How to Catch Bluegill: 7 Great Tips

Bluegill are an excellent panfish for anglers of all experience levels to catch. Whether you are fishing up a rod for the first time, or have been on the professional …

Bluegill are an excellent panfish for anglers of all experience levels to catch. Whether you are fishing up a rod for the first time, or have been on the professional fishing circuits for several years, bluegill fishing can give you an enjoyable fight on the line and make a wonderful meal on the grill too.

Bluegill certainly isn’t as large and impressive as Largemouth Bass or other fish and will instead require small bait such as wax worms in the lower water column, but bluegill fishing should still be on the list for a fun fish to catch.

Both children and adults alike can get a great amount of enjoyment from these little fish as long as you’re using light tackle such as small jigs, or bait on small hooks to get the best fishing results when you find bluegill.

Whether you are brand new to bluegill fishing or simply need a refresher on how to land them during or outside of the spawning season, this article will cover the basics as well as give you some of the best bluegill fishing tips to use during your next trip out onto the water.

Bluegill Fishing Basics

Bluegill Behavior

Bluegill are aggressive small fish with an excellent amount of maneuverability in the water which makes them a fun target when fishing. They can be agile enough to avoid predators, as well as catch fleeing prey such as aquatic insects, smaller fish, and more. 

These fish are very adept at sensing vibrations in the water, but also have excellent vision throughout the day and into the evenings. If you’re trying to catch bluegill and get some aggressive and hungry fish to take your bait, try bluegill fishing in the late afternoon and evening hours when they are most actively feeding.

Many anglers will go fishing for bluegill outside of the spawning period when the fish are actively looking for their natural food chain prey. You’ll find them holding tight around weed beds and brush piles in shallower water, though they can be found in deeper and warmer water as well.

Bluegill Habitat

The best bluegill fishing success happens in shallow water with small tackle and small live bait.

Big bluegill are not too picky about the depth of their water and can be found in the shallow flats as well as much of the deep water of large lakes. Where they decide to hang out will depend on the season and the water temperatures, and whether or not they are in an active spawning colony.

Warm water will send them into shallow water in search of food, so look around for lily pads, weed lines, and overhanging vegetation as these are all prime spots for small bluegill prey to be lurking.

When bluegill bite, they can be very aggressive and will hold tight onto whatever they have. Letting your rig sink slowly and keeping your bait suspended above the bottom of the lake is a great option. Food falls slowly through the water, so your fishing line and small lures should do the same when fishing for bluegill and other female or male sunfish species.

Once the summer temperatures take hold and the water temperature starts to rise, bigger fish may move into deeper water to find cooler temperatures. If these deeper areas have an abundance of aquatic vegetation and weeds, the biggest bluegill will hold in these areas throughout the season.

Bluegill Fishing Tips: 7 Tricks to Catch More (and Bigger) Bluegill

Bluegill and other panfish can be an eager fish that is ready to put up a bit of a fight once you have it on the line.

Tip 1: Keep Your Hooks Small

While you might be tempted to go with larger and sturdier hooks, you shouldn’t. Even big bluegills are not overly large fish and their mouths are relatively small in comparison. Smaller hooks and lures will be much easier for even the largest bluegill to strike.

Size 6 hooks are perfect for the bluegill angler when fly fishing with live baits such as maggots or worms. If you’re fly fishing with artificial lures, look for small crankbaits or tiny topwater lures under 2 inches in length.

While you might be debating about the success with such a small tackle on your fly rod, you’ll be pleasantly surprised once you start pulling fish into the boat. The best bluegill fishing success happens in shallow water with small tackle and small live bait.

Tip 2: Take it Slow

When retrieving your line, don’t be in any rush. Generally speaking, while bluegill can be aggressive and eager to feed, they might also want to study your bait and lure a bit too.

When retrieving, take it slow and give bluegill a good chance to notice your presentation and give a bite. This is especially important for ice fishermen as well. While ice fishing, bluegill will be much slower but still hungry, so give them a good chance to grab your bait when fishing in this cold water.

Tip 3: Use a Bobber

Whether you are using a traditional round bobber or a pencil float, using a bobber or float can be a huge help when fishing for bluegill fish. Using some kind of bobber or float gives you a good amount of control over how deep your bait will remain under the water.

If using slip floats, you may start to notice more strikes from bluegill and redear sunfish. These fish don’t like feeling resistance on the fishing line, so even traditional round bobbers should be very small and easy for the fish to pull under. Once you see that bobber dance a bit and then vanish, you know you have a bluegill on the line.

Tip 4: Use Cricket Baits

One of the lesser-used live bait for bluegill anglers, crickets are an outstanding option when fishing for bluegill. These fish will very rarely ignore a cricket bait, especially if it’s still kicking and giving some good movement in the water. 

If you’re having no luck getting bluegill to strike other common baits and artificial lures, but you know the bluegill and other species of small panfish are in the same area, give live crickets a try and see if your success increases.

Crickets are small baits that are excellent for the very small mouths of nearby bluegills. If you genuinely want to pull in more fish, don’t hesitate to switch your current fishing bait over to live crickets.

Tip 5: Fish Deeper Water

While other anglers will focus on the shallows for bluegill, heading out into the deeper areas of large lakes can give you better results. In deeper water areas, don’t forget the benefit of using a float or bobber. These can really help when sending your bait or lure into the deeper water more than 10 feet.

Tip 6: Drop In Spot

Dropping your lure in a specific spot, also called dipping, can be a great way to target bluegill hiding in heavy cover. Instead of casting, your goal is to simply drop your lure into the water. Slowly and quietly move your boat into position and then use the length of your rod to give you the reach you need to drop your lure in and among the branches and other vegetation.

Tip 7: Arrow Shooting

Somewhat of an advanced casting method, shooting your lure into difficult spots can be fun to learn. Use one hand to pull back on the small hook while the other hand holds the line tight at the reel. Let the rod bend a bit and then release the small hook and the pressure on the line at the same time.

This motion will shoot your lure out into the area like an arrow. This technique may take quite a bit of practice, but it’s an excellent way to get your lure in and around the pylons of docks, bridges, and other areas where proper casting is not possible.

Final Thoughts on Catching Bluegill

When fishing in the spring and summer, catching bluegill should definitely be on your list. These fish are not only fun to catch, but they can be enjoyed as a meal in a variety of ways too. 

Whether you are a new angler or someone that has been on the water for decades, bluegill and other panfish can be an eager fish that is ready to put up a bit of a fight once you have it on the line. If you know bluegill are in the water of your favorite fishing spot, don’t hesitate to give them a try.

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Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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