Bluegill can be found all over the US, but some regions have fewer than others. Generally speaking, bluegill are warm water fish and will be found in the same waters as bass, catfish, and carp. However, they can also be found in cold climates. If you live in the Northwest US you might have to do a little more research to find good bluegill spots.
Ponds and Lakes
Bluegill tend to thrive in ponds and lakes. They like to school up near the surface and take in the sun rays. This is why they are considered sunfish.
Look for bluegill and other sunfish along the banks. They have a lot of predators trying to get them, so they like to stay near cover. Sunken trees and bushes provide a safe hiding place, so bluegill usually won’t stray too far from those areas.
They also feel safe under overhanging branches, this gives them protection from birds.
Then the weather cools, the bluegill will usually go deep and can be difficult to catch.
Rivers and Streams
Rivers and small streams can also be home to bluegill. They’ll usually be found schooled up in calm, sheltered water.
Look for parts of the river where the water is hardly moving at all. This will be near the bank and where the river takes a sharp turn.
Time of Year
Bluegill can be caught pretty much year round. However, most of the action will be in the spring and summer months.
Bluegill like warm water, and basking out in the sun. Many anglers target them during their spawn. This happens in the spring when the water temperature warms up to around 70 degrees.
Spawning areas can be found in shallow water that is somewhat protected from the main body of water and has a sand or gravel bottom. You’ll be able to see dozens of little craters that the bluegill dig out as nests.
When you are fishing a nesting area, start on the outside parameters. If you start out casting right in the middle of everything, then when you hook your first fish, all the other bluegill will get spooked and swim away or stop biting.
It’s also good to not put too much pressure on a single nesting area. If you disrupt the spawn, then there may be fewer bluegill to catch next year.
Bluegill will be found basking in the sun near cover. They are very active during this time, and feed aggressively.
The spring and summer months are when most bluegill will be caught.
Fish around docks, along sunken trees, and any other types of structure. During the hottest days look for shady spots. Shade can be cast from objects on the bank like trees and bushes, but remember that things under water will also cast shadows. Even a steep drop off, or big underwater boulder will cast a good shadow.
You can also fish for bluegill with more aggressive lures during the summer. Try small Rooster Tails and mini crankbaits.
As the temperatures cool, bluegill will become less and less active. They will likely be found in the deep areas near the bottom. If there is an area of the lake, pond, or river that is warmer than the rest, then this is a good place to start.
Since bluegill become less active with the cold, it’s important to present your bait right in front of them, and make it look like an easy meal.
Having a boat will help you get into some winter bluegill. Not only will it allow you to get out to the deeper holes and possibly use a fish finder, but it allows you to jig your bait directly below the boat.
Jigging the bait is important when targeting cold bluegill because you can keep the bait in the strike zone for as long as you want. This gives hesitant bluegill plenty of time to investigate and finally bite.
Think ice fishing. In northern states and Canada where the lakes freeze, anglers will drill a small hole in the ice and spend a good amount of time jigging directly below that little 8 inch hole. Of course if the lake isn’t frozen and you have the mobility of a boat I suggest moving around until you find the fish.
The ice fishing example just goes to show that you need to slow down your presentation when the weather gets cold.
Time of Day
The time of day can definitely have an effect on where the bluegill go. I’ve noticed that they generally like to warm up in the sun during the mornings and evenings. I have also noticed that they school up in the shade on really hot days mid afternoon.
At night, the bluegills main predator is the catfish. I have seen this effect bluegill behavior in two ways. There have been ponds where I’m catching bluegill right near the bank then as the sun goes down, like the flick of a light switch, they are gone and I start catching catfish.
On the other hand, I have fished ponds where the bluegill aren’t anywhere near the bank, then when the sun goes down they start to show up in great numbers.
So I can’t tell you how the bluegill will react in your area. I think the main takeaway is that, at night, bluegill will go wherever they feel safe from catfish. You’ll just have to learn through experience. But to me, the learning and experimenting is half the fun!