Land of Lincoln Bluegills
Sitting on the bank of a farm pond, soaking in the sun, watching the tiny red and white bobber sway back and forth with the waves of the crystal blue water. These visions inspire anglers across the country to go in pursuit of bluegill. Bluegills offer an exciting fishing adventure, as well as some of the best table fare any fish can provide. So instead of dreaming about them go and catch yourself a mess of them for supper tonight.
Bluegills are a simple fish to catch. It takes a lot to scare them, and the small ones do not mind what you throw at them. But, what are the best methods to catch a stringer of big bluegill this summer?
A big bluegill, 8-inches in length or bigger, is an old fish and knows how to survive. Much like a big whitetail buck, a “trophy bluegill” stays alive by being wary of its surroundings.
Illinois’ state record bluegill was caught in 1987 out of a private pond in Jasper County. The big fish weighed three pounds, eight ounces.
Most of my bluegill fishing is done at farm ponds and I have pulled some lunker bluegills from these waters. Many fishermen believe that these small bodies of water will not hold big bluegills, but many state record bluegills come from farm ponds.
One of the biggest mistakes that bluegill fisherman make is making too much noise. A little noise is tolerated by smaller fish, but the big ones will not tolerate it. Do not bang your poles, drop your tackle box or even talk loud, and you will catch more, bigger bluegills.
Many anglers of different fish species know the power that fishing at night has when it comes to landing the big ones, but what about bluegills? Using small spinnerbaits, or hooks with a split-shot sinker and no bobber with bait works well during the summer. Just keep a finger on the line to detect any bites.
Spinnerbaits are good at other times than just at night when fished slowly and on waters that you are not familiar with. It does not take a large spinner to intrigue a bluegill to bite. A 1/32-ounce lure is all it takes to entice a bite.
Are you tired of catching the little bluegills and nothing else? Then it is probably time to move to deeper water. The big fish would rather be in the deep, dark and cool water where they are not as easily bothered by what is happening near the surface.
Crappie fisherman have always known the power of using minnows to catch big slabs. But did you know that minnows will catch jaw dropping bluegills too? Like other fish, bluegill feed on smaller fish, so it only makes sense to use minnows for big bluegill. A 2-inch minnow hooked through both lips on a slip-bobber rig works best. You will not catch a lot of bluegills, but the ones you catch will be worth talking about.
Look where other anglers do not look. These areas include thick, hard to get to cover. Grab a long pole and fish live baits where that are barely accessible. These are the hideaways for trophy bluegills. It will likely take a boat or a belly boat to get to these haunts. Use a 10-foot minimum rod so you are able to have extra reach and avoid extra boat movement that could potentially spook fish. A 12 to 16-foot rod works even better. Fish without the aid of a bobber by pulling the bait to the tip of the pole and releasing it when you have the pole in the opening you are wanting.
Finally, go light. Big bluegill are more likely to just barely tap your bait than a pounding strike. That being said use lightweight gear, especially a rod with a soft, sensitive tip. This will enable you to barely lift your pole and notice a slight bend on the tip of your rod showing a fish has taken your bait and has become hooked. Also, stick with 1- or 2-pound line to catch more, bigger bluegills.
With the tips I have outlined above you should be well on your way to a good bluegill supper. All that is left is to cook ‘em.
Easy Bluegill Nuggets
• ½ pound bluegill fillets, cut into squares or cubes
• One egg
• ½ cup dry breadcrumbs
• Bottle of sweet and sour sauce
Heat oil in a deep pan to about 375 degrees. Dip dish in egg then breadcrumbs. Fry until deep golden brown, drain. Serve with sauce for dipping.