May is the Month for Bluegill
Missouri offers a wide variety of outdoor activities. Some are challenging and regularly serve up humble pie. Dove hunting, for example, often leaves skilled wingshooters shaking their heads. Wild turkeys, their brains no bigger than walnuts, routinely foil the best efforts of veteran hunters. Muskies, even in a lake that has good numbers of them, can seem as rare as dinosaurs.
Outdoor challenges are great, but a steady diet of them can wear you out. Now and again, it’s quite a relief to enjoy an outdoor activity that’s easy and in which success is almost guaranteed. This month, you can find easy outdoor fun at most farm ponds and other impoundments across the state. That’s because the bluegill spawn is on, offering some of the finest fishing action of the year.
If you live in Missouri, you are probably familiar with bluegill. These native fish are usually the most abundant panfish in small impoundments throughout our state. They’re not only prolific, but they have the same habitat requirements (warm, clear water where aquatic plants and other cover is present) as largemouth bass. That’s why bluegill are often stocked as forage for largemouth bass.
The bluegill is a member of the sunfish family, a strictly North American family of 30 species that also includes black bass and crappie. A casual observer might mistake bluegill for other panfish, such as green sunfish or hybrid sunfish. But the small mouth and brassy color of bluegill easily distinguish them.
Bluegill often top out at a length of 9.5 inches and a weight of 12 ounces, but when hooked, bluegill prove tenacious fighters. An 8-inch bluegill will put a serious bend in any lightaction rod, and bluegill can get bigger. The state record bluegill weighed 3 pounds.
Working the Spawn
Bluegill bite any time of the year, but in May, during the spring spawn, bluegill fishing is at its best. Action is fast, and you’re more likely to catch large, mature bluegill at this time. Immature bluegill—the little bait stealers that plague bluegill anglers at other times—are typically not part of the action in May.
When water temperatures reach into the 70s, male bluegills move to the shallows and fan out and guard nests, which appear as circular depressions, 15 to 20 inches wide. If water is murky, nests may be in water no deeper than 12 inches. In clearer water, nests may be as deep as 6 feet.
Males construct nests in