Overview: Crappies will be deep and sluggish now, but they’re still catchable with the right presentation.
Key Location: Check main-lake river channels for crappies holding tight to bottom cover in 30 to 60 feet of water.
Primary Patterni: Vertical presentations rule in the dead of winter. Fish straight down, using live minnows on a Kentucky rig (see diagram below) or spoons jigged just above the fish.
Overview: Crappies will begin migrating from deep river channels toward major tributaries, where they will eventually spawn. They’ll often suspend in open water now rather than relate to cover or breaklines.
Key Location: Waves of crappies will stage off points leading into reservoir tributary arms, suspending off these structures 20 to 30 feet deep. Some fish will remain on river channel structure in considerably deeper water.
Primary Pattern: Wind-drift 1⁄8- to 1⁄4-ounce jigs on longlines around tributary points. Watch your graph for suspended baitfish schools—crappies are seldom far from a food source.
Overview: Many crappies have started migrating toward their eventual spawning areas. It’s prime time.
Key Location: Target crappies hanging tight to submerged wood on deep channel banks near the entrance to tributaries, 12 to 25 feet deep. Most fish will range from the primary point to about a quarter of the way back into the creek arm.
Primary Pattern: Target-cast grubs to channel bends with wood. Cast, let the grub sink until it contacts the cover, then immediately begin swimming it slowly and steadily back to the boat.
Overview: The prespawn migration is in full swing now, with large numbers of crappies moving into reservoir tributary arms. Stragglers suspending in deep water off tributary points will make their move shallower following a few days of mild, sunny weather.
Key Location: Continue targeting the creek channel migration route, keying on isolated wood cover along channel bends for the largest concentration of fish. Crappies instinctively remain 12 to 20 feet deep now, probably to insulate themselves from the impact of frontal passages.
Primary Pattern: Map out the creek channel with marker buoys, then bump a Kentucky rig baited with minnows or a minnow/tube bait combination along the channel drop.
Overview: Expect the bite to get more aggressive as crappies begin feeling “the urge to merge” and feed heavily before spawning.
Key Location: A few big fish will be in the upper half of tributary arms, but you’ll find numbers of fish in the lower half, still relating to the creek channel migration route. Shallow ditches veering off the creek channel and running toward shallow spawning coves can hold huge fish.
Primary Pattern: Target ditches with grubs and small crank baits; on mild days, crappies may be as shallow as one to three feet deep along these structures. Work the creek channel with grubs, keying on brushy cover in the six- to 12-foot zone.
Overview: Crappies spawn in water from around 65 to 75 degrees, so the immediate prespawn period is a good time to load the boat with oversize fish. Baitfishi schools continue to be a primary location factor now as crappies fatten up before spawning.
Key Location: Hopefully you did your homework while the lake was drawn down during winter and marked the location of brushy cover and stake beds on your map and GPS. Now that the water is higher, crappies will be all over this cover midway into tributary arms, three to eight feet deep
Primary Pattern: Tightlining minnows and jigging tube baits around sunken cover will score heavy crappie catches in murky water. In clear water, back off your target, make a long cast and swim a curlytail grub.
Overview: Crappies will be shallow now; some will be spawning, but many will still be in a prespawn mode. Don’t rush the season—if you aren’t catching quality fish on likely spawning cover, back off and target prespawn crappies instead.
Key Location: Crappies will be in the upper half of tributary arms, holding tight to isolated stake beds and submerged brush piles. Prespawn fish will be in three to six feet of water, but will chase minnows shallower.
Primary Pattern: Tight-lining minnows on long rods is the standard method now, but target-casting grubs and tubes to submerged wood works, too.
Overview: Spawning season kicks in big-time! Male crappies fan out the nest while females hang back waiting for the water temperature to rise a degree or two before moving onto the beds.
Key Location: Spawning takes place on woody cover (stake beds, brush piles, etc.) in the upper ends of brushy coves and creek arms, anywhere from three to 12 feet deep depending on the lake’s clarity.
Primary Pattern: Cast tubes and grubs or tight-line minnows close to cover. If you’re catching numbers of small males, back off and hit deeper isolated stake beds and stumps for the bigger females.
Overview: Some crappies will be done spawning while others are finally moving onto their beds. Postspawn fish will hang around bedding areas for several days until the water temperature rises.
Key Location: Spawners will be on wood from three to 12 feet deep depending on water clarity. Postspawn fish will be on isolated pieces of cover adjacent to spawning sites.
Primary Pattern: Determine the crappies’ spawning mode. If tube baits or minnows don’t produce strikes in thick brush and stake beds, target-cast grubs to scattered wood.
Overview: Most crappie fishermen hang up their rods after the spawn, but a shift in tactics can yield fast action on postspawn fish.
Key Location: Before moving to their deep summer haunts, many crappies gravitate to the edges of flats, hanging tight to scattered wood or suspending above the breakline closest to the structure.
Primary Pattern: Troll small diving crankbaits like the 200 series Bandit around the edges of flats in the six- to 18-foot zone, occasionally banging the plugs off stumps and bottom.
Overview: Crappies will be moving out of tributaries via the same creek channel migration routes they traveled before spawning.
Key Location: Slabs gang up on secondary and primary points that drop quickly into deep water. Look for them suspending 18 to 30 feet deep around baitfish schools.
Primary Pattern: Target channel points using a Kentucky rig bumped slowly along bottom.
Overview: In the Sun Belt, water temps in the 90s are common by August. Crappies suspend for long periods now to conserve metabolic energy. River-run reservoirs with a flowing channel usually have better fishing now than slackwater lakes.
Key Location: Channel ledges lined with standing timber or brushy cover offer your best bet now. Crappies are probably suspending 18 to 30 feet deep in 60 feet of water.
Primary Pattern: If fish are suspended high in the water column, slow-drifting minnows or tubes through the school can produce strikes. If they’re tight to bottom, use a Kentucky rig.
Overview: While the lake’s surface temperature cools quickly as the days grow shorter in early fall, deeper water cools more gradually, so expect to find crappies deep.
Key Location: Deep channel cover continues to be your best bet for finding concentrations of fish.
Primary Pattern: Kentucky rigs bumped along cover and spoons jigged over wood.
Overview: Crappies are following channels, or moving shallow to prey on baitfish schools, so expect a pickup in activity.
Key Location: Primary tributary points, where the creek and river channel intersect, can hold a ton of baitfish and crappies now.
Primary Pattern: Target the 15- to 25-foot zone with a Kentucky rig. If crappies are suspended, slow-troll cranks.
Overview: Shadi move into shallow coves and tributaries to spawn, and crappies follow.
Key Location: The first half of reservoir tributary arms will hold large schools of crappies.
Primary Pattern: Target scattered wood along the creek channel 10 to 20 feet deep with grubs and Kentucky rigs.
Overview: As baitfish move farther back into the tributaries, crappies follow, feeding on wandering schools.
Key Location: Check channels, secondary points and flats in the back half of reservoir tributary arms. Crappies hold anywhere from two to 10 feet deep, depending on water clarity.
Primary Pattern: Use a bass fishing approach. Coveri water quickly, casting a grub or small crankbait to every piece of wood you encounter.
Overview: Reservoiri drawdown usually starts about now; dropping water levels push baitfish and crappies out of tributary arms toward the main body of the lake.
Key Location: Crappies use the same migratory routes they took in spring to move back to the main lake. Find them on creek channel cover in the 12-foot zone.
Primary Pattern: Cast grubs or bump Kentucky rigs around creek channel cover.
Overview: Colder nights spell a rapid cool-down. As drawdown continues, many crappies leave reservoir tributaries.
Key Location: Deep points and steep bluff banks at or near the mouths of tributaries hold large schools of crappies in the 15- to 25-foot zone.
Primary Pattern: Drifting live minnows on long rods rigged with heavy sinkers is a proven fall tournament tactic. Lower the sinker to bottom, then reel up to the level of suspended crappies.
Overview: The 60-degree pattern should remain about the same until the lake turns over—assuming it does.
Key Location: Deep points and steep rock bluffs near tributary mouths hold concentrations of fish.
Primary Pattern: If crappies aren’t on the points, drift jigs or troll crankbaits for fish schooled in the open water between the points.
Overview: Turnover usually occurs during the fall-winter transition, triggering a wholesale movement of crappies.
Key Location: Intersection of channels, 25 to 40 feet deep.
Primary Pattern: Crappies are often tight to bottom right now, and they’re going to stay that way through the cold weather months, so bang a Kentucky rig along the channel.
Overview: Crappies have settled into a winter pattern now, setting up on deep channel structure.
Key Location: Channels with brush, 18 to 40 feet deep.
Primary Pattern: Fish the bottom along bends and pronounced drop-offs.
Overview: In hyper-chilled water, crappies are deep and feed only sporadically.
Key Location: Channels with brushy cover or submerged standing timber. Look for crappies 40 to 60 feet deep.
Primary Pattern: Fishing spoons along the channel, or hug bottom with your Kentucky rig.
Overview: Crappies are sluggish, requiring a patient approach.
Key Location: Slabs are on bottom 40 to 60 feet deep along main-lake channels.
Primary Pattern: More bottom rigging—look for the cycle to start anew soon after water temps bottom out.
Crappies by Degrees
Water Temperature and Crappie
Most experienced anglers consider water temperature to be the single most important factor governing the occurrence and behavior of crappie and their locations. They sometimes behave in what seems an irrational or unpredictable way. Once the angler understands how water temperature influences crappie behavior, they can pinpoint crappie throughout the year.
Using some kind of water temperature gauge or a simple pool thermometer will help get you onto fish much quicker. Most depth finders today also have a water surface temperature reading capabilities. When a temperature reading is given on a gauge or a fishing report (DNR, Game & Fish, newspaper, etc.), it is referring to the temperature at or near the water surface. With those temps listed, you can figure on the deeper water being a few degrees cooler. Also the temperatures of the creeks and protected bays could be higher or lower by several degrees, depending on inflowing water in creeks, water clarity and sunshine/cloud cover.
Crappie generally start their movement out of their deep water winter haunts when the water temperatures start warming towards the 45-50 degree range. They will congregate around the entrances of creek channels until the water temps reaches around the 50-55 degree range. Then you can expect them to begin migrating towards the shallower secondary creeks and bays, using the channels as “highways”. At this point, try trolling minnows or casting a CULPRIT Tassel Tail or Curl Tail grub to isolated stumps, brush and small pockets, and retrieving them back very slowly. When water reaches in the 55-60 degree range, the males should be in shallow water looking and fanning out spawning beds, while the females stage out in the closest deeper water structures. Crappie feed more aggressively and baitfish are more active as spawning nears. Try dropping a minnow under a cork into the spawning beds for males. Use a cast and slow retrieve with a CULPRIT Paddle Tail grub for the deeper females.
As a general rule, surface temperatures in the 62-65 degree range are almost perfect for shallow, spawning crappie. The females will then move in and around brushy cover. Your best bet now is to drop live minnows under a cork. Any bad weather or cold fronts can set the whole process back a few days to a few weeks. This will be explained in more detail later.
When water warms to the 70-75 degree range, the females will leave their nest and move to nearby deep structures where they staged before the spawning. The males stay behind to guard the nests. Use a cast/retrieve slowly with the CULPRIT Paddle tail grub. By the time water reaches 75 degrees, the males will be joining the females and migrate through the channels the same way they came in back out to the deep cooler water for the summer.
When the water starts to cool in the fall, they will again move back into the creek channels to feed heavily for the upcoming winter months. Most crappies will stage halfway up the tributaries near to the pre-spawn locations. Casting the CULPRIT Crappie Baits such as the Tassel Tail, Paddle Tail and Curl Tail jigs is an effective and fun way to catch crappies now. When water temps fall in the mid-40’s range, they will migrate back to deep water in the main lake.
Keep in mind that these water temperature ranges are arbitrary, depending on the locations of the water you fish. For example, crappies spawn when water is in the 62-65 degree range, which can be as early as January in the Deep South or as late as June in the North.
COLD FRONTS AND FALLING WATER TEMPERATURES
There’s another factor that seem to be even more important than just a specific temperature. Let’s say you found great fishing for a couple days at the 65 degree mark. Then a relatively mild front comes in and drops the surface temperature down to 62 degrees. Even though the water temperature is still in the “ideal” range, you may find that fishing is off considerably. Fish are not completely without the ability to regulate their body temperature. They have the instinctive ability to behaviorally thermo regulate. This means they seek out areas of preferred temperature in an environment that is not at uniform temperature.
Especially in the Spring, crappie are super-sensitive to temperature variation. A sudden drop when the temperature is in the 50’s is more dramatic to fish behavior than a similar drop from the 60’s.
You may have to alter your tactics and try deeper water or heavier cover to counter the effects of the sinking temperatures. Also, concentrate on those northern shorelines or coves protected from northerly cold fronts and exposed to the longest period of southerly sunlight.
Keeping a close watch on water temperatures can make a weighty difference in your stringers of crappies throughout the year.
Trout Tips from Spring Creek Treasure
Brim Reaper Fishing Tips For Bluegill
One of the benefits of selling the Brim Reaper is all the feedback I get from fishermen. Here are some tips that I have found and some that I have been told.
WHEN THE BREAM ARE NOT COOPERATIVE, TRY THE FOLLOWING:
I was down at Reelfoot Lake, TN in May and fishing was slow. I could see down about 4 feet. It really helped when I added a wax worm and cast 50 feet from the boat.
- Sometimes it helps to shorten the legs.
- One fellow reported that he was using the reaper and his brother was using a cricket and neither were doing much until he added a cricket to the Brim Reaper. Then the Brim Reaper with a cricket on it out caught the plain cricket two to one.
- One day the fish were hitting slowly. Just nipping the bait and would not hold on. I made 6 casts into one stob and had 6 snibs. No fish so I shortened the legs and dunked it in fish formula (Crappie flavored) I then made 9 straight casts at the same stob and had 9 consecutive bream.
- Another fisherman reported the same problem, which he solved by putting on a red lead-head.
- Try casting the Reaper with a # 00 L-Shaped spinner in either gold or silver. This can be Deadly. Add a split shot when needed, I do.
- The Reaper might last even longer if it does not get hot. Take it into the house when you are through rather than leave it in the car. Keep it out of the sunlight.
Brim Reaper Fishing Tips For Crappie
BIG Crappie!!!! More and more fishermen are finding out every day that this bait can be
Deadly on Big Slab Crappie. This summer when it was hot, the good Crappie sometimes moved into real shallow water in heavy cover in the river sloughs. Try the Brim Reaper, some people prefer to change the lead-head to one with a # 6 hook instead of the standard #8. Some people prefer a plain lead-head or painted. Depending on the water, you might want to us the Reaper with the chartreuse legs. I went out one day and did better with the chartreuse legs on both Brim and Crappie. The water was pretty dingy.
IF YOU HAVE ANY TIPS YOU WOULD LIKE TO PASS ALONG, JUST SEND THEM AND I WILL DO IT.
Crappie Fishing in Missouri
|Crappie Killer by Blue Ribbon Lures|
They’re pretty much everywhere in Missouri
Crappie are common in most of Missouri’s large reservoirs, rivers,
and streams, as well as many smaller public and private ponds.
When and how to catch them
Spring—fish the shallows
In spring when crappie are spawning in the shallows, anyone can cast a
minnow and bobber toward the bank and catch a ton of fish. Crappie may
spawn as early as mid-March in the southern part of the state and as
late as the end of May in northern Missouri. The spawn generally occurs
when water temperatures reach 55F. The depth at which crappie spawn
depends on water clarity. In stained or muddy water, they may spawn as
shallow as 1 or 2 feet. In exceptionally clear water, they may spawn as
deep as 20 feet or more.
During the spring spawning period, use a trolling motor to move
slowly and quietly close to the shoreline. Flip a small (1/32 to 1/16
ounce) jig into the shallow water along the shore. Move slowly and hit
every nook and cranny around rocks, woody debris and vegetation. Pea
gravel banks are also preferred spawning locations. Once you locate
crappie, stop and continue fishing that spot until the fish stop biting
or they’re not big enough to suit you. If a spring cold front sends
crappie out to deeper water, concentrate on steep banks. Crappie won’t
be very far off the bank.
On waters that get high fishing pressure, try casting a tiny jig
right onto the bank, retrieving the bait with the rod tip straight in
the air, and erratically jerking the bait near cover on the bank. You
often get strikes right next to the boat after the crappie follow the
Summer—move to deeper water or try night fishing
Post-spawn through September, crappie tend to stay in brush located
in 15 to 20 feet of water, about 10 or 15 feet down. Concentrate on
standing timber along creek channels and on brush piles out on the main
lake. Vertical jigging works well when fishing the brush.
Fishing around concrete bridge piers is a productive technique for
catching crappie in Missouri’s large reservoirs during summer. Focus on
piers in water at least 20 feet deep. Vertically jig a minnow next to
the pier beginning at a depth of about ten feet and slowly work deeper
until you locate fish. If you’re not successful in locating and catching
fish after several attempts, move to another pier.
Fish deeper brush near the thermocline (where the water suddenly gets
cooler with depth) during hot summer months with split shot, a light
wire hook and a small shiner or fathead minnow hung over the side of the
During the hot Missouri months of July and August, try night fishing
for crappie! Artificial lights such as floodlights on docks, street
lights and commercially available floating and submersible lights
attract insects and small baitfish that will in turn attract crappie.
Fish much as you would during the daylight hours with either minnows or
artificial baits, fishing at different depths until you locate fish.
Fall—try the docks
Crappie are generally very predictable and aggressive in October and
November. Docks are a prime location for fall crappie, where they can be
caught in the upper 10 feet of the water column.
Cast into the back of a boat slip or along the edges, letting the jig
sink for 2 or 3 seconds, and then retrieve slowly. Crappie will also
move into shallow water on warm days in the fall, where you can catch
them in the same brush piles they inhabit during the spawn.
Winter—enjoy some of the best fishing of the year
Unfortunately, many anglers stow away the boat and fishing tackle
before the first snow flies. Those who don’t can experience some of the
best fishing of the year and have their favorite lake all to themselves.
You can find crappie in deep water (20 to 40 feet) in the winter, but
they will move into shallower water during a string of warm days. The
key to catching crappie in the winter is to use a very slow retrieve. In
cold water, crappie will not chase a fast-moving lure like they will
during the warmer months.
In addition, winter crappie tend to congregate in large, dense
schools near structure instead of scattering in loose schools over a
large area. Casts to one side of a brush pile may yield nothing while
the other side may produce a fish on nearly every cast.
Tackle and technique
If you talk to a dozen crappie anglers, you will likely get a dozen
different opinions regarding the best way to catch them, the best jig
color, the best line to use, and so on. In reality, two anglers in the
same boat can be using two completely different techniques and baits,
and they will both be catching fish. The key is to not get stuck on any
one approach. Experiment until you find a technique that works for you. I usually begin with different colored tube jigs or the Crappie Killer.
Crappie are attracted to woody cover regardless of the time of year. A
good rule of thumb is to fish shallow during spring and fall, then fish
deep during summer and winter. However, a string of warm days in
January can send fish into water less than 5 feet deep, while a strong
cold front in April can send them to the depths for a few days. When
trying to locate crappie, target brush piles or other cover at a variety
of depths, and let the fish tell you what depth they prefer on a given
When crappie are active, they will hit a bait presented in close
proximity to cover. When they are not so active, you may need to get
your bait down into the brush to be successful. The two most effective
ways to do this are vertical jigging and casting. A weedless jig works
best for these types of presentation.
To fish a bait vertically, simply drop it straight down into the
brush until it hits bottom. Then slowly reel up until you get a bite.
Note the depth at which you get a bite and concentrate on fishing at
that depth. Another productive method is to use a very small jigging
spoon. Fish vertically over deep brush and raise and lower your jigging
spoon 1-2 feet. Crappie will often hit the spoon on the fall while it is
fluttering. This is a good technique to use when you run out of minnows
or simply get tired of re-baiting your hook.
When fishing shallow brush or in very clear water, you may need to
back away from the brush and cast. Toss your bait past the brush and let
it sink to the bottom on a tight line. Slowly retrieve until you
contact the brush. When you feel your bait come over a limb, let it sink
again. Keep doing this until you clear the brush. By doing this, your
lure is actually penetrating down into brush instead of just skimming
along the outer edges.
These are not just for young or inexperienced anglers. There are days
when crappie will only pick up a jig or minnow that is hovering nearly
motionless. Again, you may need to experiment with the depth of your
bait to find the fish.
|Brim Reaper by Blue Ribbon Lures|
Bluegill are relatively easy to catch, especially if you are using
the proper tackle, bait and technique. Following a few basic principles
will greatly increase your success at catching bluegill.
Tackle selection—the lighter the tackle, the better
The bluegill has a small mouth, even when it reaches adulthood. Young
bluegill, like most small fish, feed on tiny, aquatic invertebrates
called zooplankton. As bluegill grow, they’re able to eat larger
creatures, such as insects. Bluegill are sight feeders and feed
primarily during daylight hours.
Bluegill do not grow to huge sizes, so select your rod and reel
accordingly. An ultra-light rod and reel with light line will allow you
to feel the bluegill’s bite more effectively, and you will catch more
fish. In clear water, light line is less likely to be detected by fish.
Line weights from 2- to 6-pound test work best.
Bait and hooks—keep them small
Regardless of whether you use live bait or lures, you will need to
keep them small if you want to catch a lot of bluegill. Hook sizes from
No. 6 to No. 10 are most effective. Hooks with long shanks will allow
you to more easily remove them from the bluegill’s tiny mouth, and thin
wire hooks work best for holding small baits. Live bait works especially
well for bluegill. The most common baits are worms and night crawlers
because they are readily available and bluegill love them. The key is to
use only a piece of a worm—just enough to cover the hook. Other
productive baits include crickets, grasshoppers, red wrigglers and meal
worms. Artificial lures also work well for bluegill. The Brim Reaper might be the best lure made for bluegill. Some of the best
lures are black jigs (1/32 ounce and smaller) and tiny spinners. Small
flies and poppers are very effective and can be used while flyfishing or
in conjunction with a bobber for easy casting.
Techniques—whatever works for you
Bluegill can be caught with a variety of techniques, all of which can
be effective under the right conditions. The key is to use a technique
you’re confident with and enjoy.
- Bobber fishing—The most popular technique for
catching bluegill in spring and summer is the bobber and worm or Brim Reaper. This
method is not only popular because it is easy, especially for kids, but
because it works. Bluegill don’t like to chase their food, so a slow or
almost motionless presentation is often best. A small bait hanging below
a bobber is usually more than a bluegill can resist. Be sure to use a
small bobber—just big enough to float your bait. If your bobber is too
large, the bluegill will feel the resistance and spit out the bait.
Setting your bobber from 1 to 3 feet deep will usually do the trick, but
if fish are deeper you will need to fish deeper. Slip bobbers are a
must for the serious bluegill angler because they allow you to fish at
any depth. I prefer a split shot about 6 inches above my Brim Reaper.
- Bottom fishing—Another effective technique is to
cast your bait and let it slowly sink to the bottom. Use as little
weight as possible so that your bait sinks slowly and so bluegill don’t
feel resistance when they pick it up. Using an ultra-light rod and reel
with light line will allow you to cast your bait with no weight at all.
If your bait sinks slowly, bluegill will often bite as it is sinking. If
your bait makes it to the bottom without a bite, watch your line
closely for a sign that a bluegill has picked your bait off the bottom.
If you don’t get a bite in a few minutes, reel in and cast to a
different spot. This technique is especially effective when bluegill are
in deeper water in early spring or following a cold spell.
- Drift fishing—A very effective method for catching
bluegill, especially in late summer when bluegill are often suspended in
open water, is to drift across the lake in a boat with baits down 10 to
15 feet. Because bluegill will likely be found in schools, repeatedly
drift through those areas where you have caught fish.
- Fly fishing—Although you may think fly fishing is
for trout, it is also one of the most effective, exciting ways to catch
bluegill. Because small insects are a major part of the bluegill’s diet,
an artificial fly resembling these insects is usually irresistible.
Bluegill are not as picky as some trout, so most fly patterns will work.
The best flies are typically small and black.
Location—fish where the bluegill are
Using the proper tackle, bait and technique is critical in catching
bluegill, but it is important to know where to find bluegill in a lake,
depending on the season. Because bluegill use different habitats at
different times of the year, the best locations in spring probably won’t
be as good in late summer or winter.
- Spring and early summer—Bluegill spawn in spring
and early summer, and this is a good time to catch them. When water
temperatures exceed 70F, begin looking for spawning bluegill in shallow
water. The tell-tale “elephant tracks”—groups of nearly round craters
that mark spawning nests—will give away their location. Once you find a
spawning colony, take care not to spook the bluegill as you fish. Cast
beyond the nests and retrieve your bait through the colony. Male
bluegill will guard nests against intruders and will aggressively take
- Late summer—You can readily catch bluegill after
the spawning season, when they move into deeper water as summer
progresses. In summer, bluegill can be found along the edges of weed
beds, around brush piles, stake-beds and flooded timber, especially if
deeper water is nearby. Bluegill are commonly found in water more than
10 feet deep in summer and typically hang just above the thermocline
(the depth where water temperature changes dramatically and below which
oxygen levels are usually low). Best fishing is usually in the morning
and evening when the fish are most active.
- Fall—Look for bluegill in the same locations as
late summer and also fish shallower water near weed beds, brush or other
types of cover. While morning and evening are the best times to fish
during summer, midday fishing success often improves as water cools in
- Winter—Look for bluegill in water 12 to 20 feet
deep. They school near underwater structures, usually near the bottom.
Bluegill do not feed as actively in winter, so be sure to use small
baits and slow presentation. Using light tackle and line is also
essential because bluegill bite very lightly in winter, and these bites
would go undetected with less sensitive tackle.
Finding a good lake or pond
If you just want to catch a lot of fish regardless of size, most
lakes and ponds will provide ample bluegill action.
Don’t overlook farm ponds! Some of the best bluegill fishing can be
found in ponds, and many of the biggest bluegill on record were caught
in farm ponds. To find a good pond, talk with other anglers and pond
owners to get some tips. Always ask permission to fish on private ponds.
Ice fishing for bluegill
Ice fishing in Missouri is usually restricted to the northern part of
the state and varies in duration from year to year. When conditions are
right, bluegill fishing can be fast and furious through the ice. Look
for actively feeding bluegill near the bottom around weed beds,
brushpiles, and points in water 12 to 15 feet deep. It is helpful to
note these locations during summer fishing trips. You can also use a
portable depth finder when ice fishing to look for brushpiles and check
depth. Fishing is usually best soon after the ice forms and slows as
winter progresses and ice thickens. When fishing has slowed in mid to
late winter, concentrate fishing effort during dawn and dusk hours.
Fishing can be very slow during mid day but outstanding at dawn and
dusk. Never judge the quality of ice fishing on a lake until you have
fished the last half hour of daylight.
Ice fishing requires some special gear. If the ice isn’t too thick, a
spud bar will work. An ice auger works best in most situations and will
allow you to easily move to different locations until you find the
right spot. Carry a dipper to clear the hole of ice chips after drilling
and to keep the hole ice-free while fishing. A sled is very handy to
haul around your gear and carry your fish. Ice-fishing rods are short
(often made from broken rod tips) and often with pegs instead of reels.
Using a small bait and hook is especially important in winter because
fish, including bluegill, are not aggressive and don’t feed as much.
Standard gear for bluegill includes small, brightly colored hooks (often
called tear drops), a small bobber just large enough to suspend your
bait, and live bait such as wax worms, meal worms, mousies or goldenrod
grubs. Set the bobber so your bait is within a foot of the bottom. Every
30 seconds or so twitch your lure a little—this will often induce a
bite. You must watch your bobber closely because bluegill, like many
fish, bite very lightly in winter.
An Introduction to Fly Fishing
Anglers fly fish for the same reason some deer hunters use
longbows and arrows. By reducing automation, they make the sport more
personal, more intimate and more satisfying. And, like an archer who
makes his own arrows, a fly fishermen can create his own flies or build
his own rods. The fun in that recipe can add 10 happy years to anyone’s
Fly fishing is different from other kinds of fishing in a couple of
ways. Most basically, the weight of the line propels the cast, not the
weight of the bait or lure. A tiny fly is very light, but it is possible
to present it to a fish 40 feet away by using a fly line.
Most anglers come to fly fishing after a long apprenticeship in other
kinds of fishing, be it with live bait, bass lures or deep sea tackle. I
spent many hours plastered to the seat of a boat dangling minnows over
the side or sitting on a mud-slick creek bank trying to outwit catfish
before ever holding a fly rod.
When I first started fly fishing, I spent a lot of time on streams
full of greedy sunfish and small, naive bass. Casting colorful woolly
worms and little popping bugs, I waded in cool waters for hours on end
catching lots of small, feisty fish while learning to keep a fly line
Missouri anglers can start with one fly rod that will maximize the
fun in catching sunfish, small stream bass and trout. Most fly rods
today are made from graphite and, sometimes, a combination of other
materials, such as fiberglass. This is good, resilient stuff that can be
turned into a light, sweet-casting rod. The least expensive rods will
probably contain less graphite and more fiberglass.
Experienced fly anglers select a rod based on the “line weight” the
rod is rated for, the rod action and the length of the rod. Rod
“actions” are rated fully-flexing, medium, medium-fast and fast. As rods
progress from the most flexible to the fastest, they become stiffer.
Short, light fly rods suitable for sunfish use feather-weight lines,
while longer, more muscular rods used for bass fishing require heavier
lines to tease the leverage out of them. A new fly caster should look
for a rod in the medium range. It will “load” (flex the rod) with its
matched line at short to medium ranges, making casting easier at the
distances most people actually fish.
Another consideration might be how many pieces the rod comprises. If
you carry your rod in a small car, you might like the convenience of a
short tube that holds a multi-piece rod.
For your first fly rod, consider one between 8-9 feet long. A rod
designated for a 4- or 5-weight line is a good starting place. There are
two ways to dive in. One is to buy a rod, reel and fly line separately.
The other is to buy a package that includes these items, plus a
protective tube for the rod and a leader to go with the line. You can
get a good quality, entry-level kit for about $180.
Whichever you buy, I suggest you do so at a full-service fly tackle
shop where knowledgeable people can help you. You can take a step up in a
fly rod by considering a rod alone that costs in the range of $250.
This might get you a better grade of graphite and nicer trim.
The tip of a fly rod is delicate. That’s why some rods now come with
lifetime guarantees. It doesn’t matter if the fish of your dreams breaks
the rod or you slam it in a cabin screen door, the manufacturer repairs
or replaces it at no cost to you.
A fly reel should serve a purpose beyond merely storing line. Use it
to play fish, once they are hooked. Many fly reels have drags to reduce
the stress on the line.
A basic die-cast aluminum reel with a simple drag system costs about
$40 and will suffice for most Missouri angling. By tightening or
increasing the drag, you control how much pressure a fish has to apply
to peel line off the reel. Double the price for a basic reel and you can
get a die-cast version with a more efficient disc-drag.
If you are of the Swiss watch persuasion, you may prefer a reel
machined from aluminum bar stock. These reels are mechanical marvels,
but there is something to be said for starting out with a reel that you
don’t have to worry about dropping on a gravel bar, or denting or
scratching in any other way. If someday you move up the fly reel ladder,
your initial reel can still serve as a reliable backup.
The line is what makes a fly rod work, and while fishing you will
usually be holding your rod with one hand and the line in your other.
You actually manipulate the line with your hand rather than with the
A leader, made of the same type of monofilament material used in spin
fishing lines, connects fly line to fly. Fly anglers generally use
tapered leaders 9-12 feet long. Tapered fly leaders generally cost $3 to
$4. Their packaging specifies the type of fly fishing for which they
are best suited.
Tackle makers use an effective system to size fly lines, making it
easy to match a given line to a given rod. The weight, in grains, of the
first 30 feet of a fly line designates its size. (A grain is the
smallest unit of measure in the U.S. One pound avoirdupois equals 7,000
grains.) Many anglers find a 5-weight fly line (and matched rod) ideal
for Missouri trout fishing. The first 30-feet of this line weighs 140
grains, plus or minus 6 grains.
Fly lines range in length from about 60-90 feet. Consider purchasing a
double-taper or weight-forward fly line. A double-taper fly line is fat
in the middle and tapered to a finer point at both ends. The belly of
the line provides the weight to cast, while the tapered end presents the
fly in a delicate manner, making it ideal for fishing a floating fly.
Double-taper lines also are economical. When one end becomes worn, you
can thread it the opposite way on the reel and have a fresh end to use.
A “weight-forward” fly line works well for medium- and long-range
casting. One contemporary weight-forward line has a tip of about 7 feet,
a belly of 27 feet, a rear taper of 6 feet and 50 feet of thin running
line. The weight that loads the rod and drives the line forward is up
front, while the running portion trails behind. A weight-forward line
really shoots for distance and does well in windy conditions or when
casting bulky flies.
Fly casting at moderate distances is not difficult. The good news is that you can catch fish while you are learning to do it.
The two best ways to grip a fly rod are with your thumb along the top
of the grip, or with your forefinger along the top. To learn the basic
cast, imagine you are standing next to a large clock. Straight ahead is 9
o’clock, and straight behind is 3 o’clock. The motion you will use in
just about all fly casting limits the movement of the rod between the
positions of 10 o’clock (in front) and 2 o’clock (behind).
Start with about 15 feet of fly line off of your reel in a pile at
your feet and about 6-8 feet of fly line beyond the tip of the rod. You
are going to work the line in the pile out by making a casting motion
back and forth, or false casting. Begin with the rod in front of you
with your wrist tilted down slightly. Lift with your arm, then snap your
wrist while briskly moving the rod back to 1 o’clock. At the same time,
pull downward with the hand holding the line. The pull accelerates the
speed of the airborne line.
An all-important pause takes place at this point in the cast. The
pause allows the fly line time to straighten out behind you. Then, bring
the rod “smartly” forward, snapping your wrist down a bit when the rod
hits 10 o’clock. Release the line in your hand; some of it will shoot
forward. Continue false casting until you have the amount of line that
you need airborne, and then release the line, shooting it forward for
the actual delivery to your target.
The most common errors in fly casting are failing to pause on the
back cast, and not applying power on the forward cast. If you do not
pause, your line is going to meet itself coming and going, and it may
actually snag on itself or snag your rod. If you fail to apply power on
the forward cast, the line may simply fall in a puddle at your feet
rather than delivering your fly to its target. A third problem is
waiting too long on the back cast, which can cause the line to make a
cracking sound, like a whip.
If you do not have a friend who can help you improve your fly
casting, your local parks and recreation department may offer a fly
fishing class. A Trout Unlimited or Federation of Fly Fishers club in
your area can show you how to cast and might introduce you to fly tying.
There is beauty in fly fishing. In an article appearing in the
magazine of a national fly fishing club, Michael Fong wrote, “What
separates fly fishing from other forms of fishing is the joy that comes
by feeling and watching as the fly is propelled through the air as the
cast is executed.”
There is something in the sight of an uncoiling fly line that I find incredibly soothing. I’ll bet you will, too.
- 9-foot fly fishing leader tapered to 6-pound test
- One spool each of 3- and 2-pound-test leader tippet to add to above
- One light-weight fly box
- Clipper to trim leader ends
- Hemostat to remove hooks from fish
- Small landing net
- Fishing vest (this is the fly fisher’s tackle box)
- A card or book that illustrates fly fishing knots
- A small selection of flies for the type of fish you pursue