Fishing is a sport and a hobby that is fun in the daytime as well as at night. When you’re doing some night fishing, you might decide to fish randomly for whatever might be in the area, or you could be targeting a specific species of game fish such as bluegill.
Bluegill are an active fish that are mostly active throughout the day, but will also feed well into the night hours. They are a smaller-sized panfish that can weigh up to 4 pounds, though are usually in the 2-3 pound range.
These fish can be a great species to fish for at night, but also make a very attractive fish to focus on during the day as well. Bluegills are often said to be one of the most popular game fish for any angler that loves panfish.
The Truth About Bluegills Biting at Night
As a panfish, bluegill will normally have a wide range of prey in their diet. This is usually made up of aquatic insects and their larvae, but bluegill also love chasing minnows and will happily chow down freshwater shrimp and small snails when ice fishing in the winter months as well.
During the night, most smaller baitfish will hide in thick weeds and vegetation. If the bluegill is active at night, but can’t find the baitfish, they will instead focus on eating insect larvae which are normally abundant and active at night.
In the southern range of bluegill territory, small shrimp make up a huge portion of a bluegill’s diet. These small crustaceans are extremely active at night which makes them a readily available meal for bluegill in the area.
Nighttime Bluegill Activity
While bluegill are not always active throughout the night, they will continue to feed well into the dark evenings. If they feel safe in their water and don’t have any immediate threats of larger predatory fish hunting them, bluegill will search out their next meal.
If the water is dangerous and bluegill are being pressured by predators, they will instead try to take cover and hide around sunken structures such as dock pylons, bridge supports, and dams.
You can also find bluegill holding tight around sunken trees and submerged logs, as well as in thick weed beds and heavy vegetation.
Can Bluegills See in Dark?
Bluegill are a species of fish that have naturally good eyesight in the dark water during the night. This good night vision is normally used for their own defense and safety when trying to avoid predatory fish, but it also benefits them in finding prey for food.
Compared to other exceptionally well-sighted night fish such as walleye, bluegill aren’t as adept at seeing in the dark. However, their night vision is still perfectly good enough that they can see a lure or artificial bait you drop into the water, regardless of the color.
Night Fishing for Bluegill: Top Tips
Best Rigs to Catch Bluegills at Night
Most anglers will swear by one of the following three rigs when fishing at night for bluegill, however you can very likely notice success in landing bluegill when using a rig not on this list. If you’re comfortable using it, don’t be afraid to try it when fishing at night for these fish.
Split Shot Rig
A very easy to use rig, the Split Shot is great for panfish of all types. It’s the perfect rig to use for anglers that love light gear and finesse fishing, or for those that are focusing on a number of different small species.
Drop Shot Rig
This versatile and commonly used rig is great for anyone that wants to catch bluegill and other panfish. It’s great for delivering your lure or bait in all depths of water without letting it get easily snagged in deep weed edges, while still making sure that bait or lure looks natural.
A great rig for beginners or anyone that has trouble determining when a fish strikes due to rod vibrations and rod tip movement alone. Using a bobber can make it much easier to see when a bluegill or other fish is nibbling at your bait or has taken your lure.
Best Baits to Use
Big bluegills are very eager to bite at night and will grab a wide range of different baits and lures. When fishing for bluegill either in the day or at night, they will willingly take small minnows and shad, live minnows and minnow lures, artificial and live worms, tadpoles, shrimp, small insects, and more.
If you’re fishing for bluegill and focusing your fishing time throughout the late evening and nights, most anglers will agree that maggots, shrimp, and pale colored worms or other similar live baits are easily the best baits you can use when fishing slack water areas in the early morning or for a bluegill late night feast.
When fishing with artificial lures, brightly colored or pale colored lures are a great choice in dark water. Their contrast in the dark water makes them much easier to see and will make a bluegill more willing to strike.
Best Areas to Target
If you are fishing in a new area for bluegill and other species, but don’t exactly know where to find them, there are a few things you can look for in order to locate these fish. Bluegill schools are commonly seen around deeper weedlines near the shore, or near shallow water and deeper water transitions at the right depth of up to 20 feet deep.
You can also find panfish schools roaming around in open water, though they will be near structures and other areas of cover in case of predatory fish in the area.
Best Season for Night Fishing For Bluegill
Most anglers that are specifically fishing at night for bluegill will most likely have their best success in catching these panfish in the summer months. During the summer, many of the natural prey items for bluegill are highly active which means more food is abundant and bluegill will be chasing it.
In addition, bluegill enjoys cooler water so on extremely hot days they may be more inactive than other species. As the water cools off during the late evening and night hours, bluegill will become more active and head out in search of food.
This is a great time for you to drop your lure and other bait into the water to try and catch this panfish.
Other Tips for Night Fishing Success
There are a variety of other tips you can keep in mind when specifically targeting bluegill during the night in order to get the most success from your time out on the water.
Use Live Bait
Larger bluegills love seeing live bait in the water and will eagerly strike at insect larvae, minnows, and shrimp when it’s dropped into the water right near their faces. If you’re ready to start catching bluegills, using live bait will give you the best fishing success.
Use Boat Lights
Since light attracts small baitfish, small shrimp, and various other freshwater plankton, a good light source around your favorite fishing spot can be a big benefit to you. Having boat lights can attract these prey items near your boat, which can also attract bluegill and other panfish to the same area to make it easier for you to catch bluegill.
Fish Towards Cover
Bluegill that are willing to bite at night will most likely remain close to their cover areas in the dark water, as they can otherwise become targets for larger predatory fish. When you’re trying to catch bluegill and get them to bite at night, cast your bait and lures towards these cover areas for the best results.
Bluegill might not be as active during the night as they are throughout the day. It will depend on water temperatures and the general availability of food for the bluegill in the area you are fishing in. As a result, you should always be patient and spend your time waiting to catch bluegill before you give up on a spot, especially if you are ice fishing at night.
Look For Predators
If you notice signs of predatory fish such as pike or bass, bluegill populations may be much lower in this area than they would be in other spots without these fish. If you want to have good success in catching fish, try finding a waterway that is free of these predatory species.