"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Bluegill Spawning Time
Copyright © 2009 by Bill Scifres

The off again, on again, spring has undoubtedly been the culprit, but bluegills, the little fighters, are currently getting in the mood to proliferate the race, thanks to warmer weather.

I have noticed only minimal nesting evidence to this point (the roundish “spare tire” like nests), but my southern jaunts have been less this spring, thanks to the lower temperatures and rainy, cloudy days.

There is better weather in the offing now, however, so the initial nesting could be taking shape very soon. After all, late April and early May are designed for BG spawning. It is true, of course, that while the first big spawn is far and away the best, the ‘gills . . . as they also are known . . .  won’t call it quits entirely until cold water comes in the fall. This is Mother Nature’s way of perpetuating the species.

Although the good BG fishing (with flyrod, of course) is predicated on taking the males that are protecting the nest, eggs and fry, this does not seem to be a problem. In reality, most of the cases where a body of water has a BG problem, it is those that has too many BG . . . not too few. The ‘gills literally eat themselves out of food to grow.

In these situations, the overpopulated species may become subjected to stunting and nature’s miracles (not always beautiful), or biologists with chemicals to make selected, or total, kills and start over. This seems to work better . . . at least faster.

So there is no reason to feel anything about taking the males from the nest . . . except for having a tummy full of fried BG filets.

The way to distinguish between male and female BG, is easy. The females are much the same as the males . . . except they are mousy little critters. The males are much gaudier, often sporting a beautiful orange belly.

While the magic wand (flyrod) is by far the most entertaining and skillful method of taking ‘gills, I think the fish figure a bait is a bait . . . natural or artificial. . . and they will take a whack at it.

In clear water, the angler often can see the whole scenario. The fly fisherman whips his fly to the surface of the water. The BG, operating on vibrations, swims to the disturbance, and parks just below the fly, waiting to see if this thing is real . . . his nose a scant inch from the fly. To this point it is a standoff, but the angler gives the fly the tiniest of twitches, and the BG explodes on it.

What fun!

Eventually, though, the hand-size ‘gills tail off a bit, and the little ones . . . quite capable of spawning, are returned to the water to do their reproductive thing, and head for stunting. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The little fish can be kept (there are no size or creel limits), and canned by pressure cooking to eliminate bones. My recipe for that, pretty standard, is to scale, cut off head, remove entrails, and stuff pint jars (no water) with bite size pieces (bones, fins and all). Salt and pepper to taste, add a half teaspoon of mustard powder at middle and top of jars, seal (hand tight) and cook under 10 pounds pressure for 90 minutes (longer if necessary).

This canning procedure will also keep other species of fish or game.

Canned BG can be eaten as snacks with crackers or used in creating fried fishcakes (like salmon patties) or fish loaf. I do not give canned fish to children because of cooked up bones.

When BG are on the beds, their nests will be found on the bottom of clear water at various depths. When the first big hatch is over, BG will spend more time in deeper water which will make sinking baits a better bet (live crickets are great). As the sun sets in the late afternoon, a good bet is to drop any bait or fly a few inches off steep banks that drop into fairly deep water.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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