So, who fishes for bluegills? Only everybody.
Anglers 8 to 80, sooner or later, by accident or by design, find that one or two or a school of these humble, prolific, ever-present panfish have taken the bait.
Though they mostly are small, 6 to 10 inches long, they make up for their diminutive size with a scrappy personality and an ability to twist their deep, slab-sided bodies sideways, magnifying their fight, especially on light tackle.
“They are everybody's fish,” agreed Larry Goedde, fish management supervisor for Ohio Wildlife District 2. “You can catch them just about any place.”
On the other hand, there are bluegill places and there are bluegill places. In most public fishing venues, Goedde noted, the `gills tend to run small. Anglers tend to keep the bigger ones.
So if you are a dyed-in-the-wool panfisherman in search of the ultimate `gilling, take the fish man's advice: “Farm ponds are always an option.” Especially ponds that have good populations of bass - to prevent bluegill overabundance and consequent stunting - and ponds that have little fishing pressure.
That said, know that the state record bluegill - a 123/4-inch, 3.58-pound behemoth, was taken in 1990 from Salt Fork Reservoir, a state park impoundment in southeast Ohio.
“Bluegill,” incidentally often is used as a generic term to describe the namesake species and possibly an array of similarly shaped, closely related relatives, including green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, longear sunfish, pumpkinseed sunfish, redear sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish and warmouth sunfish.
A true bluegill has the classic small mouth and a long pectoral, or belly, fin. Its colors will vary, often with food supply, water quality and character. But its ear-flap always is black. Bluegills also often have a black blotch near the end of the soft dorsal, or top, fin.
Bluegills and their sunfish cousins sometimes will cross, or hybridize, though they tend to seek their own species in spawning season, Goedde said. Hybrids may show varying degrees of traits, and often it takes a fish specialist to determine which is which.
Among public waters offering good panfishing in northwest Ohio, Goedde recommends Oxbow Lake in Defiance County, and, of course, the state's fabled Lake La Su An chain of 13 lakes in Williams County. “Oxbow may be the best among state wildlife area waters, outside La Su An,” the biologist added.
The special regulations governing the La Su An chain were revised this week, including a new daily creel limit of 15 bluegill or sunfish, no more than five of them eight inches or longer, on Lakes La Su An, LaVere and Mel. The catch-limit was increased to encourage harvest of more fish shorter than eight inches.
The panfish limit on Lake Sue remains 10, of which only two may be longer than eight inches. The limit also is 10 on Lakes Us, Ed, Clem, Lou, Ann and Woodduck. There are no catch limits on Lakes Hogback, Jerry and Teal. The latter three also have a 15-inch minimum keeper length for largemouth bass. The rest of the lakes have a 17-inch minimum for bass.
Resthaven Pond No.8 in Erie County recently was rehabilitated, and it should become a very good bluegill lake in the next few years, Goedde said.
Several of the region's upground, municipal water-supply reservoirs also have reputations as producers of good-sized bluegills: Beaver Creek in northern Seneca County, near Green Springs; Bresler Reservoir in Allen County, near Lima, and Veterans Memorial Reservoir in Hancock County, near Fostoria.
Goedde noted that because of the lateness of the spring, some bluegills still are on spawning beds and can be targeted in these shallow areas. After spawning time, try fishing deeper.
“Move around,” he advised. “Usually when you catch one, you catch more there. They're pretty much of a school fish. Try not to spook them.
“Look for structure. Bluegills love structure - boulders, dropoffs, sunken trees. In farm ponds, fish the edges of weedbeds. Cast to the structure; don't get right on top of it. And if you are into a school and your rig gets snagged, you are better off breaking it off and retying than causing a commotion.”
Any light fishing tackle will do, and if you prefer artificial baits, any good small spinners, from Mepps and Roostertails to Panther Martins, will work. So will the mini-spinnerbaits such as Beet-L-Spins, tiny jigs and tails and tiny spoons - especially with a dropper fly tied on.
Fly rods with small popper-bugs, or imitation insects, especially ants and crickets, can be dynamite for panfish.
But the overall, day-in, day-out standby is a small hook, perhaps a bit of split shot, and a slip-bobber, using a waxworm for live bait. Small red worms work well too, as do small grasshoppers, in season. Bluegills usually are aggressive and hungry, not fussy.
Beyond that, after you catch a mess, all you need is a hot, cast-iron frying pan and trimmings for a superb fish dinner.
Kids fishing day has been set for tomorrowsat21st, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, 1400 West State Rt.2, Oak Harbor. The day is open to families with children under 17. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Bring your own tackle and bait. Designated areas will be open to shore fishing only.
A derby for ages 4, 5 to 8, 9 to 13, and over 14 is planned, along with a casting challenge and fish printing and coloring. Prizes and refreshments also will be part of the day.
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