One of the most popular summer traditions in Minnesota is fishing for sunfish.
And why not?
The bluegill is the state’s most abundant wild fish. It’s an ideal introductory way for children. And it tastes good too.
However, during dog days in the summer, even catching the bluegill can be surprisingly difficult, or at least catching large bluegills can be a challenge. That’s because older and larger bluegills tend to be 10 feet or deeper in the water. There they were before entering the shallows in spring to spawn. Most of them will stay there until later in the year. Larger fish live in a different habitat than small ones in shallow water near the docks and shore.
So if you are looking for bigger bluegills here are some things to consider.
- Look for bluegills along vertical weed lines, especially around points and curves. Weed lines provide Sunfish with the forage and cover they need. Sunken islands and humps are also good bluegill stops. Fishing is often best mornings and evenings when the fish are most active.
- A bobber and worm are still an effective way to catch sunfish. However, you should probably use an adjustable slip bobber when fishing deeper water. Slip bobbers make casting easier and let your bait drop to the desired depth.
- Small leeches or larvae are also good live baits. A leech is tougher than a worm, so there is less re-bait when there are many pesky bait-stealers.
- Bluegills dine at the lower end of the food chain, which means that what they eat is often not trying to escape at high speed. This way the fish can carefully examine it before deciding whether to inhale it. Hence, dangling a small but enticing live bait in front of a bluegill is a timeless and effective technique. Slow-found spinners, small crank baits, tiny spoons, and jig-and-live bait combinations can also work well.
If you’re serious about catching large bluegills, visit the Lakefinder page on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website. This tool provides lake-to-lake size information for Bluegill and other species. Also check out a cool selection of Bluegill photos on the website. Information on season and limit can be found in the fishing regulations of the MN 2018.
CB Bylander is a longtime Minnesota angler with extensive angling experience throughout the state. He is a former field editor for outdoor magazines, outdoor editor for daily newspapers, and communications specialist for the Ministry of Natural Resources.