Ice fishing for bluegill is a time-honoured tradition in the United States. The fish are typically found throughout the country, but they can be especially difficult to find during winter months when ice covers their natural habitats. Luckily, there are many ways that an angler can go about finding these elusive fish and catch them with relative ease.
This article will help shed some ice fishing bluegill techniques and what kind of equipment is needed in order to do so successfully.
Where to Locate Night Bluegill?
The bluegill is a freshwater fish that lives in ponds and lakes. They are most active at night time, so you can find them with a flashlight or headlamp by looking for their reflective eyeshine. Night bluegills enjoy eating tadpoles, small frogs, insects, and crustaceans. Their diet also includes aquatic plants and algae growing on rocks and submerged logs. Night bluegills like to stay near the surface of the water because they don’t have gills! If they go too deep into the water without air pockets around them, it will make them panic as they try to swim back up to get oxygen from the surf.
Night bluegills are usually very difficult to spot. They have been known to slip away from anglers who have spotted them and had their hook at the ready, only for the fish to escape by hiding under a rock or slipping into a log. To help you locate your fish, it is extremely helpful to know some of their favourite habits and habitats. You can find night bluegills in aquatic vegetation, lily pads, rocks, or stumps on the bottom of the pond/lake–knowing where they like to hide will make them easier to spot.
Night bluegills are also most active when it is the darkest outside, so during a full moon, they will be more visible in contrast with the surrounding darkness.
Due to their nocturnal habits and preference for murky waters, you may have faced a difficult time during bluegill ice fishing. The more you are able to learn about their habits the better your chances will be of locating them!
Best Time to Catch Winter Bluegill
One of the most popular questions among bluegill anglers is “when is the best time for ice fishing bluegill?” And it’s a good question! Bluegills are very interesting fish that become dormant during their winter months, and they will spend those months in deeper waters instead of spawning.
Gauging from many theories I’ve heard from fellow anglers, I’ve concluded that the best time to catch bluegill, is January. In fact, the first week of January tends to be the most productive due to increased light and warmth from the sun. As a precautionary measure, check your local regulations for specific dates on when you can catch Bluegills in your area.
The Bluegills’ also become a lot more active in their winter months, and they tend to bite a lot better when anglers put out the effort. In addition to this, they seem to be more concentrated in the shallower waters during this time! So if you’re up for some fun winter fishing, grab your ice-fishing equipment or just your fishing rod and head out to your favourite pond. You’ll have an amazing time!
Now in my personal experience, I’ve found that bluegills are in their best biting condition when the water temperature is between 33-38 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything beyond this range can cause them to move deeper into the waters, where the bite becomes duller.
For more information on when you can catch Bluegills in your area, check out: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=73&Itemid=153 [Source]
Best Baits for Night Bluegill Ice Fishing
Before you start to go out on the ice, it is helpful to know what fish are in your waterway. The best way to find this information is with a local bait shop or angler who has been fishing your lake for years.
If you don’t want to invest that kind of time, take the following bluegill ice fishing tips
Crappies and bluegills will most likely be your most targeted catch. Northern pike and walleyes will most likely not bite at night, but it is suggested to bring a bottom bouncer/trailer with you just in case.
No matter what fish you are targeting, fishing baits can make or break your trip. Here are the best ice fishing bait options to use for ice fishing bluegill.
Nightcrawlers are one of the best and cheapest options for night bluegills or any type of panfish. Nightcrawlers can be cut into pieces and threaded onto a jig head, but it may not be necessary because this bait sinks on its own.
Nightcrawlers are plentiful and will catch bluegill of all sizes, but nightcrawlers can be messy to use on the ice because there is no really efficient way to keep them fresh for longer than about an hour on the ice. That means you might have to make several trips back to your car during a fishing trip if you plan to use a lot of them.
Nightcrawlers are also not the most effective way to catch big bluegill, but they will catch some if you have enough patience. You can continue to fish with nightcrawlers as they become available after a freeze-up, so this bait is a good all-around ice fishing bait for bluegills.
Even though crickets are most effective live, they can also be used as cut bait if you have a few in a jar with a little bit of water. The best way to use these is to put them on a jig or screw hook so that they can crawl around freely and attract bluegills from a distance.
Crickets will also catch other panfish, but crickets can be difficult to keep float for very long because they sink as they become desiccated.
So if you use crickets, it’s best to carry a lot of them with you or put them in a jar with some water.
This way, you can simply cast and pick up your line and switch out the baits without leaving your spot.
A lot of people don’t think of using crayfish as an ice fishing bait, but they will work in a pinch when nothing else is available. If you have a few in a bucket with some water and a small piece of bait, they will attract bluegills just like crickets.
“Crayfish can be caught in your local lake or pond using traditional fishing techniques that you might already know. Once you catch them, simply cut off their claws and tails and use these parts as bait. The body meat itself can also be used as cut bait.”
A crayfish is also a good option because they can be kept alive for several days in a bucket with some water, so you can use them multiple times if they are big enough to catch bluegills. Or, you could fillet the crayfish and freeze the meat until you are ready to use it as cut bait.
Another good option is live minnows. If you have a few in a small container, they will catch bluegills just as well as nightcrawlers or crickets because they are also very good at attracting bluegills.
Minnows will need to be kept alive, so you might have to use a small aerator in the container to keep them fresh.
Don’t use minnows that are too small because bluegills generally don’t like minnows that are under an inch long.
If you have a container with a small aerator, it’s also easy to switch out the bait if you run out. This way, you can quickly refill your container and continue fishing without having to leave your spot or come back later for more bait.
These are some of the best bluegill bait. They can all be used in conjunction with one another, or you can choose to use only one depending on the circumstances and what is available to you at the time.
As long as you have some sort of ice fishing live baits that move around freely, it will likely put big bluegill within reach of your line.
The best ice fishing baits for bluegills are live ones that can be used in quantities without having to take up a lot of space.
In the end, it’s always better to have options instead of being limited to just one type of bait that might not work depending on where you fish and what species of fish are in the water.
By using some of these suggestions, you should be able to catch bluegills no matter what species are in your local waters or whether there is open water or ice on them.
Fluorocarbon Line is Essential
Cold-weather fishing can be a challenge for even the best fishermen because it’s so difficult to see your line while casting. Luckily, there’s one type of line that fish won’t be able to spot from far away: fluorocarbon monofilament or braid with an orange spool in them. They’re transparent enough and still visible when sitting motionless at the bottom as opposed to other types which tend to stand out more due to their unique transparency underwater (think about how you would know if someone had placed sunken bobber offshore).
Though many anglers use monofilament or braid in the winter, it is always important to have a good amount of fluorocarbon line on hand. This type of line despite being thinner will stand out more when casting into an icy pond because fish can see them with much detail due to its clarity and still surface versus other times during colder months when water may be moving at different rates which would make identifying what you are using difficult for most creatures under ice except those that have keen eyesight as bluegill do!
How to Catch Bluegill
Once you find an area with lots of bluegills, try working your way around the cove and aim for where most of the fish hang out. When fishing for Bluegill, make sure your bait is suspended; this will allow your line to float along with the current.
If you are using a lure, be sure to cast the line 2 feet away from where you see fish and slowly start reeling it in at a constant pace. When fishing for bluegill, try to find areas that have some vegetation or rocks as these are the best areas to catch them at.
it is best to use an open-faced spinning reel with a smooth drag. If you are using a 2lb test line or less, make sure the spool of your reel has no more than an 8lb line. Bluegill Fish are not very strong, but they can still cause problems if the line on your reels is too heavy for them.
Bluegill Fish is a great source of protein and they can be kept in a live well for hours or even overnight depending on the weather. Most anglers who catch bluegill have a live well nearby so they can keep their catch alive until they get home to cook up a delicious meal with everything you just caught!