(Above: Fantastic color patterns make the bluegill and other species of panfish some of the most beautiful fish in Colorado.)
My obsession with panfish continues and often reaches its peak this time of year. When I stumble onto a school of decent sized panfish for some reason I have to drop everything and hammer them. Most of these fish are small and not worth a lot of effort. Some of these panfish however are fantastic specimens of what could arguably be the most brilliantly colored fish in Colorado. Normally these fish fill a void in action when I am bass fishing. Today I decided to go on a mission almost specifically for bluegill.
A lot of hard-core bassers or trout aficionados may not take the bluegill class seriously. They consider it strictly fish forage and folly in regards to angling. They may be right in regards to the big game fish but they are definitely missing out in some quality fishing…even if it is pint-sized.
(Above: This color pattern has a bright orange/red tint that is more brilliant during the spawning cycle)
(Above: Other color patterns are much darker with amazing blue and green markings. This one looked really cool even if the picture doesn’t fully do it justice.)
(Above: Then you get ones like this. A quality 10” maybe 11” gill with some of the most beautiful fin markings that I have ever seen.)
I have a few different tactics for attacking panfish and they vary from flies, small grubs to small minnow presentations such as the “panfish assassins”…the same ones I use for crappie. Below is a quick product shot and how I rig them with a drop shot hook.
(Above: I will try to get more presentation and rig setups like this going forward. For panfish it doesn’t really matter what you throw as they will hammer anything they can get their mouths around this time of year.)
Conservation note: Panfish such as bluegill and sunfish are prolific breeders and will reproduce in multitude under most conditions. This means that this species can tolerate some periodic harvesting. Selective harvest actually helps some species of fish from overcrowding. However what happens most often is that people deplete the school of as many fish as they can catch rather than focus on what would make the fishery truly thrive. Selective harvest means you take out the most common sized slot. Selective harvest does not mean that you remove as many big fish as you can. The same goes for panfish. The larger fish are needed to actively breed more fish. Larger brood fish are less likely to be eaten by predators and a crucial niche to the system overall as they provide the base layer of forage for larger fish. If anglers wipe out that layer (and it does happen) the whole system suffers greatly.
Of course I am a “release-aholic” when it comes 99% of the fish I catch. But that is my preference. What is absolutely crucial to the quality of fishing in Colorado is the release of big fish. For the sake of fishing as a sport today, tomorrow and years to come…release more big fish!
Good luck and good fishing.