Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Unheralded Bluegill

Drawing by Doug Stewart of Bluegill feeding in reed beds.
Bluegills are good biters and strong fighters, and pound for pound they are considered to be better than some larger fish. According to some anglers this small, feisty panfish is no better than a scrap fish, but this is a gross misconception. They are very savory and provide uncrowded opportunities for people who don’t want to travel far to have fun catching fish. Perhaps the best thing they provide is an ideal opportunity for kids to start fishing with success. A ragged fly from a fly box or some rejected patterns from the vice will work, as well as fly rod poppers, crappie jigs and artificial worms dangling from a bobber.

Bluegill, also called Copperbellies, are ubiquitous and can be found in small ponds, lakes and streams. They have a high tolerance for surviving in lakes and rivers that lack quality water, and unlike other species, they can withstand intense fishing pressure. They prefer areas with vegetation where they can be hidden and close to food sources. During the day they will head for deeper water, but will return to shallower water in the evening to feed. They are most vulnerable in the spring when they are spawning and guarding their nests. At this time of year, they’ll attack anything that comes close to their area. An artificial fly is no exception.

Small flies, size 10-12, with color combinations of red, white, black and yellow seem to work best. Size 8-12 fly patterns that also work well are hoppers, crickets, humpies and foam-bodied flies. Streamers such as Spruce flies and Muddlers, and wet flies like soft hackles are also very effective.

Many methods of fishing will attract them, using a variety of strips and pauses. Since they are relatively slow swimmers, reduce the speed of the retrieve. You can get closer to them than many other fish.

The tackle doesn’t have to be elaborate. Any light action 6 to 8 1/2 foot rod with a 4 to 5 weight line is adequate. Bluegills are not leader shy, so 7 1/2 foot leaders with 2X to 3X tippits can be used.

Fishing for Bluegill and other spiny rays is a fun and productive sport, so if you want a pleasant respite from other types of fishing, go catch some Copperbellies and take a kid with you.

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