Bluegill – Good Eating!
Inside the Outdoors, July 23, 2010

I have to admit, I haven’t gotten the bug yet to fish, until recently, when I received my latest issue of Crappie World (Summer 2010) magazine. It featured a special panfish section. The fish included bluegill, sunfish, bream, crappie and perch – some of the best eating fish one can chomp his incisors into.

When I was first introduced to fishing, I would accompany my father-in-law to a pond in Brush Valley that belonged to a farmer. He would turn me on to fishing, while he went about the nearby woods looking for mushrooms.

I caught a good many bass, but most of what I hauled in were bluegill.

Sometimes he would fish also, with the stipulation that whatever fish were caught, I would have to clean them. Trying to be a good son-in-law, I always tried to abide by his requests.

But initially, there was something about bluegill that satisfied my palate. It wouldn’t take much of it to make a great meal.

So browsing over a story written by Keith Sutton, it was interesting when he noted, “By the time it’s the size of a jumbo tortilla, it’s one of freshwater’s most cautious creatures. Only the most skilled anglers can hook it,”

That would be one thing that would scare one off, but on the other hand, it’s not a hit and miss deal when one learns that there are little tricks to draw those bigger fish to the bait.

What one first has to figure out where the points to the lake are found. Sunken humps are also a key.

If you can recall when Keystone State Park Lake was drawn down, I decided to go around and photograph where the stumps and the stones were “planted” for fish cover. It proved to be valuable for fishing endeavors.

Quoting bream master Bobby Graves, Sutton states, “The fish nest on clean gravel or sand bottoms usually between the bank and the inside edge of a big weedbed in one to six feet of water. Beds look like big honeycombs with several nests side by side.”

Try using polarized sunglasses to cut the glare on the water, Sutton suggested.

Structure is a key to finding beds and has always been a place bigger fish will hang out.

I’ve done well looking at gravel slopes with big rocks jutting out from the shoreline. There is much to be said for what these experts had to say.

Another ideal spot Graves points out are moss beds. “The ideal site has five feet of water on the inside of the moss line and a 30-foot open area between the moss and bank.”

I have told this to so many anglers, but whether they listen or not is beyond me.

If a fish sees you, you are sunk. Either approach the fishing hole discretely or mark the spot and come back at another time all the while taking a more secretive approach. If fish, especially these big bluegills, catch a glimpse of you, they will back off, and that is one thing you don’t want to happen.

Let’s talk baits. I always used worms. But do they work for all fish. I’d be stupid if I said no. Graves likes lightweight Rebel crankbaits or two-inch Yum Wooly Curtails, which he slowly retrieves back after casting them out. After that he will switch to live bait – crickets without a sinker or float, Sutton says. My only conclusion is he has to be fishing from a boat to do this. I have always taught that live bait should always be fished this way – without a sinker attached to line. Many pros only fish from boats, a handicap for some of us shore anglers.

Graves suggests fishing areas that are two feet or less.

Darl Blakc featured a story in the same magazine on catching big sunfish. He had a wide range of lure choices including the Rebel’s Tadfly, panfish grubs, and jig-spinners.

I’ve done exceptionally well from a boat with a three-hook rig only baited with three-quarters of an inch of crawler. Every time I lowered the full baited rig, I felt all baits taken almost all at once. I found the fish eight feet down. By lowering the rig, I had a cooler half-filled in no time at all. What an experience.

Paul Estronza La Violette gave mention in his recent book, “The Way To Stone Hill,” that he would often catch bluegill from his pond in Blairsville and make a bluegill sandwich. He talked of it as being a mouth-watering treat. I agree. There’s nothing like the flesh of this fine fish to satisfy the need for even a small meal!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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