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Seeing that first catch is a wonderful thing

Published: Thursday, June 6, 2013 5:13 p.m. CDT

There are very few things as precious as watching the face of someone catch a fish for the very first time. A full, white-toothy smile erupts from ear-to-ear as they fight and hoist their catch for proud onlookers to see. It doesn’t matter if that fish is a ten-pound giant or a little thing; the end result is always the same.

Right now is the time to get those first time anglers on the water. All across our area bluegills are hitting the spawning beds in droves. I have seen beds nearing a hundred fish all stacked tightly on top of each other. In one stretch of shoreline I encountered four of these giant bedding areas in a distance of about one hundred yards. Now is the time!

Bluegills are ferocious tikes with aggressive attitudes that make them fun for people of all ages to catch. Their willingness to attack, attack, and attack make them perfect for kids. If you have thought about taking your children, grandchildren, or a friend out for a fun time on the water this weekend is the time to do it.

To find a bedding area is really quite simple. Just start walking, or boating, quietly along the shoreline. You are looking for areas that are relatively flat and have a sandy or slightly rocky bottom. Most of these beds are going to be in very shallow, clear waters so the nests stay warm. A good place to start checking is the back of bays and pockets that seem too shallow for fish to hang out in. It will amaze you how shallow these gills will go.  

You may be wondering, how will I know when I run across a bluegill bed? Trust me, you will know it when you see one. There will be dozens of circular beds fanned out and they will be about the size of a paper plate. Most of them will have a bottom that is full of small pebbles, or it might just be a depression made in the sand. When the beds are being actively used there will be many aggressive gills sitting and guarding these nests.

As tempting as it is to cast your bait or lures right into the middle of the beds, I have found that the better quality fish are often lurking just into the deeper water that runs adjacent to the beds. I like to fish a worm on a float at a depth — one that places the worm just deep enough where I can’t see it. This seems to be the magic area that has provided me with some awesome catches in the past. 

There is another benefit to finding bedding bluegills as well-other predatory fish love to hang out by these areas and nab an easy meal. Fishing a topwater around bluegill beds is one of my favorite ways to catch hyper-aggressive bass. Personally, I like to use some sort of popping bait because it can be twitched and then sit, enticingly right where I want it. Topwaters that need to be constantly moving will work as well, but they are out of the strike zone real quick.

Don’t be surprised if you catch a wide variety of fish while in and around these bedding areas. The entire food chain will be in full swing within a few feet of these beds. The opportunity for a young angler or a first-time angler to pull in three different species from the same place is very real.

If your schedule allows, try to fish these bluegill beds during lowlight hours, or even at night. The widest variety of other predators will be moving in when the light is low. This allows them to sneak in close to their prey without being observed as easily. If you are mainly interested in catching a basket full of good eating bluegills, then anytime during the day will work for you.

This time of year passes by quickly. The opportunity to take someone out and enjoy this extremely fun and fast type of fishing will be gone before we even know it. Lakes, ponds and rivers all go through this exciting stage. Grab a rod, find a new angler, and head off for some real fun. Be sure to take that camera with you because I guarantee you will be seeing lots of smiles.

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