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Bluegills - More Than Just A Gateway Drug!

by: Lloyd Tackitt 10/24/2013

Bluegills may be the single most prevalent fish, and the one that most kids get started with - but there's more to them than that.  I'm willing to bet that bluegills are what most kids catch first, and there's reason for that.  The smaller bg's are everywhere it seems, and are easy to catch.  Teaching kids to fish works best if they catch a lot of fish in a short period of time and bg's are definitely number one for that.

But pretty soon we move on from bg's to other fish.  Bass mostly, but also crappie, catfish and so on.  As we get older we phase out from quantity to quality - meaning size.  We're more willing to go hours without a catch if we're pursuing something specific, or large.  This is a natural consequence of maturing and learning to be willing to delay gratification.  Young children = instant gratification, mature adults = delayed gratification.  This is as natural as the spawning of fish every spring.

The older we get the more selective we may become regarding what we consider a "good" catch.  Some folks become interested only in trophy or record category fish.  Most though are happy to catch a few good size fish now and then, for them it's not a pursuit of record fish, it's a pursuit of fishing as an activity, as a process.

So back to bluegills. I've come full circle, started with bg's, moved on to bass fishing, and have come back to bg's. The small ones, say six inches and down, are pretty much everywhere and pretty much easy to catch.  I've gone through the phases above and have come full circle back to what I first caught, bluegills.  I love these guys.  They have beautiful coloration and they are world class fighters.  Ounce per ounce I doubt if there is a harder fighting fish in the world.

I catch my share of the small ones, but those aren't the ones I'm after these days.  There is an elusive band of bluegills that I see now, those in the ten inch category.  They are out there, but they aren't easy to find.  They aren't easy to get on a hook either.  But when you do man do you have a fighting fish on your hands.  A ten inch or larger bluegill fights all the way in, hard.  They don't slack up, they don't get tired, they never surrender.  On big bass tackle they're not a big deal, but on light tackle?  Oh hell yeah they are!

My personal best was one I caught when I was 18 years old.  It weighed 2.5 lbs.  I didn't measure it's length but from what I recall it was well over a foot long.  Nowdays I don't weigh them I just measure them.  I can't count how many 10" bg's I've caught.  I've caught three 11" ones.  Haven't caught a 12" since that one when I was 18, and that was 42 years ago.  But they're still out there.  The world record is 4lbs 12oz.  I can't even imagine what that fish looked like but I can imagine what a fight it was to land.

These days I use a 3 wt fly rod to go after them with.  It's definitely not the only way, in fact it may be the least often used way, but it works great.  Ultra-light spinning gear is probably the most commonly used gear, and possibly the most efficient gear at that.  Baitcasting rigs work too, but a lot of the casting is underhand or sidearm to get up under overhanging brush, and the skill required to do that with a baitcasting reel is more than I have.  I'd be picking out backlashes all day instead of catching fish.  Shoot, a good old cane pole is still a very viable way of catching these guys.

Since I try for the bigger ones I tend to use larger flys, to help eliminate the smaller ones from biting.  If I fished in ponds or lakes I'd also be fishing deeper and would use a sinking line.  But I fish in a shallow river so depth isn't the key.  Instead I use larger flys, and it works pretty well.  Although even with larger flys I still catch plenty of small ones because these guys are so aggressive that they'll attack and try to eat something bigger than they are.  That's okay, they're fun to catch too.

Once in a while I'll fish with two flys at a time, one on a drop leader.  I do that to double my chances of catching one, but on a few occasions it's worked out to where I had two fish on at the same time.  Get two big bluegills trying to go different directions on a light weight rig and you'll grin from ear to ear.

Got any bluegill tips to share?


Blog content © Lloyd Tackitt
Member comments
Coyute, CO   10/24/2013 10:11:07 AM
Good blog! If trophy sized bluegill were easy to come by and catch, BASS would be in serious trouble because nobody would fish for black bass any longer. If I could roll up to a gravel pond and catch 1-2 pound bluegill consistently, I would trade all my crankbaits for worms and bobbers! Bluegill, like bumble bees, don't get the credit they deserve. The both do something very important with their lives with little fanfare. I have had very good days when the bass were on fire, but the one or two slaunch bluegill I caught stand out in my mind. If you bust your ass in a gold mine all day, and suddenly come across an exceptional emerald, gold loses it's interest for a time. Here is a nice link with some good gill info.
ColoradoDad, CO   10/24/2013 11:32:31 AM
I love chasing bluegills. As a father that frequently has multiple children with him bluegills are a welcome sight at any time. One of most fond bluegill memories came a while ago on a rare occasion of me bass fishing alone. I had all the bass tackle you could want, but nothing small enough for a bluegill to take when I saw a 12"+ BG swimming in the shallows feeding. I ran back to the truck & found an old telescopic UL with 2lb braid on it, a couple of small trout snells and a classic red and white bobber. I caught a handful of grasshoppers and placed them in an old plastic bottle I found lying on shore. I proceeded to catch bluegills in the 10-12" range for the next two hours. My best came in at 12 1/2". I have no idea how many I caught but I remember the mental exercise of returning to a simpler time and just having fun.
Opry99er, CO   10/24/2013 11:40:40 AM
Having lived in Texas for several years, I gained a healthy respect for the gills and learned to love catching them... They are truly an exceptional species in both taste and the sporting fight. I am definitely looking forward to getting into them this Sunday and have a couple new spots I'm dying to try out with the boy. He has had fun hauling big carp and a couple mountain rainbows, but he has yet to get into a school of gills. We are looking forward to it as part of our "farewell 2013" fishing campaign... Nice blog, and it came at a perfect time, as we were planning to start hardcore gill fishing this weekend anyway.
FXA0, CO   10/24/2013 1:37:08 PM
That's a good observation regarding instant and delayed gratification. For me, catching a trophy fish is more exciting than catching a multitude of small fish. However, the hunt for the big one can be frustrating, so I like to mix it up with trips where I can catch a lot of smaller fish. I don't target blue gills but white bass can be a blast when you run into a mess of them.
OldMikkDale, CO   10/24/2013 5:13:04 PM
This blog is right on for me as I am going to take my six year old grandson fishing Saturday which will be his first time. It took quite a while to find a pond with gills here in Greeley. I tried it out and by flipping an European night crawler out, it took about one minute to catch small gills. Will have to explain to him that for larger fish it will be different. Later will switch him over to stockers. Kids do get bored quickly so I don't want to rush him. Have never fish for or caught larger ones, but I think that would be fun.
Lloyd Tackitt
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