Archive for the ‘Bluegill’ Tag

THE BLUEGILL IS EVERYONES FISH   Leave a comment

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The bluegill is probably the one species every angler has sought at one time in his life. For most it was a first fish caught.  It is especially a favorite of kids and those seeking a tasty addition to the evening’s menu.  Besides being tasty, the bluegill has a reputation for being a feisty battler.  Just imagine if he were 5 pounds instead of ½ pound, what a tussle he would present.

Light tackle is a must in bluegill fishing. Spinning reels on ultra-light rods spooled with 2 to 6-pound line is best.  Lighter line is preferred on clean water.

The most popular location for finding bluegills is a pond.

Small ponds are excellent locations to find fish if one pays attention to detail. Besides tackle the most important aspect of bluegill fishing is the presence or absence of vegetation.

Very dense vegetation has an adverse impact on fish populations by reducing predation rates. It increases the young-of-the-year survival leading resulting in an increase of stunted fish.  Owners of small ponds might consider using a garden rake to remove some of the vegetation.

Plants are important in that the microscopic ones form the base of the aquatic food chain.  Larger algae and plants provide spawning areas, food and protective cover.  They provide habitat for insects and snails upon which the bluegill feed.

Plants near shore protect against erosion. All plants produce oxygen without which no animal life can exist.

Algae growth is the main vegetation that presents problems to good bluegill growth. It comes in two forms phytoplankton and in mats of filamentous algae.

Bluegills prefer water that is deep and clean as well as having a pH or 7.2. Vegetation likes the same conditions.  In southern Illinois the ponds and strip mine pits provide excellent water conditions with a pH factor of 7.2.

Vegetation is important to finding fish due to the lack of structure in small bodies of water.  Most have a smooth bottom with no distinct cover other than vegetation.  As a result the fish are usually scattered.

Wily anglers spread their efforts until they can locate fish. They cast to different areas and adjust the depth at which they present their offering.  If an overflow pipe is present it is a good area to check.

If a dam forms the pond in an area between two hills, then there should be a channel in the middle. There may be rocks and stumps near the edge of that channel which will attract fish.

An angler can cast his lures or pitch a live bait offering to any piece of structure.

If the fish are feeding in the shallows anglers should stalk them. Bluegills feed slowly so they will spend a lot of time in one location.  A slow presentation of small spoons like those popular with ice fishing anglers works well in such situations.  Small jigs also work well.

Natural enticement is added in the form of spoons and jigs with spikes, wax worms, etc. attached. Another presentation can be a salmon egg hook with a single split shot about 12-inches above the hook. Live bait is placed on the hook.  As the presentation is moved deeper the split shot is moved further from the bait up the line to a maximum of 20-inches.

Scientists tell us bluegills tend to prefer water in the 77 to 79-degree range but will be active in water up to 86-degrees. Smaller fish are not active feeders at lower temperatures.

Finally remember to work the edge of cover, work heavy vegetation, set the hook quickly to keep the fish on the surface until you can get it to open water. If the sun is high, work the deeper areas.  Move to the edges as the light becomes low.

 

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KAYAKS AND SKINNY WATER   Leave a comment

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Perhaps one of the more recent developments in boat fishing is also one of the oldest.  It is fishing from a kayak.

As the water warms from early spring sunshine, phytoplankton and zooplankton begin to appear in the very shallow water.  Be it either a lake or pond, the nutrient rich skinny water attracts hungry bluegills.

Due to water depth ranging in the inches, most anglers disregard this fishery or fish it only a little from shore.  Boats have difficulty reaching the backs of coves where most of the fish are feeding.  Kayaks are an exception to the rule when fishing such water and dropshoting is a productive method of fishing.

When man first crossed over the Bering Strait and began to settle in North America he brought with him a craft made of animal skins stretched over a wooden frame.  This one man craft was fragile and no doubt cost some people their lives.  But it was light and portable.

Today’s kayak is made of manmade materials and is much safer.  Usually constructed of fiberglass they are heavier but still much more portable than other watercraft.  Some even have portable carts that allow for wheeling right up to the launch site.  Some like the Hobie are for fishing, with live wells and rod racks, etc.

Dropshoting is a finesse presentation that is also known as controlled depth fishing.  It is particularly effective for suspended fish like the bluegills found around the boat docks and in coves.

This pattern is particularly effective with light line regardless the type of rod and reel combination.  For flooded brush fishing a long rod with four to 6 pound line is best.  In jigging situations from boats stationed over a brush pile shorter rods can be effective.

Rig the line by tying a Palomar knot in the line, about 18 inches from the end, with a very long tag end.  You tie the Palomar knot doubling the line and form a loop three to four inches in length.  Pass the end of the loop through the hook’s eye.  Hold the standing line between thumb and finger, grasp loop with free hand and form a simple overhand knot.  Pass the hook through the loop and draw line while guiding loop over top of eyelet.  Pull the tag end of the line to tighten the knot snugly.  Do not trim the tag end.

To the end of the line (on the tag end) attach a sinker.  This can be a split shot sinker, but remember to tie a small overhand knot to the very end.  It helps to keep the sinker from slipping off the end when caught in brush or rocks.

Thread a piece of nightcrawler onto the hook.  Once dropped into the water the worm and hook float above the sinker.  Thus as the rod tip is moved, the action is applied to the bait not the sinker.

You can cast, jig or drift this rig.  The key is to move slowly.  The idea is to wiggle the bait, not jerk it.  Cast it out and let the bait sink.  Watch the line float, twitch it and watch it float. Give it a shake occasionally which will cause the worm to twitch.

Bluegills later will relate to vertical structure such as sticks, trees and other vegetation in the water.  On hot, sunny days they will seek out areas shaded from overhead light.  This can be under docks, or a tree hanging over the water.

Kayaks allow anglers to sit comfortably.   In real skinny water, you can move over brush and rocks.

Topside water-tight compartments permit stowing gear and rod holders.  Additional gear can be attached using bungee cords.  Modern craft are stable unlike the old fashioned kayak.

Cruising around coves we may tend to spend more time looking at the wildlife than actually fishing.  But, you can catch a number of nice bluegills or a few crappies.

AROUND THE GILLS   Leave a comment

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The Bluegill is easily recognizable by the blue or yellow green coloration, six to eight dark vertical bands down the sides and dark opercula flap behind the eyes.  During spawning season a male may also have a bright yellow or orange on his throat or body.  Fish in darker water tend to lack the bright coloration.

Scrappy fighters, the aggressive behavior of the bluegill is an indication that they do not remain in a body of water by intelligence.  They attack baits two times larger than is capable of fitting in their mouth.

The best populations of this feisty fish are live in clear, well-vegetative lakes.  They are adaptable and also are be found in murky swamps and turbid streams.  However, they do not reach their greatest numbers and size under such conditions.  They do best in water in the 50- to 80-degree range where they feed on aquatic insects and larvae as well as arthropods and crustaceans.  The best area for good growth contains only about 20- to 40-percent vegetation.

Big bull gills are often line shy as well as bait wary especially in clear water.   In Illinois quality size fish are 7 to 8 inches in length.  Eight inch fish usually are about 3/4 of a pound and 9-inch fish will run up to 1 1/2 pounds.  Eleven-inch bluegills probably are about two pounds.

Four stages growth determine the ultimate size of a fish.  One is the growth rate as a juvenile.  The second is the age of maturation.  Their growth rate as adults and age at death are the final two.  A change in any one or more of these factors alters the eventual size of the fish.  Gills in Illinois live about 5 or 6 years on average.  The average fish caught is about 1/4 pound.

May is a great month for bluegill fishing due to the first spawn of the year taking place around the time of the full moon.  Bluegills are colonial spawners in which males build nests in colonies.  They compete for the best nest sites in the center of the “beds.”  The female then chooses the males closest to the center of the colony because it’s protection from outside egg predators such as largemouth bass.

Shoreline with little wind action is a favorite location for bedding bluegills.  They build nests in one to eight feet of water.  The depth is dependent on water clarity.

Water temperatures vary from year to year and thus affect the time for the first spawning activity.  The best water temperatures are in the mid 70’s.

Bluegills begin reproducing after one year and the female lays about 18,000 eggs which hatch in four to seven days.  The spawn continues until September.  The fish move onto the spawning beds for three days prior to the full moon phase and remain for three days after it.

Lakes with strong largemouth bass populations produce great bluegill populations.  The bass keep the bluegills thinned out so the right percentage grows into the big fish anglers seek.

Anglers employ a stealth approach fishing the outside nests first and then work your way into the colony.  If you cast into the middle first it is possible to catch fish but the action most likely will be short lived.  The fish become leery of any unusual activity surrounding their nests.

Minnows are the most productive bait for bluegills.  Other baits include pieces of nightcrawler, red worms, mealworms, leeches and crickets.  Tackle such as small jigs, spinners and mini-crankbaits are popular with fans of artificial lures.  Small number 10 or 12 wire hooks and split shot come in handy when the action is heavy. Very small bobbers are best, as is light monofilament line.

Twelve to 15-foot poles make good weapons for the panfish warrior in the bluegill wars.   They allow you to place a bobber and bait directly over active beds.  If the bobber moves, raise the pole directly up and swing the fish toward you.

SPAWNING BLUEGILLS PROVIDE FISHING FUN FOR THE FAMILY   Leave a comment

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The return of warm weather inspires anglers to dig out the rod and reel. The entire family can all take part in bluegill fishing. The many public fishing areas of southern Illinois provide ample space to enjoy an uncrowded angling experience.

The bluegill’s habit of racing one another to a worm dangled beneath a bobber endears it to every angler from novice to expert. Children need to catch fish regularly on their first exposure to angling in order to help maintain their interest. It’s flat, compact body enables the bluegill to maneuver in weedy areas as well as open water.

Although the best populations of bluegills are in clear, well-vegetative lakes, they are adaptable to most any water conditions. The ideal water is clean, deep, and has a PH of 7.2. Most of the area waters meet that standard. In the less desirable waters they will not reach the greatest numbers and size.

The body of a bluegill is seldom more than an inch thick. They have a dark olive-green back with dark blue vertical stripes on the sides. The breast of males are bright red-orange with the female being a dull yellow. The chin and lower portion of the gill cover is blue, hence the name bluegill.

Bluegills are at their best when water temperatures range between 50 to 90-degrees.

They will feed on aquatic insects and larvae as well as arthropods and crustaceans. A scrappy fighter, the aggressive behavior of the bluegill is an indicator that the species does not flourish in a body of water because of its intellect.

Spawning appears to be closely related to the full moon phases, with fish moving onto the beds for about five days prior to the full moon and remaining their for a like time thereafter. Fish can still be located after that time on the same spawning beds later on during the secondary spawning activities of the later weeks.

During the spawn, males scrape a depression in the bottom of the body of water. They build nests on sand and gravel bars near shore in about 12 to 40 inches of water. Bluegills prefer less turbid, shallow shorelines around weeds and other cover.

The male guards the nest with vigor. They will strike anything that comes into the area. The action can be so active that bubbles appear on the surface. It is this aggressive action and its predictable occurrence that makes bluegill a good fish for teaching youngsters to fish.

Bluegills school according to size. Catching small “gills” is easier because they lack experience despite their aggressive behavior. Schools of small bluegills appear near all kinds of structure in shallow water all day. Some good location might be boat docks, overhanging trees, fallen logs and shallow patches of vegetation adjacent to deeper water.

The big bluegills isolate themselves from the small fish and tend to stay in deeper water. They are more selective in what they eat and are less aggressive.   They will cruise the open water feasting on bugs and minnows. Big gills suspend in water of from 10 to 30 feet. They stage near drop-offs along the outside edge of shallow water and in the deep water. They can be located by fan casting.

An often overlooked bluegill location is where open fields extend to the shoreline. The insects from the fields blow into the shallow water of the shoreline. A summer shower will also wash insects and worms into the water at the same location. The big fish learn early to wait there to be first in line for dinner.

 

TWO IN A DAY FISHING   Leave a comment

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When it comes to a good day, two Illinois public fishing areas are a good bet. Located about an hour southwest of St. Louis, Pinkneyville City Lake and the many lakes found in Pyramid State Park provide anglers a chance to fish either from a boat or from shore. Both methods produce good fish and one can hit both lakes in the same day.

The fishing is unbelievable at times. The area yields numerous six and seven pound largemouth bass each year. The lakes have a lot of fish between 3 and 5 pounds in weight.

Another positive is that the lakes have every kind of structure that a bass angler would want to fish. Deep shallows, weeds, lay downs, standing timber are all there.   It is perfect habitat for largemouth bass.

The shad forage provides anglers with clues to the whereabouts of bass. When the wind is blowing bass will bust the shad to the surface. Shad will sometimes school up big and the bass action is great.

Pinkneyville Lake is about 220-acres in size with the only boat ramp located on the south end next to a deluxe handicap pier. The lake was once a city reservoir and as a result it has both deep and shallow water areas. There is an old pump house by the dam and a spillway that has just one level. The lake level remains at a constant depth. There are two feeder creeks that empty into the lake and one that exits it at the dam.

The lake is just north of Pinkneyville, Illinois off Illinois Route 149.

You can fish Pinkneyville Lake in the morning and then move down to Pyramid State Park for the afternoon and evening. In the park you can go to four or five different lakes if you desire.

The reclaimed mine acres of Pyramid State Park contains 22 bodies of clear water that have been stocked in a way that gives some species a competitive edge. An information sheet from the park office at the entrance is very helpful in finding the kind of fishing you seek. In addition to largemouth bass there are stripers, walleye, muskies, northern pike, crappie, bluegill, sunfish and channel catfish. The park is open from a half our before sunrise until 10 P.M.

Boating is permitted but no rentals are available. There is a 10-horsepower limit on engines. Not all of the lakes are accessible to boat use. The secluded fishing opportunities on some of the lakes provide a unique fishing experience. Water depths vary from one lake to another with some being as deep as 70 feet.

To reach the park travel south from Pinkneyville (about 10 minutes) on Illinois Route 127 to Route 152 and then west to the park entrance.

Anglers from Missouri and Illinois enjoy a day of bass fishing in this area for a minimum of cost in food, license, fuel and time.

BLUEGILL – THE MODERN CANARY   Leave a comment

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Biologists tell us that bluegills prefer water that is deep and clean with a pH of 7.2. Most of the lakes, ponds and unused strip pits of southern Illinois fit that description.

The need for such an environment has resulted in bluegills becoming to the war on terrorism what the canary was to early coal miners.

The miners would take the birds down in the ground. If there were a gas leak, the birds would be the first to succumb and their death would alert the miners to the danger.

When it comes to eating habits, bluegills are about as selective as a junkyard dog in what they will or will not bite. They eat: worms, crickets, aquatic nymphs, larvae, shrimp, crayfish tails and small fish. Their eating habits make them such a sucker for artificial baits like spinners and plastic grubs. But, when it comes to their environment there is another story.

Bluegills are known for thriving in clean water as well as a fighter on the end of a fishing line. Now they have a new job in the front lines of the war on terrorism.

Several major cities across the country have employed this member of the sunfish family in protecting water reservoirs. The fish are kept in tanks with constantly replenished water from the city supplies. Their sensors register change in their breathing, heartbeat and swimming patterns. These changes are known to take effect when the fish is exposed to such pollutants as: cyanide, diesel fuel, mercury and pesticides.

As long as the fish are stress free the water supply is OK. When minute toxins enter the water the fish become stressed and alert humans monitoring the water supply.

A member of the sunfish family, bluegills are sometimes referred to in southern Illinois as bream or brim. They are a flat, muscular fish with a dark olive green back and dark-blue vertical stripes on the sides. The breast of a male fish is bright red-orange while the females display a dull yellow color. The chin and lower portion of the gill cover is blue, giving rise to the name bluegill.

The long growing season and abundance of desirable clear water in southern Illinois has produced the healthy populations of these fish. Their aggressive feeding behavior is an indication that the bluegill does not flourish due to it intellect. They will attack an artificial lure twice their size and are often caught by bass anglers using spinner baits.

Bluegills are often seen as forage fish for larger predators such as catfish, bass and Muskie. It is only their ability to reproduce faster than other fish can eat them that maintains this fishery. Bluegills will begin reproducing at age l and a female lays about 18,000 eggs per year. The spawn begins about the time of the first full moon in May and can continue through the summer with the eggs being hatched in four to seven days after they are laid. The most active spawning takes place during the period of three to four days either side of the full moon.

During the period after the spawn, bluegills seek comfort in the shallow water early in the morning and late in the evening. During the day they will seek deeper water structure or suspend in open water. Usually, they will be schooled up. If an angler catches one he will catch many in the same spot or very close to it.

Bluegills do best in lakes with simple populations of fish without common carp or gizzard shad. For this reason they tend to be stocked into lakes with only bass. Biologists find that they can better control the populations of both species with just the two with which to work.

Ultra light tackle is best for bluegill fishing. The light rod and reel spooled with two to 4 pound line will produce a challenging fishing experience for beginner and expert alike. Fine wire hooks in number six or eight sizes are ample to catch these scrappy characters. The wire hooks can be pulled free when snagged in some underwater vegetation. They straighten out and can be just bent back into shape with the fingers.

Bluegill fishing is popular with children because they are so easily hooked and tug aggressively on the line. They are popular with adults because they provide an excellent meal at the end of a day’s outing.

 

BLUEGILL ACTION IN FARM PONDS   Leave a comment

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Illinois anglers can find good early season bluegill action on farm ponds providing they pay attention to the tackle, the presence, absence, and location of vegetation.

Very dense vegetation reduces predation and as a result has an adverse impact on fish populations.  The increase in the young‑of‑the‑year survival leads to an increase in stunted fish.  If the pond is on your property, you might think about using a garden rake to remove some of the vegetation.

This is not to say that you need to destroy all vegetation.  You just need to thin it.  Plants are important in that the microscopic ones form the base of the aquatic food chain.  Larger algae and plants provide spawning areas, food, and protective cover.  They provide habitat for insects and snails.

Emergent plants and near shore submerged plants protect against erosion of the shoreline.  All plants produce oxygen.

Algae growth is the main vegetation that presents problems to good bluegill growth.  It comes in two forms phytoplankton and in mats of filamentous algae.  Often problem growth relates to the phosphorus content of the pond.

Bluegills prefer water that is deep and clean as well as having a pH of 7.2.  Vegetation prefers similar conditions.  Ponds abound throughout Illinois providing one or more of these factors and containing healthy populations of fish.

Early season water warms in response to the increasing hours of daylight.  Sheltered areas exposed to sunlight are the first to show signs of plant growth.

One of the reasons vegetation is important in fishing a pond is the lack of structure in the bottoms of such waters.  Most are smooth bottom waters with no distinct cover other than the vegetation.  Fish will be scattered.

Anglers spread their efforts until they are able to locate the fish.  By casting to different areas and adjusting the depth at which they are fishing, fish can be located.  If an overflow pipe is available, work the area around it carefully.

A pond constructed by a dam between two hills should have a channel in the middle.  There may be rocks and stumps near the edge of that channel which will attract fish.

Sometimes a previous angler might have placed a fish attracter, such as a clump of Christmas trees.  Once located, the angler can focus his efforts around it.

Casting lures or pitching a live bait offering to any piece of structure often produces that first fish.

Early in the year, bluegills feed on the vegetation in the shallows.  Anglers should stalk them in their feeding areas.  They feed slowly.  A slow presentation of ice fishing spoons and jigs works well under these conditions.

Baits such as spikes, wax worms, etc., can be added to a lure.  Another presentation can be a salmon egg hook with a single split shot about 12 inches above the hook.  Add live bait to the hook and you are in business.

As water conditions warm, the bluegill’s appetite increases.  Scientists have found that bluegills tend to prefer water that has a temperature of 86 degrees or less.  Most often they prefer 77 to 79 degrees.  Smaller fish prefer slightly lower temperature water. This is not to say that they are not active feeders at lower temperatures.

The fact that ice anglers catch bluegills all winter long attests to that fact.  In colder water, tip lures and hooks with a bit of bait fish meat or even small minnows.  The use of a slip bobber allows the angler to make his presentation at any desired depth until he finds the schools of fish.

If the bait or lure is presented deeper, the split shot should be moved further from the bait up to a maximum of 20 inches.

Light tackle is a must in bluegill fishing regardless of the time of the year.  Spinning reels on ultralight rods should be spooled with 2 to 6 pound test line.  The clearer the water, the lighter should be the line.

Some tips to remember are:  1) work the edge of the cover.  2) If working heavy vegetation, set the hook quickly to keep the fish on the surface until you can get it in open water.  3) When the sun is high, work deeper in the vegetation.  4) As the light becomes low, work the edges.

Bluegills in a pond may seem like easy fishing.  With the right tackle, this can be a challenging, exciting, and fast‑paced action.  Good eating too!

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