Reader questions impact of cold, wet weather of spring's bluegill fish
Lawrence Taylor with a dark colored bream.
Is this winter’s cold, and this spring’s cool and wet weather having an impact on bluegill fishing? The question was prompted by a note from a Bardstown reader.
The reader in particular questioned the rain and cold effect on bluegill in small ponds and lakes.
This old scribe is certainly not a biologist. My one class of high school biology didn’t even make me an expert at dissecting a frog. However based of years of talking with fisherman, plus a number of biologists, I have some assumptions on the subject.
First, a little background on bluegill. The scientific name is Lepomis macrochirus, according to information from the Wisconsin fish and wildlife folks. Leoimis means “scaled cheek”. and macrochirus means “large hand””, possibly in reference to the size of the size of the pectoral fin. However, a nice size bluegill is also about the size of a large hand.
Bluegill also are known as bream, brim, and coopernose as well as other local and regional names. They are found throughout Kentucky and Indiana, and in fact, these days are found throughout most of the United States. A variety of other types of sunfish such as redear, shellcrackers and stump knockers often are found in similar locations.
Spring is probably the best time to catch big bluegills. With the difficulty of winter weather ending, the bluegill's attention turns toward feasting to gather energy for the bluegill spawn.
This feeding creates conditions which are good for a fisherman to take advantage of the increased feeding activity, since the bluegills will be less cautious and more voracious than any other time of the year.
So when does spawning take place? Like many things in nature, it depends, but there are some general guidelines.
Spawning takes place fro May to early August (peaking in late May into June) at water temperatures between 67 - 80º F.
Males select a sand or gravel bar that can be hollowed out to form a nest. Before and after spawning, the male bluegill defends the nest against all species, but most vigorously against other male sunfishes.
As to bait or lures to catch bluegill, again in depends. It depends and the gill’s preference, and what the angler thinks works best for him or her.
Plain garden worms seem to be the favorite bait for bluegills, but they can be caught on a number of different types of lures. The fly fisher can have fun with poppers, especially in spring and early summer, when nests are concentrated in shallow water.
The males are scrappy fighters that will take on fish much bigger than themselves such as bass and catfish to keep their young safe. They are more likely to attack a jig just to move it out of their nest rather than to eat the bait. However, the result can be a fish on a hook.
Most of the bigger bluegills are taken in deep water during the summer months by drifting with the wind using worms. Wintertime jigging in the weed beds with grubs or mousies on ice jigs also produce excellent results, according to the Wisconsin fisheries folks.
Back to the original question. “What are the effects , if any,that the weather will have on bluegill fishing? I am talking small ponds and lakes. So much rain and cool.”
I don't think the rain and the cool will have a significant impact on bluegill fishing in ponds and lakes. The cool could slow the spawn, which in turn might delay some of the best bluegill fishing action.
Also, if water remains high, it might possibly cause bluegill to spawn in different locations, or make the water deeper and a bit more of a challenge if they spawn in their regular location. Bluegill often will use the same nests time after time.
The biggest long-term impact would be if the fish spawn in flood water area, and then the level drops quickly, it could leave beds and eggs high and dry.
For information from someone with more expertise, I would suggest you call the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources at 1-800-858-1549. They probably will put you in touch with a biologist.