I know what you are thinking: “bluegills can’t go ice fishing!” But seriously, folks, for the purpose of this post, let’s assume that “ice fishing bluegills” means “ice fishing FOR bluegills. Now that we’ve got a semantics issue out of the way, here are some tips for how to ice fish for bluegill, perhaps the most common sport fish in the U.S.
Bluegill, and several other sunfish such as pumpkinseeds, long-ear, and redear, have relatively small mouths anyway so when learning bluegill ice fishing techniques, small hooks are a must. Miniature hooks and the best bluegill ice fishing lures such as tiny jigs require light line. Bluegill are fairly easy to catch but they can quickly spit out bait offerings such as meal worms so using drastically undersized tackle helps with bite detection.
Another tip for how to ice fish for bluegills involves location. Start near where you found them when the water wasn’t ice and drill holes over nearby deeper water. I’ve read that anglers sometimes make the mistake of simply seeking the deepest part of the lake. The bottom conditions there can be a softer, mucky bottom that may not be as attracting to fish than a firmer bottom with some gravel or rocks. For giant bluegill ice fishing, your best bet may be near the same deeper structure or weed edges where you found them during late summer.
Check the regulations for ice fishing in your state because hook allowances can vary. For example, in the Pennsylvania Regulations you can have 5 lines in but there is “no restriction on the number of hooks used for fishing,” except for one particular reservoir. Consider trying tandem rigs in your bluegill ice fishing techniques. These usually have a slightly heavier hook/jig/lure on the bottom so it will drop and hang straight in the water column and lessen chances of tangling. Another rig I look forward to trying is a small hook on a light leader tied to a small spoon, used for an initial attractor.
For many bodies of water, ice fishing bluegills is one of your best bets for winter action. Check regulations for harvest if you plan to keep any because this varies by state too. For example, Pennsylvania allows 50 per day with no size limit, but in Michigan that number is 25. If you are practicing catch and release, unhook quickly to protect sensitive gills. And as always, keep your fishing license up to date; the New Year is not far away.
Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.