By Joe Martino
espite the unseasonably cooler weather we have had up to this point this spring, summer is approaching. This point hit home last week as I noticed the familiar honeycombed formation of a few bluegill beds just starting to take shape in my mother’s farm pond.
This week, I have noticed a heck of a lot more of them popping up. This can only mean one thing to me: Spring is giving way to summer, and to me, nothing means summer more than a day fishing for bluegills and a pile of their succulent fillets after a day spent catching them.
The males are the first ones to make their way into the shallow water from their deep winter haunts in order to prepare the nests in which the females will lay their eggs. This usually happens when the water temperature reaches approximately 60 degrees – with the actual spawning period taking place after the water warms up to around 65. Using their tails, they fan out circular-shaped beds in the bottom of the body of water. After this, the females will then move up and lay their eggs in these beds. The females will move off to a little deeper water while the males stay and guard the nests, protecting the eggs from any would-be predators.
My favorite time to catch big bluegills is not when they are actually on the nest, but before they move up into the shallows and onto the beds. They are in a feeding phase at this time as they prepare for the spawn. They are in deeper water still at this time and can be scattered a little more as they stage in preparation for the spawn. But, by concentrating in typically 5 to 8 feet of water, you can get on some bruisers.
Bluegills can not only be caught around the spawning period, but all through the summer and into fall and are relatively simple to catch, making them the perfect fish to target when introducing youngster or newcomers to fishing. Make no mistake, though, they are just as much of a treat for adults and seasoned anglers to catch too! Their tight circular runs and powerful surges when on the end of a line make for some of fishing’s most fun to be had.
You can always get more technical, but when it comes to catching bluegills, there is really nothing to it. An ultralight rod and reel, a handful of bobbers, sinkers, and small hooks and some worms or crickets are all you need to tie into these tasty panfish. If you prefer to use artificial lures, small jigs, spinners, or flies are all good bets, too.
When taking youngsters fishing, you cannot beat going after bluegills. They are plentiful, easy to catch, and provide astronomical spunk and fight when hooked. Kids always seem to have a blast catching bluegills – no matter the size of the fish being caught.
Bluegills are also probably the best fish to go after if you have an interest in learning how to fly fish. Small rubber topwater spiders or bug baits simply popped along the surface in shallow water can yield an afternoon full of fun. Small sinking flies work just as well. I just like watching the water boil as a big bluegill smacks the surface of the water attacking the spider.
Just be careful and conscientious when fishing for them, especially while they are spawning. If you plan on enjoying the taste of their sweet fillets, there is nothing wrong with that. Just be sure to keep only what you can reasonably eat in a meal or two and release the rest to catch another day.
Nothing says summer like spending a lazy day at your favorite pond, reservoir, or natural lake reeling in these spunky fish. When my family and I are out casting for bluegills, it always takes me back to the memories of being with my mom and dad as we would sit on the bank of any of the nearby reservoirs or ponds and spend the day fishing and eating meatloaf sandwiches. Man, to this day there is still nothing better.
So, if you have a notion to get your family out and make some memories of your own, what are you waiting for? The time is here to start making memories of your own – with the help of some tackle-busting panfish.