There's a lot of talk about taking young people fishing, and it's natural to take them bluegill fishing. I know I took both of my boys when they were young, and both of their first fish were bluegills. When you're taking kids, you've got to give them plenty of action to keep them interested, because their attention spans are so short. If you figure that, on an average day fishing for bass, you catch around a fish per hour, that means in an 8- or 10-hour day, you've only caught eight or 10 bass. When you find 'em, you can catch eight or 10 bluegills in eight or 10 minutes, and that's the perfect kind of fishing for kids.
And who doesn't like a good southern fish fry, with hush puppies and cole slaw? Bluegills and shellcrackers are what make those kinds of fish fries. There's something special about catching a bunch of 'em and frying them up.
The good thing is, whether you're fishing on one of our public lakes or in a private farm pond, we've got good bluegill and shellcracker populations all over South Carolina.
I start to pay attention to bluegills in May, because from May through August, they'll be spawning on the full moons; I really target those full moons, because you can find bluegills on beds and really catch 'em. The key is finding them, and one big key to that is figuring out what depth they'll be spawning; it can be different at different lakes. The clearer the water is, the deeper they're going to spawn. They might spawn in one foot of water or six feet of water.
Bluegills really like to spawn on areas with firm bottoms, something like sand or pea gravel, and they like to spawn around cover, whether that's vegetation, stumps, docks, laydown trees. I've found small beds that just had eight or 10 fish on them, and I've seen big beds with hundreds of fish. Either way, you have find 'em.
So finding them is the big part. Catching them is the fun part.
I like to take a small spinner like a Panther Martin or Rooster Tail and fish it on 4-pound-test Trilene XL monofilament on a Pfleuger Presidential spinning reel and a 4 ½-foot medium-action spinning rod. But you can catch 'em on cane poles or most anything on live bait. I prefer crickets over worms if I'm fishing for bluegill. I like to fish worms for shellcrackers in deeper water. Shellcrackers are more bottom feeders, so you need to fish worms on the bottom. Bluegills will feed more up off the bottom, and I think crickets do a better job. And I'm no great fly-fisherman, but I love to take a fly rod and catch 'em. Dry flies, wet flies, popping bugs, little foam spiders - it doesn't make any difference; they're a blast to catch on a fly rod.
One thing I tell bream fishermen to do is to keep an eye out for mayfly hatches. Mayflies will hatch out on Lake Murray in late June or early July, and if you see a mayfly hatch coming off, even if it's not around a full moon, you'd better go fish that area, because the bluegills are going to attack those mayflies. That's the real time to catch 'em on a fly rod.
When you hook up, you realize that, pound for pound, a bluegill fights as hard as any freshwater fish. When you catch one that weighs between 12 ounces and a pound, that's plenty of fight, and it's the makings of some great memories and some great meals.