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.
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
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.