The first place you’ll want to look for bluegills is weeds. If you can, use an underwater camera to check the pockets and the edges of vegetation first. Once you find some weeds, drill holes in a zig-zag pattern, covering the area from shallow to the deep edge. Keep an eye out for wood and rock edges, too, since ‘gills love to situate among timber and large, round rocks. Once you find the fish, don’t be afraid to move with them as you do. If you find that they’re holding in a spot where you can set up and fish for the day, feel free to get comfortable.
Even considering the potential profitability of weeds and timber, keep in mind that some lakes offer a good open water bite, even very early in the ice season, and often times the key to this action is grass on the bottom. Bluegill love to set up shop deep in such areas when the sun is bright, and then rise up from the grass to look for food as the sun begins to set.
When it comes to bait selection, sometimes it’s best to let the ‘gills tell you what they want by switching out if they’re not smelling what you’re selling, so to speak. Wax worms, mousies, and other small grubs are very popular and effective, but when the bite is on, nothing beats small plastics. Use a jig that matches the size and energy of the ‘gills you’re hitting, and make sure the hook you’re using is large enough to hold a palm-sized bull bluegill. The rule of thumb here is to start with the smallest possible bait first, and then increasing the size as the fish you’re catching seem to become larger. The heaviest line you’ll want to use for finicky bluegills is four-pound test, with anything from one to three-pound test able to get the job done with a proper presentation.
Finally, be sure not to get greedy, even if the bite is on. Many anglers limit their take instead of taking their limit of ‘gills on the ice, especially if they’re on a bite offering really big bluegills. Truly big ‘gills can be five years old or older, and the numbers of big ‘gills will be limited enough to be worth conserving so the next generation reaches its maximum size and there’s still numbers of each generation available. In fact, many states are limiting the bluegill take to anywhere from 15 to 25 per angler to promote this mentality. If you want the bluegill action to remain excellent in your neck of the woods, take fewer home each time and spread out the enjoyment from season to season.
Hopefully, the tips outlined above will lead to more large ‘gills in the freezer this winter. Keep them in mind to ensure that you spend less time on the ice and more time enjoying your delicious catch.