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4 Tips to catch sunfish in Minnesota

One of Minnesota’s most popular summer traditions is fishing for sunfish. 

And why not?

The bluegill is the state’s most abundant game fish. It is an ideal introductory species for kids. And it tastes great, too. 

Yet during the dog days of summer even the bluegill can be surprisingly difficult to catch, or at least catching big bluegills can be a challenge. That’s because older and bigger bluegills tend to be in water 10 feet deep or deeper. That’s where they were prior to entering the shallows in spring to spawn. That’s largely where they will stay until later in the year. Bigger fish hang out in different habitat than the little ones in shallow water near docks and shore.

So, if you’re looking for bigger bluegills then consider the following.
 
  1. Look for bluegills along vertical weed lines, especially those around points and turns. Weed lines provide sunfish with the food and cover they need. Sunken islands and humps are also good bluegill-holding spots. Fishing is often best during mornings and evenings when the fish are most active.
  2. A bobber and a worm is still an effective way to catch sunfish. However, you’ll likely want to use an adjustable slip bobber when fishing deeper water. Slip bobbers make casting easy while also allowing your bait to drop to the depth you want.
  3. Small leeches or larvae are good live baits too.  A leech is tougher than a worm so there is less re-baiting when pesky bait stealers are abundant.
  4. Bluegills dine at the bottom end of the food chain, meaning often what they eat isn’t trying to escape at high speed. This allows the fish to cautiously inspect it before deciding whether to inhale it. Therefore, dangling a small yet tempting live bait before a bluegill is a timeless and effective technique. Still, slowly retrieved spinners, small crankbaits, tiny spoons and jig-and-live bait combos can work well too.

If you are serious about catching big bluegills visit the Lakefinder page on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website is a good place to visit. This tool has lake-by-lake size information on bluegill and other species. Also, check out a cool selection of bluegill photos on the website, too. For season and limit information consult the MN 2018 fishing regulations.


C.B. Bylander

C.B. Bylander

C.B. Bylander is a long-time Minnesota angler who has extensive fishing experience throughout the state. He is a former outdoor magazine field editor, daily newspaper outdoor editor and Department of Natural Resources fisheries communication specialist.