By BRANDON BUTLER
Arguing with a hardcore bass angler about why bluegills are the most fun fish to catch is a losing battle. With their $50,000 boats outfitted with multiple computer like graphs and rods that cost hundreds of dollars, serious bass anglers take fishing to a whole new level. For me, and countless others, filling a bucket with bluegills caught on a worm under a bobber is what fishing is really all about.
Growing up in a subdivision with multiple lakes, my friends and I spent a lot of time fishing in the summer. As soon as we were old enough, which was around 10, we were able to take out a jon boat with a trolling motor whenever we wanted. We fished for whatever would bite, but nothing was more exciting than finding a bunch of bluegills on beds.
There’s a cove on Bass Lake, where we fished most often, that the bluegills spawned in every year. By mid-May they’d be all the way in the back, up in the shallows, fanning out their dinner plate sized beds. When they were up there, you could catch them on just about anything. Bluegills are real aggressive about protecting their beds. You can throw spinners or jigs. Fly fishermen do real well. We just went with the simple set up of a bobber, sinker, hook and worm. Some days, we’d catch more than we’d want to filet, so we’d start releasing them once we had enough for the freezer.
Life has a way of becoming too complicated. I don’t know if it’s all ego or the very aggressive world of constant advertising we live in, but somehow we are compelled to push for the newest, the biggest, the best, and the most expensive. In my 30 years as a sportsman, I have certainly fell victim to the game, and I have watched it worsen, drastically, over time. Especially now that social media exists. For too many people, the only reason they seemingly fish or hunt is to brag about what they caught or killed online. It’s about the empty gratification of “likes” from strangers more so than the experience itself.
Give me a bucket and some bedded bluegills. They can chase the “Insta” fame. I want to feel the tug of a hard fighting 10 ounce bull bluegill 50 times in a day. That’s motivation. Because I guarantee, no matter how accomplished you are as an angler, each time you see that bobber plop down under the surface and you set the hook to be answered by a circling bluegill, you’ll smile. You might even laugh out loud. It never gets old.
No one has ever accused me of being a picky eater. Generally, if you set it down in front of me, I’ll put it away. But of course, there are culinary favorites of every palate, and most of mine are served at a fish fry. I love eating bluegills. My southern roots come out when it comes to food. Bluegill filets, onion rings, black-eyed peas, fried okra, hushpuppies, cornbread and sweet tea. Yes, please.
All across the Midwest, bluegills are preparing to spawn. You‘ll find them in the shallows of the region’s largest reservoirs and smallest farm ponds. They are simple to catch and great to eat. Don’t take more than you need, but don’t be afraid to keep a couple of limits. If not abused, these hearty fish will return to the shallows every spring.
See you down the trail…