By Bill Cooper
It’s happening now. The annual bluegill spawn has begun and offers one of the best opportunities of fishing fun for the calendar year.
Bluegills spawn from mid-May into August when water temperatures range from 65 to 80 degrees. However, the sunny, warm days of late May and June, with water temperatures in the 70- to 75-degree range, are the prime times to pursue these scrappy, saucer-shaped sunfish.
As spring rains subside, and ponds and lakes clear, the basketball sized bluegill beds can be clearly seen in the shallow ends of water bodies. Bluegill will colonize during the spawn, with a half dozen beds up to hundreds in some cases.
Bluegill generally spawn at one year of age, but under near perfect conditions have been known to spawn at four months of age. Therein lies the common knowledge that bluegill are prolific breeders and may overpopulate a body of water rather quickly, if not held in check. Additionally, bluegill have the potential to spawn up to five times a year, and a big, healthy female may lay up to 100,000 eggs per spawn. That’s a potential 1/2 million eggs per female each year. Bluegill may be the exponential fish producers of the piscatorial world.
Bluegill and related species like the red-ear sunfish are well known for their amazing strength and fighting prowess. Jerry Cook, owner of J Cook Flyrods, in St. James, has long recognized the sporting quality of bluegill. “If bluegill grew to the size of a big largemouth bass, they would destroy our fishing tackle,” Cook said.
Without a doubt, bluegill offer one of the scrappiest fights on light tackle that can be found in fresh water. Avid fly fisherman, Herb Turner, of Waynesville, considers bluegill a worthy opponent on fly gear. “Bluegill are a joy to catch on a fly rod,” Turner said. “They are particularly fun when the spawn is occurring . To find a colony of bedding bluegills is a goldmine of fun. All it takes is a handful of small poppers for some tremendous topwater action. Big bull bluegill can’t stand it when a perceived threat gets close to the nest and will crash anything that drops near them.”
A sure fire way to hook up with bluegill nesting in deeper water is to cast a wet fly that will sink to the nests. Big gills seem to throw caution to the wind as they attack anything that approaches the nest. Often, their intention is to attack the intruder, and carry it away from the nest, as they crush and kill it in the process.
“Bluegill are the perfect species to start youngsters on fishing,” said Nick Girondo, a Missouri Department of Conservation fisheries management biologist in the Rolla area. “Bluegill are found in the Ozarks about anywhere there is clean water. Too, they are prolific breeders, and they bite readily. They are kid sized, too, about hand-size for a big one. Fishing is an awakening for children. Some are frightened when they swing a wriggling fish out of the water for the first time. A small bluegill creates less fright than a big bass or catfish. With a little guidance and exuberance on the part of an adult, children will soon love fishing for bluegill.”
Most fishermen will readily admit that bluegill were the first fish species they caught. Many adults continue their love affair with hefty bluegill throughout their fishing careers. Noted fly fisherman Mark VanPatten still loves fishing for bluegill. “Bluegill are powerful bundles of fun,” he said. “They are as scrappy as fish come. They seem to pack and attitude and a major wallop along with it. Too, big, bull bluegill are a beautiful fish. Their iridescent scales shimmer with colors of the rainbow from purples, gold, greens, blues, and copper. And a distinguishing black gill tab, looks as if the bull is dressed for dinner, complete with a bow tie.”
Young bluegills feed on rotifers and water fleas. Adults consume aquatic insect larvae of mayflies, caddisflies, and dragonflies, but also feed on crayfish, leeches, snails, worms, and terrestrial insects like crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, ants, and spiders.
A great way to have a great summertime outing with kids in Missouri is to round up a few simple push button spinning rod rigs, a can of worms, or other live bait and head to a local pond or creek. A fun activity to include is allowing the kids to help dig worms or catch live crickets and grasshoppers. Provide each child with an inexpensive butterfly net and the funny action will begin. There is nothing quite as fun as a grasshopper catching competition.
Small, long shanked hooks, tiny weights, and a few bobbers will complete a simple and easy to use fishing system for kids. With a little instruction they will soon enjoy making that somewhat perfect cast towards the body of water in front of them. Don’t forget social spacing for the protection of tiny ears. Bluegill looks carry a healthy sting.
A camera is worth its weight in gold to preserve the mighty smiles of children yanking bluegills from the water. Too, a video camera, or phone, is handy for recording the jubilant squeals and laughs of a kid’s bluegill fishing adventure.
Comments powered by CComment