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!

Locating Spring Bluegills with Fishfinders

Locating Spring Bluegills

Spring is a great time to catch fish for bluegills and other panfish. With temperatures rising and the brutality of a cold winter coming to a close, the light switch turns on and fish change their mindset towards feeding to build energy for spawning. While bluegills begin to get more active around the 50 degree water temp mark, they won’t begin to spawn in most places until the water reaches around 60 degrees. In most places this happens between early May and as late as August. Between the time of post-ice out/winter and spawning, bluegills being to bunch up and get shallower, following bait fish, larvae and hatching insects.

Finding Bluegills with Fishfinders

Fishingfinder technology has come a long way over the past 20 years. In the early fishing electronics days, fish finders were primarily just depth finders that might show a blip if there’s an object that somewhat resembles a living creature. However, today fish finders are amazing tools to help locate, track and navigate to fish. Many have color displays, gps systems, uploadable maps and even side imaging. Locating spawning bluegills with fish finders can make a huge difference between catch a few fish and slaying a school. Here are some techniques for locating spring bluegills with Fishfinders.

Basic Fish Finders

Fish finders can be a relatively inexpensive investment. The three big names in Fishfinders are Lowrance, Hummingbird and Garmin. All three of these brands include entry level fish finders that show depth, water temperature and other features for less than $80.00.

As stated earlier, bluegills will be most active with water temperatures above 50 degrees. They will begin spawning at 60. Water temperature can vary a surprisingly large amount on a lake, depending on sunlight, water depth and structure. Bluegills will almost always go to the nearest, warmest feeding areas in the spring. By keeping an eye on water temperature, you can locate the warmer spots, which should lead to more active fish.

Basic Cheap Fishfind

Garmin echo 100 Fishfinder

Keeping an eye on water depth is also imperative for any fishing. In locating spring bluegills, focus on depths of 4 to 8 feet. 4 to 8 feet is a very wide range in the world of lake fishing. Unfortunately, fish are still fish and their patterns can be random. Start at the shallower areas in the 4 feet range. If you aren’t locating any biters, move a bit deeper. When you catch a few fish, note the depth and focus on areas similar to the one you caught fish in.

Higher-End Fish Finders

All three of the big names also produce unbelievably advanced Fishfinders. If you’d like to spend a few thousand, you can. Some of the best features of higher end Fishfinders include: GPS, uploadable maps that you can mark, detailed imagining and side-scan sonar.

Side-Scan Sonar

Bluegill Beds Side Scan Sonar

Amazing Image of Bluegill Beds Located Using Side Scan Sonar from In-Fisherman

Side-Scan Sonar has been a revolutionary development in the serious angler industry. Side-scanning has been around for over 50 years. It was first developed to help crews find and recover wreckage debris and treasure hunters locate lost ships. It works by emitting a fan shaped pulse toward the bottom of the body of water it’s on. By doing so, you get a nice image of the floor from an above-down perspective. For most systems, a blind spot is left directly below the boat. For fisherman, this tool gives a unique look into structure, depth changes, humps, and so much more. It also can give you an amazing look at bluegill nesting areas. Bluegill nests are saucer-shaped areas that are about the size of a large dinner plate. Locating large amounts of nests is an obvious indicator that bluegills are present.


If you’re a dedicated angler and you’re in it for the long haul, being able to identify specific spots and mark fish can lead to huge successes down the road. Without GPS, no matter how good you are with paper maps and locating a spot, you WILL be off and it’s nearly impossible to come back to the exact same location and angle you were at during a previous outing. Modern GPS Fishfinders have the ability to save all kinds of data and they are amazing resource to become a more knowledgeable bluegill slayer.

Go fish!

Regardless of whether or not you want to spend money on fancy Fishfinders (or even fishfinders at all), the most important thing is to go outside, get some fresh air and catch some fish!

INFOGRAPHIC: State Record Bluegills

State Record Bluegills

Bluegillslayer.com compiled a complete list of state record bluegill. The below infographic summarizes some of the interesting data discovered. If anyone is interested in the raw numbers, please let me know. Share, like and tweet!

Bluegill State Record Information

Check out some other recent articles on bluegillslayer.com as well:

Spring Bluegill Fishing Tips

5 Bluegill Baits You’ve Never Tried

Thick Cover Bluegill Fishing

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.