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When Do Bluegill Spawn?

Water temperature triggers every species of fish to spawn, and bluegill are no exception.

But because they’re so broadly distributed--and voracious enough to thrive where they’ve found a new home--timing the bluegill spawn is never as simple as marking a calendar.

Instead, predicting the spawn is a matter of careful measurement, and by knowing the temperature trigger for bluegill, you can be ready to strike while the fishing’s hot!

Keep reading to learn more about when bluegill spawn!


Bluegill 101

Lepomis macrochirus is easy to identify: just look for the dark blue spots on each of its gill plates.

when do bluegill spawn

Those gill plates make bluegill a snap to identify.

Hardy and tough, these little monsters prey on anything and everything they can fit in their mouths. That means leeches, minnows, crawfish, insects, snails, worms, plants, and even each other fit the bill!

And like most fish, spring finds them shedding winter’s torpor and looking to fatten up for the spawn. 

Of course, for anglers, that means timing is everything!

When Do Bluegill Spawn?

The magic numbers for the spawn are 68 to 75 degrees, and once the water warms to the bottom range of this band, you can expect the males and females to come together in earnest.

But as the water creeps toward that mark, a lot is going on beneath the surface.

bluegill spawn

The males are first to make a move, staging from the deeper water that held them over the winter to spawning shallows. They’ll look for a nice nest site, typically in very shallow, clear water. 

Once each male has staked out an exclusive territory, he’ll dig a depression 6 to 12 inches across and begin grunting, calling a female in for a closer look. It’s her turn now, and she’ll cruise by to inspect how he looks--bigger bodies and gill plates are more desirable--and they’ll begin courting if she likes what she sees.

That ritual will continue until the magic moment when water temperature signals the spawn.

What Does This Mean for You?

A quick check of the water temperature on your fish finder’s display or a few careful measurements with an appropriate thermometer can have you filling a cooler in no time.

If you track the water’s progress toward 68 degrees, you’ll be ready for the pre-spawn. And while the males are readying their nests, they become hyper-aggressive toward potential threats, and pretty much any disturbance will trigger a strike.

bluegill spawning beds

It’s not tough to find these big spawning beds.

Pre-spawn is a great time to run tiny lures over spawning beds, as the chances they’ll get hit are high.

Among my favorites are rooster tails in the 1/32-ounce size. Bright colors seem to work best!

bluegill rooster tail

A tiny rooster tail buzzing a nesting site is almost irresistible.

And of course, while all this nest building is happening, the females are in slightly deeper water, but very near the spawning beds. And while they wait to be summoned, they’re fattening themselves as much as possible.

That means that it makes a lot of sense to stake out a deep spot immediately adjacent to a clear shallow, find the males making their nests, and then start to work the slope nearby.

Chances are, the big females will take your bait.

About The Author
John Baltes
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.