Lots of small bluegill- possible to find larger ones?

Discussion in 'Warm Water Species' started by Tracy Lauricella, Jun 15, 2010.

  1. Tracy Lauricella

    Tracy Lauricella Active Member

    Jun 1, 2009
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    Lakewood, WA
    There's a lake I go to that has a whole bunch of small bluegill. The lake is stocked with trout every year, but bluegill really seem to be spreading. They're aggressive enough that it's difficult NOT to catch them when fishing a small (size 14 or smaller) fly. With a larger fly, you get a lot of "nips" from the bluegills, and end up trying to set the hook a lot with no results. And forget keeping a dry fly on the surface, the little fellows will come up and sink it in moments.

    Last weekend the water temperature was around 68 degrees. Small bluegill were visible in every area of shallow water I tried (visibility was nice and clear). I did see what looked like trout out in the deep water rising right at dusk. This lake has some large shallow areas (5' deep or so) and quite a large shelf area of about 15" deep max. Then there's a central deep area that goes to around 25 feet or so. The bottom is really soft silt though, and it's very unclear how deep the silt goes. My depth finder got very confused, finding a hard bottom down around 130 feet or so, and the soft bottom at 15'. Makes me want to drop a heavy weight on a really long line and see just how deep this lake goes.

    While catching the little 4-6" bluegills is kinda fun, when I head back there in July, I'm hoping to have better luck on larger fish. Does the presence of so many small bluegill imply there may be larger ones available as well? Would night fishing for them along the shoreline using poppers be the best approach?

    For the trout, I figure by that time of season if the water continues to stay warm, I'd have to target them in the depths, just above the thermocline, and plan to keep what I catch, since they'd be unlikely to survive the experience. (not a big issue, since I don't mind eating a hatchery trout or two, particularly when cooked over a campfire. :) )

    I've never tried fishing for larger bluegill, but it could be a lot of fun. I'm just not too sure of where to start. The recent issue of "Fly Fisherman" magazine had an article on catching large bluegill, but the whole thing could reasonably be summed up as "fish dropoffs, going deeper later in the season." there's a few more details than that of course, but the article did a lot more to peak my curiosity than it did to answer questions.

    Any tips or suggestions?
  2. Split Bamboo

    Split Bamboo Member

    Jul 15, 2006
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    Tacoma, Washington
    I would assume there are bigger ones in there...but many lakes will get stunted with small panfish. I live on a lake that has a ton of them. Right now, the smaller ones are in the shallow, while some bigger ones are in deeper water, 8-15 feet. The bigger ones do seem to move towards the surface in the evening. I use a small bass popper at times to keep the little guys off the hook, but they still hit it, just hooked less often, also, if they pull it under, it usually floats back up.

    You may need to go below the surface if you are after the bigger fish. Its not as fun, but sometimes its necessary. Don't hesitate to keep any of the Bluegills you catch...they need to be thinned out.
  3. Brad Niemeyer

    Brad Niemeyer Old School Member

    May 18, 2004
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    Woodinville, WA
    Home Page:
    MY 2 cents:

    Subsurface soft hackle flies work well for the bigger panfish. Bluegills and other sunfish spawn in shallow gravelly areas just like bass. The biggest fish are spawners. The males will aggressively protect the nest for a while. After the spawn you will find them deeper and they will come up later in the day (if its really warm). Shallow weedy lakes are perfect for bluegill ( and bass) trout don't do as well. I have caught probably 11,000 sunfish on the fly and I have never used a hard body popper. Small dry flies work well. Small ( size 12 or smaller) Deer hair and foam flies work well also. A mixed species lake with Bass and sunfish keeps the little guys from stunting.

    My son and I have done well lately for some "hefty" sunfish see pic:thumb:

    Good luck!
  4. Jay Burman

    Jay Burman Fly Fisher, Bon Vivant, Layabout.

    Nov 27, 2003
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    Snoqualmie, WA, USA.
    Cute kid! Looks like he had a terrific time with Dad.
  5. Gary Thompson

    Gary Thompson dirty dog

    Mar 21, 2007
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    East Wenatchee, WA
    I have found the a soft hackle or even a dry fly that sinks very slowly works best on gills.
    If you can get past the little ones without hooking or setting the hook, the bigger ones will get a chance to bite.
    Just my .02
    Keep'em all.
  6. wet line

    wet line New Member

    Apr 23, 2003
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    Burien, WA, King.
    Definately keep all you catch and throw them on ice. They fillet out easy. maybe not much on any given fish but dipped in a beer batter and fried in hot oil is some fine eating! Bacon fat is probably the best if you aren't concerned about things like cholesterol and the bacon goes good with the nuggets.


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