time bluegill, especially the bigger ones, can be found at depths ranging from 6 to 10 feet. There they suspend just above the thermocline.
Man-made underwater objects also attract bluegill during the summer. Many lakes and ponds contain anchored Christmas trees, brush shelters, tire reefs, and other fish attractors that have been placed in the water. These objects, in addition to boat docks or boats tied at one spot for several days, are productive hangouts for bluegill. In the fall, as the water starts to cool, the bluegills will head back to shallower water to put on the big feed in preparation for winter.
Summer evenings are made for bluegill fishing. It would be hard to find a better way to spend family time than to gather by a pond with some cool drinks and fishing rods. I know your kids will enjoy it.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!