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Bluegills have their own story

August 24, 2008
Bill Harding, Outdoor Writer

Outdoor magazines carry many articles about catching bass, trout and walleyes, but what about bluegills? Every so often I see an article about these fun, little fish, but not often. I consider bluegills to be the All American fish. Everyone can fish for them regardless of age, gender or budget. A willow branch and a hook can catch bluegills.

The bluegill, or if you prefer to be scientific, the lepomis macrochirus, is a member of the sunfish family. Isn't it amazing what you can learn from Google? It might surprise some that the large and smallmouth bass are members of the same family. Maybe that explains why ounce for ounce the bluegill is about the scrappiest fish that swims.

Most of us are unscientific about naming fish and we lump all subspecies under the name of bluegill or sunfish. Regardless, most of us cut our angling teeth on these obliging little fish. Bluegills seem perpetually hungry and willing to bite. They are perfect for teaching a kid to fish as the action is exciting enough to prevent boredom.

Our daughter had her first fishing trip to East Palestine's City Lake when she was about 4 years old and she caught fish. I was so busy baiting her hook and unhooking bluegills that I had very little time to fish. I caught nothing and Pam reminded me of that fact all the way home. It was a wonderful time for a father and daughter and I still enjoy the memory of that trip more than the times I caught fish.

There are many ways to catch bluegills, but I guess the bobber and a worm method is the one used most. Bluegills have very small mouths and that means a small hook is necessary. I use a light weight No. 8 hook below a small bobber. I usually pinch on a light split shot sinker between the bobber and hook.

Garden worms or red wigglers are better than nightcrawlers. About all you will accomplish using a fat, juicy nightcrawler is to feed the fish. Bluegills will run with the end of a nightcrawler and seldom get on the hook. Remember that they have a small mouth so small hooks and small bait is the way to go. Manure worms, maggots and wax worms are great bluegill baits, and in the south crickets are very popular.

I learned to use a flyrod by catching bluegills on small poppers. A popper is a flyrod lure consisting of a cork or foam body and some hair and feathers. This is great sport late in the evening when the fish are taking bugs off of the surface. During the day I have had a lot of success with small wet flies. Both of these methods will test your reflexes as a bluegill can spit out a fly with lightning-like speed once he tastes feathers instead of a juicy bug.

If you do not have a flyrod, use a spinning outfit with a spin bubble. The spin bubble is nothing but a clear bobber, and a bobber will work just as well. The bubble, or bobber, provides casting weight and the popper or fly is tied behind on a leader. It can be difficult to set the hook with this rig as you must jerk the bobber before your action reaches the lure.

There are times when a small jig will catch a lot of bluegills, especially when the larger ones are active. I prefer a 1/32 or 1/16 ounce jig, although there are times when I have used jigs as light as 1/64 ounce. White has been a good color as has chartreuse and yellow. I use an ultra-light spinning outfit with a bobber. This is a good method if there are crappies around and I have taken a fair share of them while fishing for bluegills with jigs.

If you have access to a private pond or lake, purchase some pond fish food. These are small, round pellets that are full of fish nutrients. Toss a handful out and watch how the bluegills react. Polarizing sunglasses will cut the surface glare and help you observe. This can be a good lesson in how bluegills react to bait or lures. Watching them can be almost as much fun as fishing for them.

While we all want to catch a big fish, never discount the fishing pleasure provided by bluegills. Take a kid along and double the fun.



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