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Bluegill Sunfish

Updated on October 27, 2014

Bluegill Sunfish Information

This page has information on bluegill sunfish, one of the most popular species of freshwater fish in North America.

The bluegill sunfish (lepomis macrochirus) is the most widely distributed panfish in North America.

Bluegill are members of the Centrarchidae family which includes several species of sunfish, crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and others.

Other names for the species include bream, bream sunfish, sunny, and sun perch.

bluegill sunfish
bluegill sunfish

Bluegill Sunfish Identification

Bluegill are easily recognized by a black spot or blotch near the base of the soft dorsal fin and a black flexible tip on the gill cover. The back and sides are colored dark olive green or brownish.

Males often have a deep red or brown breast and an area of black-tipped scales above and behind the eyes. Females tend to have yellow or whitish undersides and are usually smaller in size.

Both sexes have vertical bars along the flanks, but these are more prominent in smaller fish. The gill covers and chin are bright blue, giving the bluegill its name.

Bluegill rarely exceed 1 pound with 1/4 - 1/2 pound (7" - 9") the normal size range. They spawn from late May well into the summer. These colorful fish are well adapted to living in ponds, lakes, streams and even brackish water. Bluegill are often the primary food source for largemouth bass and other predators.

2 fish at a time
2 fish at a time

How to Catch Bluegill Sunfish

Most people started fishing as youngsters for bluegill and other panfish. Bluegill, ounce for ounce, fight as hard as any freshwater fish.

Bluegill are fun to catch and make excellent table fare. Catching bluegill is common event throughout spring, summer and early fall. Some hardly anglers even fish for bluegill thru the ice!

Anglers target bluegills primarily with ultralight equipment or fly gear. Leaders in the half-pound to 3-pound class are common. However, new nearly invisible fluorocarbon lines and leaders allow for slightly stronger line to be used.

Baits for bluegill include crickets,mealworms, waxworms, redworms, earthworms, nightcrawler chunks and maggots. When using worms, be careful not to put too much bait on the hook, as bluegills are accomplished thieves. Some anglers target larger bluegills with live minnows or other large baits.

Bluegill lures include crappie jigs, ice tick jigs, microjigs, small spinnerbaits, small spinnerbaits, small grubs, small tube jigs, and miniature soft plastics.

Fly fishing works great for catching bluegill. Anglers use a dry fly, nymph, panfish popper flies or terrestrial flies. Popular terrestrial fly patterns include crickets, grasshoppers, foam spiders, and ants.

how to clean bluegill sunfish
how to clean bluegill sunfish

How To Clean Bluegill Sunfish

1. Scale the fish with a fish scaler or dull knife. While holding the fish with one hand, use the tool to remove all scales. You must run the scaler or knife from tail to head in order to get the scales off. The skin should be smooth when all scales are gone.

2. Cut the fish's head off. make the cut at the back of the fish's gills. Cut through at this point.

3. Cut from the belly back to the vent, avoiding all organs. Remove all organs, saving the fish roe if any is found.

4. Cut off the tail and fins.

5. Rinse the fish and place on ice immediately.


Live Baits for Bluegill

Live baits for bluegill sunfish include small minnows, nightcrawlers, earthworms, grubs, grass shrimp, crayfish, crickets, grasshoppers and other small baits. These vary with season and location. Fishermen choose live baits depending on availability and personal preference. Some anglers will find live baits in local tackle shops while others need to catch their own.

A small cast net or seine can be a great asset for anglers that need live minnows or other small fish. Another possibility is a minnow trap, which is baited and left overnight. This is a good option for campers or people that are staying in a lakeside cabin for a few days.

Anglers that fish for bluegill in brackish water may find grass shrimp to be the perfect bait. These small, clear bodied shrimp make up part of the diet of panfish in tidal rivers and creeks. Grass shrimp may be caught with traps, seines and small umbrella nets. They are best fresh but can also be brined and frozen. Grass shrimp are sometimes available in tackle shops either frozen or freeze dried.

Land dwelling baits such as crickets, grasshoppers, grubs, worms and other baits can be caught just before the trip and sometimes right on the spot. Experimentation and sharing information with other local anglers are good ways to find the best bait for a given location and season.

Gulp Maggots (White)

Gulp! Extruded Maggots are a panfish phenomenon. These scented baits more durable and last longer than live maggies. They can be fished under a bobber or used to tip jigs when vertical jigging suspended sunfish. They can also be added on ice fishing jigs to add scent and natural feel. Gulp! maggies come in a variety of colors.

Berkley PowerBait Micro Wigglers

Berkley PowerBait Micro Wigglers combine the PowerBait formula with the look and feel of grubs or maggots. These wigglers work well when fishing for sunfish, perch, trout and panfish. Micro Wigglers can also be added to jigs when ice fishing.

Bluegill Sunfish Poll

What is your favorite way to catch bluegills?

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    • xXOUTDOORSXx profile image


      6 years ago

      I love fly fishing for these guys!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      If they only got to be 6 pounds, they would be the best fish ever. They fight so hard for their size.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The Bluegill Sunfish is a nice looking fish. This is a very informative lens. I'll have to check out some more of you fish and fishing lenses when I have time. Thumbs-up!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 

      9 years ago from Covington, LA

      I liked your lens. Thanks for joining the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens links to the appropriate plexos and vote for them.


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