Bluegill typically don’t get anywhere near the attention paid to largemouth bass, and they tend to take a backseat to smallmouth, walleye, perch, crappie, and darn near everything else you can catch, too.
But ask any angler you know, and chances are, they cut their teeth on these little devils, and I don’t know a fisherman who will pass up the chance to drop legions of these little guys into their cooler.
That’s because bluegill are plentiful, voracious, and hard-fighting - not to mention mighty tasty. Easy to locate and catch, they’re an exciting trip to the water just waiting to happen - if you know when they feed most actively.
Would you like to know more about the best time of day to catch bluegill?
Table of Contents (clickable)
Lepomis macrochirus goes by many names: “bream,” “brim,” “sunny,” and “copper nose” are common, but “bluegill” is the clear winner. That common name, used across the country, comes from the dark spots on the gill plate of these fish.
These “ears” are an easy way to recognize the bluegill, but there are other signs as well.
Dark green to black near the front of the dorsal fin, they shade to green and then yellow on the breast. Breeding males will turn a bright orange near the pectoral fins, signaling that they’re ready to go.
Bluegill will often display 5 to 9 vertical bars on their sides when you catch them, a color change that’s part of their threat display.
Aggressive predators with a healthy appetite for anything smaller than them, they can grow to lengths of as much as 16 inches, where they’ll tip the scales at almost 5 pounds. More ordinary bluegill will measure between 4 and 12 inches, with weights that are far less dramatic.
Bluegill Behavior and Feeding
Bluegill prefer shallow water and an abundance of aquatic vegetation. This provides them hunting grounds as well as cover from larger predators, and it makes them very easy to target from the bank as they’ll stick tight to just feet of water.
Immature bluegill feed primarily on tiny crustaceans and insect larvae, and as they grow, they’ll continue to predate on larger insect larvae but also include leeches, snails, insects, and small minnows in their diet.
Bluegill are acrobatic swimmers that can accelerate and turn on a dime, enhancing their ability to catch small prey items and avoid becoming dinner themselves. But their low-light vision is poor, and unlike most fish, they’re not active feeders around dusk and dawn as a result.
Best Time To Fish For Bluegill: Afternoon Adventures
Most fish are terrifically active in the 90 minutes surrounding daybreak and dusk, but not the bluegill. Hobbled by poor low-light vision, they prefer full sun for hunting and are most active in the afternoon, from about 4:00 on to an hour before sundown.
That makes them an ideal catch for anglers who hate early mornings or who plan to bring young children along on their first fishing adventures.
And more good news: they’re easy to rig for!
Bluegill aren’t what you’d call “picky eaters,” and in the absence of live prey, they’ll start feeding on aquatic vegetation and algae.
And as anglers across the US can attest, they have a pronounced fondness for crickets and worms, making them easy to catch on whatever you can source at the bait store - or backyard.
The easiest, most effective way to catch bluegill is to use a slip float in conjunction with live bait.
We’ve discussed this in detail before, so if you need a refresher, check out this article:
Use a baitholder hook in the neighborhood of #6 to #10, and never look back!