The Bluegill fish is a great choice for anglers at any stage of their fishing journey. Easy to catch, and incredibly tasty, what do you need to know about this species?
What is a Bluegill Fish?
A member of the sunfish family, the Centrarchidae, the Bluegill fish native to North America and are found in streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Bluegills are a species of fish that is very easy to catch as they can be found almost anywhere in the North America lakes, and is a very popular target for anglers.
The key feature of the Bluegill is the ear. On its ear, it has a dark oval that covers the gills. You can spot a Bluegill by the oval flap above its pectoral fin, as well as its oval-shaped body and small mouth. Another key characteristic is their deep, flattened bodies.
The fish tends to have between 5 and 9 vertical bars on the sides of its body, an almost yellow breast and abdomen, and bright orange in the male Bluegill. The sides of its head and chin are a dark shade of blue, but the precise coloration varies. Generally, they are lavender and bronze in color, with 6 dark bars on this side.
The males will have a copper-colored bar over the top of the head going behind the eyes, and the breast is usually silver or slightly blue for the majority of the year, apart from in spawning season when it may look yellow or orange. The females tend to be lighter colored, and the distinctive characteristics include the black spot on the rear edge of the gill-cover and a black spot at the base of the posterior part of the dorsal fin.
There are two recognized subspecies of the Bluegill, the Northern Bluegill (Lepomis Macrochirus Macrochirus), and the Florida Bluegill (Lepomis Macrochirus Mystacalis).
Where to Fish for Bluegill
For the average angler, finding Bluegills is not too difficult. Their habitat is native to the Eastern half of the US, east of the Rocky Mountains from coastal Virginia to Florida, west to Texas and northern Mexico, and north to western Minnesota, western New York, and a small part of northeastern Mexico.
You can find them in the shallow water or deep water as they will look for shelter among aquatic plants and in the shade of trees along banks, along with streams, creeks, and rivers. You can find Bluegill fish in most rivers, ponds, and lakes in North America, and as it is one of the most common fish species, you can find them in large numbers.
Bluegills prefer to be undercover, and while they tend to be found in shallow water, the temperature can force them to head to deeper waters. Bluegills prefer water with aquatic plants and tend to congregate within or near fallen logs, water weeds, or underwater structures, including weed beds, where they search for food.
You can find Bluegills depending on their food source. The fish could be traveling from open waters in large schools feeding on plankton and insects, or going along banks where they feed on invertebrates going within the weeds. If they are not spawning, they will be in deeper water during the summertime, which will stay in shallow ponds due to the lack of oxygen that occurs in deeper waters.
The best temperature for Bluegills is between 60 to 80 °F.
Bluegills can live in either deep or very shallow water, and will often move from one to the other depending on the time of day or season. Bluegills also like to find shelter among aquatic plants and in the shade of trees along banks.
Bluegill Fish Facts
Some of the common names for Bluegill include bream, blue bream, sun perch, blue sunfish, copperhead, copperbelly, and roach.
Bluegills are prominent builders of nests, which you can see as a round depression on the bottom of the water, which they complete ready for mating season. These nests can be found between 1 and 4 feet deep, but in clearwater, they will go as deep as 15 feet.
Bluegill spawning occurs from April to September, once water temperatures go up to about 54 degrees Fahrenheit, and the best time to go fishing for them is at the end of June, when the waters hit at least 70 degrees F. Their mating cycle can go from late spring into early fall, depending on their location and a female Bluegill can spawn up to 9 times a year.
Many Bluegill fish tend to reach between 5 to 8 years old and can live up to 11 years.
The common length for Bluegill is (7.5 inches), and the largest reported length was 16 inches, with the heaviest published weight as 2.2 kg (4.8 lbs.) The world record Bluegill was taken from Alabama’s Ketona Lake by T.S. Hudson in 1950, weighing 4 lbs and 12 ounces.
Bluegills are notoriously competitive and are known to compete for food and habitat with native ﬁshes. As a result, some countries have reported negative impacts of Bluegill introductions in their country.
Bluegills like heat, but not direct sunlight. As a result, they will stay near the water surface in the morning to stay warm but are known to live in deeper water.
Bluegill is found in schools of 10 to 20 fish, but these schools include other panfish like crappie and smallmouth bass.
Top Bluegill Fishing Lures & Tips
The great thing about fishing for Bluegill is that you don’t need a lot of heavy-duty equipment. The easygoing nature of fishing for Bluegill means that you can use light tackles and can catch Bluegill on any type of fishing line. But it’s important to remember a few simple things about Bluegill.
Bluegills have a small mouth and do not grow to huge sizes, so you need to select your rod and reel accordingly. A light rod and reel with a light line means you can feel the Bluegill’s bite so you can react better. Whether you want to use live bait or lures, the important thing is to keep them small and sizes from No. 6 to No. 10 are the most effective.
Make sure you use a lighter line weight between 2 and 6 lbs, preferably made of fluorocarbon material, as it is harder for the fish to see. Hooks with long shanks will help you remove them from the Bluegill’s small mouth, and when it comes to bait, live bait appears to work well, especially worms and nightcrawlers, but you will need to break them up in case you attract larger fish. You can also use crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms.
You can also use artificial bait, such as jigs, spinners, and flies, including small black jigs and tiny spinners.
You can catch Bluegill with a number of fishing techniques:
The most popular technique is bobber fishing, as Bluegill doesn’t like to chase their food. Use a small bobber and set it from 1 to 3 feet deep.
Bottom fishing also works, but be sure to use as little weight as possible so the bait sinks slowly and the Bluegill don’t feel resistance when they pick it up. This technique is effective when Bluegill is in deeper water during early spring or after cold weather.
Drift fishing works in late summer when Bluegill are in open water as Bluegill are usually found in schools, but fly fishing is also effective for the advanced angler. As small insects are a big part of the Bluegill’s diet, and as most fly patterns will work, it is a very exciting way to catch Bluegill.
Can You Eat Bluegill?
Bluegills are classed as panfish, and as a result, are best cooked on an open fire. Bluegills are fantastic campfire meals when you are fishing on the Great Lakes. In comparison to other freshwater fish, Bluegill meat is flakier and firmer. The taste is similar to a crappie, which is also part of the sunfish family.
However, it is a smaller and lighter fish, with a more tender flavor than a crappie, and is considered a safer fish to eat because of their diet, which is predominantly aquatic insect larvae, so you can turn it into a delicious meal. Apart from pan roasting, you can use a Bluegill in a variety of settings. You can prepare the Bluegill by wrapping it in tin foil with a lot of herbs for flavor, and you can make a delicious battered fish meal using a batter made with flour, water, and even beer.
Bluegill is also one of the tastiest fish with its skin on. When you cook it with the skin on, make sure you fry it so the skin goes crispy. The more intact the fish is, the deeper the flavor. You can also eat the fish with the bones intact, which adds more depth of flavor, but while this can cause problems for younger anglers, you could also fillet the fish, and eat it boneless, after deep frying it or cooking it over a pan.
The Bluegill fish is a wonderful choice for the beginner angler. A perfect species for anglers looking to take their children on their first fishing trip and have something to show for it at the end!