Bluegill are one of the best ways to introduce a new angler to the world of fishing. They are super easy and super fun to catch.
For starters, these fish live in almost every major body of water across the country. They can also be found in most small ponds, where all you need is a rod, hook, and a worm.
Read on for the best bluegill fishing tips and learn how to catch them like a pro.
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What is a Bluegill? (Knowing Your Sunfish)
To catch bluegill, you will first need to identify what bluegill are and find out where they live. The easy answer to, "Where should I fish for Bluegill?" is basically any body of fresh water. Bluegill live in lakes and rivers across North America and even in select European countries.
Identifying bluegill is a little more complicated. If you look closely, you will find that bluegill have distinct markings that differentiate them from other sunfish.
Black Spot Near the Ear
The first thing to look for is the black spot located at the rear of the gill plate. You would think the fish should be named a black ear rather than bluegill with this feature.
Dark Blue Head
The entire head of a bluegill has a dull blue coloration that may or may not be very noticeable depending on the environment in which the particular fish lives.
Number of Spines
Bluegill will have between 6 and 13 spines along its top dorsal fin. The specific number will be determined by the overall size of the fish. This number is not subject to the specific environment or school in which the fish is living.
Between 5 and 9 vertical bars are sometimes present on the fish. These are similar to the bars found on perch but may not always be as visible as you may find on other species.
The breast of a bluegill is ordinarily yellow or orange colored and will change based on the season of the year, the environment in which the fish lives, along with whether or not the fish is spawning.
Light Blue “Chinstrap”
Sometimes referred to as the “chinstrap," bluegill have a light blue lower jaw which is generally where they get their name from. They do not have an actual blue gill plate, as one would presume.
What Do I Need for Bluegill Fishing? (Equipment Needed)
Fishing Rods and Fishing Line
If you plan on going the conventional gear route, you will want to use an ultralight setup. Line size should be a 4-pound test. This setup works great for jigging or running a bobber and worm style rig.
The reel should be 25 size or smaller, and the rod length only needs to be about 6 feet. This will provide more than enough backbone for wrangling bluegill.
The best bait for bluegill fishing will generally be a nightcrawler or some type of live worm. These are generally the least expensive and easiest to come by as far as baits go.
The next best thing to a worm would be meat or stink bait. Bluegill love to chomp down on stink bait, so this is a good method to use for fishing schools of fish.
A jig will also work well for bluegill. Using a tiny 16th-ounce jig head and a tube jig will work well on open water, ice fishing, or pond fishing.
Have you ever seen one of the traditional red and white bobbers that are about the size of a golf ball? Those are perfect for bluegill fishing. Other floats can be torpedo style like you would have in your trout fishing tackle box or light-up floats from your catfish and bullhead box.
For the hook size you should be using to catch bluegill, look for a size 4 to 6. Normally the hook you should be using for bluegill will be about the same as your pinky fingernail. Because these fish have such small mouths, a small hook would be more desirable than a larger hook.
If you were to find somewhere that the fish tended to be larger, you could switch to a larger hook and put more of a nightcrawler on that hook. Space this would also provide you with larger catches and eliminate some of the smaller fish from being able to bite your hook.
Where to Fish for Bluegill? Their 3 Main Habitats
Catching Bluegill in Ponds
Catching pond bluegill will be the easiest. When thinking about how to catch bluegill in ponds, focus on fishing shaded areas. Areas with dense cover will also be great places to cast a line. Sight fishing bluegill in ponds with a worm or jig will give you the best chance at landing a fish.
When the fish are spawning or on beds in the spring and summer, cast your bat out beyond the fish and reel past them. If they are hungry, they will be sure to eat. Bluegill are also very territorial, so they may hit your bait out of aggression.
Catching Bluegill in Cold Waters
Some of the best bluegill fishing happens just before winter in the cold water. Bluegill that swim in schools tend to be in larger bodies of water and are most easily caught by casting for trolling worms.
You can also catch bluegill in the cold waters when ice fishing. For this method, you can either jig a spoon or soft plastic, even rig a minnow suspended under the ice.
Catching Bluegill in Deep Waters
How to catch bluegill in deep water? We discuss this a little bit with cold water, and it tends to be the case in both scenarios; using worms to catch feeding fish in a school and preparing for winter.
The fish are prepping for winter by eating as much as possible while the food is still abundant. This gives anglers a great opportunity to take advantage of landing high numbers of fish
How to Catch Bluegill (7 Fishing Tips from a Pro Angler)
1. Slow Down and Descend your Lure
While bluegill are quite fast, they do not tend to hit baits that are moving very quickly. To have the best shot attaching bluegill, slow your presentation down. Suspend your bait above the bluegill and wait for them to strike.
2. Using Slip Floats
Using slip bobbers or slip floats can be a great way to catch any fish, including bluegill. Traditionally slip floats have been used to catch larger fish such as salmon or trout. A conventional red & white bobber about the size of a golfball is what you would typically use when fishing at a bluegill pond. To use a slip bobber, position the bobber stops where you would like the float to sit on the surface of the water once the bait is cast out.
The float will be able to move freely down towards the bait and hook when casting. When the bait hits the water, the float will slide freely up the line to the stop. Once the float hits the stopper, it will have suspended your bait. Always remember to suspend your bait higher in the water column than where the bluegills are swimming or schooled.
3. Use Crickets as a Bait
Another question often asked is, “How can I fish with crickets for Bluegill?” This method is generally the same as any other live bait application. The difference is that crickets are much more lively.
To fish with crickets, simply go to a pet store that would sell live crickets used to feed reptiles. Buy a dozen or so. Rig those as you would with a live minnow and hold on tight. Bluegill can not resist a live cricket.
4. When it’s Hot, Go Deep
While bluegill do qualify as a sunfish, it is kind of ironic because they don't necessarily enjoy being in the sun. In hot weather or sunny weather, try fishing deeper pools or shaded walls to catch bluegill.
We briefly discussed methods for catching bluegill and gear associated with each of those methods. A very traditional, inexpensive way to catch bluegill is to use a cane pole with a line tied to the end of it, dipping your bait in the water to entice bluegill to bite. This very simple method is very effective and a small pond or a river's bank.
Shooting a bait is the same thing as casting a bait. This method involves catapulting your hook out into the water using the leverage of your rod. This method can be done from land or from a boat to increase the range your bait is effective. Shooting a slip float setup may be the best overall way to fish for bluegill.
Bonus - Seasonal Bluegill Fishing (Different Techniques)
People also Ask (FAQs)
Why are these fish considered ‘legendary'?
Bluegill have been featured in a video game called Red Dead Redemption. A character is invited fishing where they catch "legendary bluegill." This has nothing to do with actual bluegill, other than showing that these fish have historically been a staple in the fishing world since the early days of explorers in North America.
How do you hook bluegill for bass fishing?
Using bluegill for live bait is illegal in some states. In others, they make great bait for bass fishing. To rig up bluegill, all you need to do is insert your hook in the upper back of the fish, directly under the dorsal spines of the bluegill. Bass will eat the baitfish headfirst; just keep that in mind as you are rigging.
Are bluegill safe to eat?
Bluegill are not only safe to eat but very good to eat! The filleting and the eating portion are probably the most rewarding part of a bluegill fishing trip. The fish provide a good portion of meat and can be prepared in a variety of ways. The way I like to prepare bluegills is to fry them and make fish tacos!
How many times a year do bluegill spawn?
Bluegill spawn in the spring. When the water temperature nears 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the fish begin to move up into the shallows. Fishing for these fish becomes easier in the spring because you can sight fish and cast directly to spawning beds. The fish are very territorial and will strike bait aggressively.
Bluegill fishing is so much fun. It's fun for anglers young and old. You can fish by casting, or you can fish by jigging, live bait, or dead bait. The best part about bluegill fishing is the way they taste once caught, filleted, and cooked (check out our fish cookbooks and give it a try!)
Try out some of the bluegill fishing techniques we have discussed, and let us know how they work for you.