3 Bluegill River Fishing Tips

bluegill river fishing tips

River fishing is almost like an entirely different activity than lake fishing. Elements like water levels, current, changes in structure, and recent weather like heavy rainfall all dramatically affect your ability to catch river fish. Bluegill river fishing, in particular, is challenging. Locating concentrations of bluegills on rivers is much more difficult to many than on lakes. Also, many believe that river bluegills simply do not get as big as lake gills. While that may be the case in many areas, several state records were caught on rivers. Here are 3 bluegill river fishing tips to help you land more river bluegills.

1.Tight Lining

“Tight lining” is a technique many fishermen use on rivers that involves a sinker and live bait off the bottom. Floats are extremely effective ways to catch panfish on lakes but current on rivers makes this challenging. Many river fisherman prefer tight lining to keep baits in honey holes or spots where fish are likely to pass through. Use the lightest weight you can that will still keep your bait in place. Attach a nightcrawler or cricket to a #8 hook about 9 inches above the sinker.

2. Think Like You’re Ice Fishing

Anyone that has experienced river ice fishing know how challenging and rewarding it can be. Ice anglers focus on backwater channels and dips in the river where a sand bar or natural curve come into play. This can be a good spring and early summer tactic as well. Early season bluegill will be concentrating in these shallow areas to spawn (or attempt to spawn). In-fisherman created a great graphic that shows where gills congregate. Later in the summer, oxygen depletion can set in to backwater areas which causes fish to move back into the main channel of rivers.

3. No Live Bait? Try Spoons

If you’re out of live bait or just don’t like using it, try spoons. Small ice fishing spoons work best when concentrating on bluegills. A 1/12 ounce Acme Kastmaster is deadly. For river fishing, you may want to modify it by changing to a single hook (from a treble). The nice thing about the Kastmaster is it can be cast and retrieved as well as vertically jigged. Cast out down current and retrieve slowly. It’s important to keep your bait up as snags on rivers are ruthless and a good way to be out of a few nice spoons in a hurry.

Bluegill River Fishing Tips - Acme Kastmaster LureLet me know if you have any bluegill river fishing tips and tricks in the comments box below. As always, get out there and fish!

Spring Bluegill Fishing – 3 Essential Elements

Spring Bluegill Fishing

Springtime brings excitement to the lives of eager fisherman. Watching ice melt or checking extended forecasts becomes an hourly ritual in many parts of the country. The anticipation of getting out on an open lake or casting from the banks of the local river can get the most patient person giddy for fishing. Many believe early spring is the best time of the year to catch trophy fish. Bluegills are no exception. Here are 3 essential elements to spring bluegill fishing

Water Temperature

spring bluegill fishing temperature

A light switch flips on in those first few warming weeks once the water hits that perfect temperature. Many believe that magical temperature is 50 degrees. Some have it down to an exact number like 52 or 53 degrees. When the water reaches that magic number, bluegills begin to migrate from their wintering holes to the closest shallow areas they find with some cover. Most modern depth finders or fish finders have temperature gauges. If you’re bank fishing or wading, try using a common cooking thermometer.

Water temperature also varies greatly based on which part of a lake or river you are on. Shallow areas on sunny sides will almost certainly be up to a few degrees warmer than other locations. That degree or two can make all the difference. Start at the warmest location first. Early season Bluegill tend to congregate to these locations.


Finding habitat is vital in any season. Spring is no different. Despite being aggressive, predatory fish, bluegills still worry about being eaten. And rightfully so. Muskies, northern pike, catfish and even large bass can chomp down on 8+ inch bluegill with ease. Cover varies from water body to water body. In some lakes, rock piles and sunken logs can be the ticket.  Weeds typically aren’t too prevalent in early spring but you might find some hardy weeds off the bottom. Docks and boat houses that are near deep water can also hold schools in the right settings.

Spring Bluegill Fishing Sunken tree Cover

Sunken trees can provide cover for concentrations of spring bluegills. photo via Joelk75 flickr

Structure is vital to spring bluegill fishing because it’s the best way to find concentrations of fish. You might stumble across a bull in transit or get lucky in a spot. However, to catch multiple fish, you need structure. If you aren’t having luck with a specific type of structure, mix it up and try another type. Rocks or trees or weeds.


Presentation, in fishing terms, is the lure or bait you use, how you use it. Obviously, there’s no way you’re catching a fish without presenting something it wants to eat. Spring bluegill fishing is a great way to test out different presentations. A variety of techniques will work.

Despite this, there are a few consistent elements that all bluegill fishermen should apply. The best advice is to fish slow. In any season, bluegills aren’t known for following baits long distances or striking from far away. In the spring time, this is double true. They can be slow to make a run at a jig or bait. It’s almost as if they are debating it in their small fish mind. Little or even no movement can land a large amount of bluegills. Consider utilizing a float to control depth and movement.

Common early spring bluegill fishing live baits include wax worms, red worm/night crawler pieces, and crickets. Small leeches can also work very well but bluegills are masters at pecking them off. A number 8 hook works really well. Never go bigger than a number 6 hook if you’re looking for just bluegills.

Spring Fishing Atlas Mike's Glo Scents

Some fishermen have great success using artificial baits as well. Small plastics and Berkley power grubs will frequently catch fish. A surprisingly few amount of panfish anglers use bait sprays. Bait sprays give you’re your jig that little extra kick that can be the difference between a small nibble that’s spit out and full slurp. Berkley Gulp! Alive! Attractant Spray is widely available and comes in many flavors. Atlas Mike’s Glo Scents is another cheap oil that does the trick.

Go Fish!

Spring bluegill fishing is fantastic. You can’t catch fish sitting on your couch or at your computer. Get out there and slay them!

5 Bluegill Baits You’ve Never Tried

Everyone knows that nightcrawlers, plastics and small flies are effective bluegill bait. However, it’s time to think outside the box. Here are 5 Bluegill baits you’ve never tried.

1. Marshmallows

Fishing With Marshmallows

zimpenfish via flickr

Yes…marshmallows. Marshmallows have been a secret weapon for fisherman for a long time. Trout, carp, catfish and even our coveted bluegills will strike on marshmallows. The small sized ones work best for bluegill bait. There are two strategies:

I. Cast them out with a fly line or regular line and retrieve them. If there’s not a heavy weight on them, they’ll float and make a pretty good action while you reel them in.

II. Attach them with a weight and use a bobber or have them sit off the bottom. Many fisherman will use a worm, cheese, or powerbait with them to enhance the scent.

Regardless of the strategy, marshmallows are a cheap, fun way to catch fish. You can mix it up and use flavored/colored marshmallows as well. It’s also a great way to get rid of those stale ones in the back of the cupboard!

2. Bread balls


Traditionally, breadballs (sometimes called doughballs) are known for being catfish or carp baits. However, bluegill will also nibble on them when given the chance. Additionally, you can beat the price. Everyone has some old bread that’s a few days past the expiration date. The process is simple: get a few slices of bread, wet them, and roll pieces into the shape of a ball no bigger than a dime.

The biggest downside is that it’s easy for them to pick clean off of the hook. However, with some patients and good technique, you can be slaying them in no time.

3. YoZuri Snap Beans

Yo-Zuri Snap Beans

These little guys are incredible. They are essentially mini-crank baits that zing through the water. Using Snap Beans is a great way to locate active fish. Another big benefit to using them is that despite their size, other species of fish will also strike.  Bass, crappie and trout will all go after these guys. Be careful to only use light line though. They can be difficult to cast.

4. Live Crickets

This might seem like a no brainer to some, depending on which part of the country you live in. In the Southeast US, fishing with crickets is common. However, in the upper Midwest, few fishermen use them. If you can’t find them in a bait shop, you can go to just about any pet store and find them there. Lizard, snake and other reptile owners use them as pet food. They are usually pretty reasonably prices as well.

The key to using them is to keep them alive as long as possible. If large enough, try hooking through a leg or back part of the abdomen to keep them alive long.

5. BOOYAH Micro Pond Magic

BOOYAH Micro Pond Magic

These are just flat out cool. Pretend like you’re bass fishing with these miniature 1/8 oz spinner baits. Along with the YoZuri Snap Beans, these are effective weapons in finding active fish and covering a lot of ground quickly. Keep in mind that bluegills tend to only follow a short distance so don’t retrieve them too fast or you might miss a strike.