Big Bluegills Are Different

Early as in "time of year." Certainly not "time of day." For a month or so after ice-out, daybreak can be a notoriously bad time to fish for bluegills way up north. Southern fisheries certainly don't experience ice-out, and bluegills tend to be more agreeable in the early-morning hours in Dixie.

Around here, the best bluegill action tends to take place from about 2 p.m. until an hour before sunset in April. The water can warm as much as 6°F between dawn and the last hours of the day. Even when the bite is good at dawn, it tends to get better several hours later.

The biggest bluegills in the lake are the ones that show up first. Truly odd how often we catch real brahma bulls early after ice-out and watch the size profile slowly dwindle each year. We're not harvesting any bulls, and we don't have much competition on our favorite spots, so it's not that the fish are gone. They just move off or become more wary.

Big bluegills behave differently than the pack in a number of ways. They show up in the shallows first in spring, as mentioned. But they often spawn last. In a lot of lakes around here, truly big bluegills — those over a pound — spawn deeper, in slightly cooler water. When you see bluegills spawning, it's not "them." If visibility is 2 feet or better, the goliaths spawn in depths of 4 to 6 feet.

Whereas my favorite approach for spawners might be sight fishing with a panfish popper on a 4-weight fly rod, I need to use a weighted nymph or small streamer to approach the bulls. Fishing blind takes more patience, but it's well worth the effort.

In summer, bulls are quick to respond to pressure. They either bury themselves deeper in the shallow slop or slide off the deep cabbage lines to basin transitions and deep rocks. Pulling bulls out of heavy slop is a real chore. We upgrade to 10-pound braid and "dap the gaps" with 10- to 12-foot poles. Vertically jigging the deep rocks can be a lot of fun using lighter tackle.

But spring is my favorite time of year for giants. The females are full of eggs, the cover is just beginning to grow, and we can fish them with light tackle and sensitive floats, like the Thill Shy Bite. The Shy Bite is a favorite in summer, too, when we're pitching short distances or dapping around the boat with a long rod. Those cautious bulls can be as careful as they want to be, but the Shy Bite won't let them touch the bait without sending us a signal.

Time to chase some crappies. I hear Shoggie's on some slabs. Stay tuned.

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