ON THE MOVE FOR WINTER ‘GILLS!
Last February two fishing partners and I headed to a small local lake rumored to be the home to big bluegills. Without the aid of a lake map, we made an educated guess as to where the lake’s deep water basin was and started to “grid search” the area.
Winter bluegills will roam a lake’s deep basin(s) searching for insect life which is prime winter forage. This day, we spent a couple hours drilling holes, fishing, and monitoring our sonar screens for fish. After searching for a couple hours, we hit “pay dirt” finding numbers of bluegills and, yes, several were big bulls around 10-inches long! This day led to several more subsequent good fishing outings.
There were two keys to our successful search. First, we were on a lake that has big fish. That may sound obvious, but finding big bluegills, at least in my part of Minnesota, has become more and more challenging. For that reason, we often find ourselves on smaller, lesser-known bodies of water chasing rumors that sometimes result in good catches, but sometimes don’t.
Nevertheless, this strategy has paid dividends often enough that my partners and I always have an open ear to “that lake down the road” where someone catches big ‘gills off their dock from during spring!
Staying on the move searching various lakes is one key to finding big bluegills, the second key is staying on the move when searching a particular lake. As alluded to previously, we try to identify the deep water basins and then set out working together to systematically search that area. We drill lots of holes and quickly work hole to hole looking for fish.
We only fish a few minutes in a hole as these fish will often reveal themselves quickly when present. Working as a team, drilling and cleaning holes and then hole-hopping, we can cover and eliminate unproductive water quickly.
Two pieces of equipment are vital to our winter bluegill search. The first is using tungsten jigs. Tungsten in denser than lead, so these are small jigs, yet they fish heavy. Heavy is important as these tiny-profiled offerings (often the size preferred by big bluegills) can still quickly plummet to the depths aiding in our quick search method of getting a bait quickly to the depths, fishing for a few minutes, and then moving to the next hole if no fish are present.
Additionally, tungsten jigs don’t hang up as easily as lighter jigs in the slush at the top of a hole, so we don’t have to be as diligent in cleaning a hole which again is important when we are moving hole to hole quickly looking for fish.
The second very important equipment key is the use of a good portable fishing shelter that allows us to quickly move through an area hauling our gear, but also doubles as shelter from the elements. We use one-man shelters so we can split up in searching an area and, since winter temperatures can be downright brutal, it needs to be warm! I’ve been using the new Otter XT Hideout and can say this is a true “run and gun” fishing machine. It has a small footprint, but large fishing area and, features the new ThermalTec layering system which has proven to be very warm even on windy, frigid winter days!
The cold of winter can be a bit of a downer, but this can still be a good time to catch big bluegills, especially for anglers willing to stay on the move searching for fish. Using some of the tips just offered can, in fact, help you get in on a good ‘gill bite this winter.
As always, good luck on the ice and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!
PHOTO – The new Tungsten Larva Fly is dynamite for finding and catching “on the move” bluegills!