Bluegill and sunfish are some of the most abundant freshwater fish in North America. The great part about fishing for bluegill and sunfish is they’re plentiful and not difficult to catch. Where they’re found, they thrive. For this reason, the best time to fish for bluegill is…when you have the time. Sounds pretty cliché, anti-climactic, generic—whatever you want to call it—but you can have great success with bluegill at any time of the day. If you’re a beginner, we don’t recommend that you worry about timing. We recommend that you go outside and fish. But let’s say you do have a day free and want to plan a small time slot for catching a bunch of bluegill. Keep reading to find out the best time of day.
Best Part Of The Day To Fish For Bluegill
Unlike for many fish, dawn and dusk are not prime bluegill hours. Bluegill and sunnys are sight feeders and rely on the daylight to find their food and avoid predators. Keep in mind that they’re very low on the food chain. Their best chance of success and survival is when the sun is over the horizon. The question is where are they during this time period? The answer depends on water temperature.
During the cold weather months, bluegill are slow and “shy” when it comes to feeding and don’t chase their forage aggressively. They’ll usually go up to your bait slowly and just suck it in. Fish slow and find warmer water during this time. This means fishing deeper water, but pay attention to shallow areas that receive direct sunlight and to the type of bottom. Areas with dark and muddy bottoms will absorb more heat and warm up the water quicker.
Very nice sunfish caught using our ice fishing kit.
If you’re inside the ice belt, then learn how to ice fish for bluegill. Here’s a snippet from our article:
Bluegill patterns and depths will vary throughout the winter. However, bluegill generally feed on small minnows, insects and larvae, so mimic them with your bait presentations. At early ice you will find bluegills in shallower bays with healthy amounts of vegetation. Look for bays with a maximum depth of 15-20 feet, and work from the deepest point toward the edges of vegetation. Bluegills will push out to the deeper basin in mid-winter when vegetation dies off and oxygen levels are depleted. You’ll find gills in the 15-35 foot range this time of year. Look for areas with flat, semi-soft bottoms. Flatter, semi-soft bottom areas are home to insect larvae that bluegills love to eat this time of year. Late ice will bring bluegills back to the vegetation as they make their way into shallow bays for the spring spawn. Target the mouths of bays, points and inlets as they travel inward.
In warm weather, sometimes all it takes is basic fishing tackle. Just a hook, worm…and some fishing line tied to a stick.
Once the water temp breaches the upper 60s into 70s, depending where you are, bluegill and sunfish start to make their beds in shallow areas to prepare to spawn. This can be in only a foot or two of water. From this point forward during the warm season, they become the most active and aggressive in their feeding habits. All of a sudden they lose their “shyness” and employ hit-and-run tactics when they see food.
Focus on shallow areas with vegetation and cover. Places like marinas, canals, inlets, creeks, and small bays are great areas to fish. Look for areas that receive direct sunlight during cold weather in the summer and visa-versa, look for shade and cool areas during the peak of hot weather. Bluegill love warm water, but they still need to regulate their temperature. During the dog days of summer, the water temp in a spot only has to be a few degrees cooler for bluegill to congregate. While this usually means fishing deeper, often times it’s as simple as casting under a shaded bank.
Best Time Of Year To Fish For Bluegill
Bluegill and sunfish can be targeted any time of year with great success. Again, they’re so abundant that fishermen are sometimes more picky about their style of fishing than determining the best time to go. Ice fishermen might target bluegill and other panfish all winter long, but as soon as the thaw passes they move on to other species. While other fishermen outside the ice belt might prefer bluegill on hot summer days when all else seems to fail. However, if you don’t have enough fishing experience to develop preferences, then the best time of year to fish is during the warmer months. This is generally spring through fall. But if you get the itch during the winter or are just interested in ice fishing for your first time, then be sure to check out our article on tackle and gear essentials.
Great info. I remember as a kid catching my share of blue gill at my grandmothers house. It is a great fish to target for kids and pretty easy to catch. My brother and I would catch then off the bank and around the pier poles. I don’t think it mattered what time of the day we fished for them, we pretty much caught them all day long.
Great comment, Alan. I don’t think my bobber would’ve ever moved when I was kid if it weren’t for bluegill and sunfish.