By Josh Boyd
Reflecting back, it is probably safe to say that for most anglers, their love affair with fishing began at a tender age, as they drew their first bluegill from the depths before them. These feisty, pint-sized fish harbor a ferocious appetite that often makes them easy pickings for school-aged anglers.
Bluegill remain a hot fishing commodity for anglers young and old alike. In fact, few days on the water are as celebrated as those late-spring and early summer afternoons spent surrounded by family and friends, pulling ‘gills from their beds.
Fishing for spawning bluegill has become an annual tradition for a countless number of fishermen, as this time of year brings plentiful opportunity and better than average odds of catching dinner-worthy numbers of fish. However, like any other type of fishing, successful bluegill bed fishing does not come without having a sound plan in mind.
Timing the Spawn
To find success fishing for bluegill on bed, you must be present when the time is right. Luckily, the bluegill spawn often drags out over the better part of the summer in most areas, offering a substantial amount of opportunity to all who are interested.
Throughout most of the nation, pockets of spawning bluegill can be found at any given time from May through August, but few times tend to offer as action-packed fishing as the month of June. Typical spawning activity can be observed on most bodies of water when surface temperatures reach 65-72 degrees.
Heightened spawning activity has also widely been thought to correlate with the full moon period, leading to an increase in bedding activity in the days directly preceding and following the full moon’s arrival. Many fishermen swear by the three days on either side of a full moon, as being the time in which to catch bull bluegill with regularity.
Finding Bluegill Beds
Once you have planned your outing, you need to put yourself on the hot bite. This begins and ends with locating the small circular beds where bluegill are currently calling home. These beds are typically found close to one another, with a significant number of individual beds being common in any given area if conditions are right.
During the spawn, bluegill typically prefer sandy or gravel-covered bottoms, as opposed to those consisting of mud or large rock. Many times, these beds are even found in areas absent of natural cover and structure, which is quite the opposite of where such fish are usually found during other portions of the year.
Coves, creeks, and points are all likely areas to begin your search for bluegill beds. In rivers, any shallow pocket of slackwater is an ideal spot to focus your efforts. When locations such as these are located, and also present the correct bottom composition, the chances of locating more than one bed in the vicinity skyrocket.
Most bluegill beds are found in under 7-foot of water, with many falling in the 3-5 foot depth range. At times, bluegill will bed in water as shallow as 1-foot deep. Though some anglers have had success in locating bluegill beds at depths of up to 10-foot or deeper, this is far less common, though other panfish, such as redear sunfish, regularly spawn at greater depths.
On many lakes, beds can be visually identified, when polarized sunglasses are worn. Small circular depressions located in likely locations, such as those listed above, are often a dead giveaway of bluegill spawning activity. Additionally, the presence of bubbles surfacing within these areas is also a significant clue to the whereabouts of bluegill beds.
Catching Bedding ‘Gills
Once you have identified an area that holds probable bluegill beds, the only matter of business left to tend to is that of reeling in dinner. For best results, it is important to take precautions to avoid spooking bluegill from their beds.
When fishing from a boat, take care not to approach a bed any closer than necessary. Alternatively, when fishing from the bank, keep noise to a minimum whenever possible. Although frightened bluegill will return to their beds within a few minutes, being cautious will keep fish biting as any eager panfish angler would hope.
When attempting to catch spawning bluegill, little works as well as a box of red worms, or a tube of crickets. However, small, crappie style tubes, curly tail, or hair jigs can also work well. Bait can be fished either directly on the bottom, or under a float.
It is also quite helpful to cast beyond a bed, rather than directly into it. This prevents spooking fish and allows you to jig or retrieve your bait directly into the desired area. Upon reaching a bed, expect strikes to be aggressive and immediate.
Although ultralight tackle can be used to much success, the use of a cane pole or bream buster is often one of the most effective ways to catch a substantial number of spawning bluegill in short order. This allows any fisherman to easily reach distant beds with their bait of choice, and quickly pull bluegill from their beds without disturbing other fish located nearby.
Endless Summer Fun
Fishing for spawning bluegill is an undeniably enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, as doing so often provides a steady stream of action for any who seek it. This offers a wonderful opportunity to introduce the young among us to the wonderful sport of fishing.
With every fish caught and every smile that radiates from a young angler’s face, we will be reminded of our roots, and be allowed to fondly reflect upon the humble beginnings of our own fishing careers.