I'm a recovering walleye addict. I've fished almost exclusively for eye's over the last ten years. But in the last two or three years, bull bluegills have caused a bit of a fever many a spring days. Even right now, I'm dreaming of catching and releasing nine to eleven inch gilberts on some of my favorite bodies of water.
Here are three keys that we have learned and developed over the last couple of seasons:
1. Big Gills eat big baits. When you start to target trophy panfish, you'll want to use bigger baits. We have had some of our greatest success on Rapala's ultralight crankbaits. Big gills are keying in on fry and smaller minnows and these micro crankbaits are out of this world! We have caught gills on 3" Charlie Brewer Slider grubs and #6 Rapala Rippin Raps.
2. Fish lakes that produce big gills. Some lakes just have the propensity to grow 'em big. Portly panfish often are the result of fertility and protection. Fertile lakes often have huge bug hatches providing a feeding buffet for these big dudes. But don't just look for fertile bodies of water. You also need hiding places for the young of the year to seek cover. And it never hurts to have spawning grounds that aren't super susceptible to human over harvest.
3. Practice catch and release of the bigger males and females. Many prominent guides, like Brian "Bro" Brosdahl, have written and taught on this topic over the last decade. The larger male gills (easily distinguished by their more brightly colored body) are key to a lake being able to grow bigger gills. Large males are key to the fry being protected and the later into their lives that a male bluegill takes over this responsibility, the larger the gills in a body of water will grow. We also think it's a good idea to release larger females as well. Many of the lakes we guide on produce big panfish, and so keep the 7" and 8"ers and let the bigger ones go!
If you want to get in on some of the best bluegill and crappie fishing in Michigan, book a trip with us for mid to late May and you will have an absolute blast! Go to www.nofishleftbehind.com or www.nofishleftbehindmichigan.com for more info!