Common name: Bluegill (also known as brim, sun perch, blue perch, blue sunfish, copperbelly, bluebream, copperhead bream, red-breasted bream, bluegill sunfish and roach )
Scientific name: Lepomis macrochirus (Lepomis means “scaled cheek”; macrochirus means “large hand”, possibly in reference to the size of the pectoral fin).
Appearance: Small and compact, the front of a bluegill rises sharply from the undersized mouth to the dorsal fin. Their bodies range from green to brown, with a green to blue area near the head, and are crossed by several dark, vertical stripes.
Distribution: Bluegill may be found everywhere from the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes in the north, along the Mississippi Basin, eastward to New York, and south to Texas, Florida and New Mexico, as well as in other fresh waters around the world into which they’ve been introduced.
Spawning: Spawning takes place from late May to early August (peaking in June) at water temperatures between 67-80ºF. Males select a sand or gravel bar that can be hollowed out to form a nest. Before and after spawning, the male bluegill defends the nest aginst all species, but most vigorously against other male sunfishes.
Angling: Bluegills are common to most lakes in the eastern US and Canada, sharing roughly the same habitat as largemouth bass. Rivers with slow currents, ponds with dense vegetation, and creek pools are also common bluegill haunts. Bluegills feed in the near the surface of shallow waters from spring through the spawn before moving to deeper waters as temperatures rise in the summer. They are most active near the surface at dawn and dusk, moving deeper during the day. The biggest specimens tend to school in deep water (30 feet +) over soft clay or mud bottom.
Plain garden worms are the favorite bait for bluegills, but they can be caught on a number of different types of lures. A bluegill’s diet will consist mostly of insects, small shellfish, eggs, snails, and minnows, while they themselves are prey for larger gamefish. The fly fisher can have fun with poppers, especially in spring and early summer, when nests are concentrated in shallow water. Most large bluegills are taken in deep water during the summer months by drifting with the wind using worms. Wintertime jigging in the weed beds with grubs or mousies on ice jigs also produce excellent results.
Large bluegills run from one to three pounds, the record fish (caught in Alabama half a century ago) weighing four pounds twelve ounces.