Generally, bluegill are pretty easy fish to catch. So when they stop biting, it’s important to make some changes to your approach. There are a few reasons why you may not be getting bit. Let’s go through some of these reasons and see if we can get you back on the bite.
Here’s my top tip for when bluegill aren’t biting:
If the bluegill aren’t biting, start by switching to a different bait. Bread will catch bluegill year round as long as you present it within sight. Bluegill will become cautious about a bait or lure after being caught too many times, so it is important to switch baits.
6 Steps To Take If Bluegill Aren’t Biting
It’s weird. Sometimes you go out and catch a whole mess of bluegill. Then you come back the next time and you can’t get a bite.
This can happen with all kinds of fish, and the steps I’m going to share with you can be applied to all fish.
I’m going to assume that if you are reading this, you already know where the bluegill are, and you’re just having a hard time getting them to bite.
1. Find Out If They Moved
One of the likely reasons you aren’t getting bit is because the bluegill may have moved to another part of the pond or lake.
Generally, bluegill don’t cruse around. They like to school up and hangout in one area. But these schools will move around a little depending on the weather, the seasons, and the time of day.
So while you may have been catching them in the open shallows in the spring while they were spawning, they have now moved into shady areas to escape the summer heat.
During the winter months, bluegill will move into deeper water and stay closer to the bottom. The water in these areas will be slightly warmer than near the surface. You can still catch them, especially if you are ice fishing, but the fish won’t be as aggressive.
As the waters warm up in the spring, bluegill will start moving into shallower waters. These shallow waters will warm up faster with the sun and warm spring rains. Once water temperatures get warm enough, the fish will start spawning in the flat, shallow areas. This is a great time to target them. They will be aggressively protecting their nests.
As we move into the heat of summer, bluegill will stay fairly shallow, but they will move into more shady areas. If you are fishing in the hot afternoon, try targeting around downed trees, docks and other shady cover.
When fall comes around, bluegill will start moving deeper as air temperatures cool. And the cycle starts all over.
I wrote more about seasons and where to find bluegill in this other article.
2. Switch Baits/Lures
So maybe the bluegill didn’t move. Sometimes you come back the next day and they just aren’t biting. Or sometimes they are biting one hour and the next they just stop. Either way, you know the bluegill are still there, but they just won’t bite.
When this happens, the first thing I do is change my bait or lure. In fact, a lot of times, all I have to do is change the color.
This works really well with jigs. I like the Trout Magnet jigs. I usually have two or three different color bodies and when the bite dies down, I’ll just switch from white to red and start catching them again.
3. Try Bait
If the lure or jig bite dies down, then try bait fishing. Lures can be a lot of fun, but it’s usually the most aggressive fish that hit lures. This means that once you catch all the aggressive fish, you still have a bunch of less aggressive fish waiting to be caught. You can get these with bait.
Worms are the most popular bluegill bait. They work great, but they aren’t my favorite, especially when fishing highly pressured areas. If too many people are fishing worms, then the bluegill seem to wise up and won’t bite.
My two favorite baits are bread and mashed potatoes. I already wrote an entire article on this called The Best Bluegill Bait. Check it out if you are interested.
Less popular baits like bread and mashed potatoes can be irresistible to even the most cautious of bluegill.
4. Use a Lighter Line
This goes right along with bluegill being over pressured. After all their buddies are getting caught left and right, they’ll want to start taking a closer look before putting something in their mouths.
If you are using a big thick line, the bluegill will stay clear.
I always use either 2 or 4 pound test line for panfish and trout. I usually recommend 4 pound because it is easier to use. You can also consider fluorocarbon over mono. Fluoro is much harder for fish to see than mono.
5. Use Smaller Hooks
Hooks follow the same rule as line. If the bluegill are under too much pressure, they’ll be inspecting that bait for anything funny.
Try to use a hook that is the appropriate size to be hidden within the ball of bait. I’ll typically use sizes 12 or 14 but you could go all the way down to a size 24 if you really want to.
The problem with small hooks and bluegill is that they have such small mouths. If the little hook gets swallowed, it is very difficult to remove.
I tested out a few different shapes and sizes of hooks and found that if you go to the fly fishing section, you can get size 14 hooks with 3X long shanks. I almost never have a bluegill swallow the entire hook so removal is super quick and easy.
Aberdeen hooks are long shanked hooks designed for panfish. However, they usually come in sizes 8 or 10 which are a little big for your average bluegill. That’s why I went to fly fishing hooks. I can downsize, yet still keep the long shank.
6. Try a Lighter Float
Lighter floats will help you out in a few different ways. When you have already caught all the aggressive bluegill, or for whatever reason the fish just aren’t biting like they were, try changing to bait under a very sensitive float.
I mentioned above how pressured fish will take some time to inspect the bait before they really commit. Sometimes this inspection process will include some real gentle taste tests. The bluegill will suck in the bait then spit it right back out.
A light float is more sensitive, so you will be able to pick up on these micro bites and capitalize. You just have to be quick with the hookset.
Smaller floats will also be more difficult for the bluegill to detect. If a bluegill bites your bait and feels the tug of a big bobber, he may just spit it back out. And if your bobber was too big to indicate to you that it’s getting bit, then you may never know.
There are a lot of sensitive bobber designs out there. The most available in the US is probably the Thill Mini-Shy Bite floats. But any small, long, thin float should help.
One more plus to using small floats is that they will make less of a splash when they hit the water. And that will of course spook fewer fish.
I go more in-depth on hooks and floats on my panfish gear page.
The first thing to do when the bluegill stop biting is to consider if they moved. If it’s a hot summer day, maybe they moved into some shade. If the season has changed maybe they have moved deeper or shallower.
If you don’t think the fish have moved, then they may just be under too much fishing pressure. Switch your tactics. Change colors, change baits. Try downsizing your leader, hook and float. And look for more subtle bites.
I hope this will help you out next time you get stumped by some bluegill. Have fun out there!