Throughout the years whenever I have had the opportunity to introduce youngsters and other first timers to fishing, I always target places that I am very confident that members of the Sunfish family reside. Growing up as kids, we just called all these small aggressive, bait stealing colorful fish, “sunnies”.
Later we came to realize that these “sunnies” were part of a much larger Sunfish family. These cousins within the Sunfish family had names such as bluegill, pumpkinseed, and redbreast. When I visited my relatives in the south, they were referred to as bream or brim. The Sunfish family includes over 25 relatives. I later learned that Bass (largemouth, smallmouth and rock) are part of the extended Sunfish family. You can rest assured that you will never hear members on the professional bass circuit refer to Bass as Sunfish.
If I am to be honest, the bluegill, pumpkinseed, redbreast and bream are probably the most important fish in “retaining” new anglers. I have leveraged these fish to introduce and teach those from 2 years old to 40 years old and older, the joys of fishing. The good thing about bluegills and their close cousins, is that they are frequently found in schools and are relatively easy to catch from the shore. I would guess that for every 9 out of 10 new anglers, their first fish was in the Sunfish family. And I am not including bass in those numbers.
Bluegills and their immediate cousins, are very aggressive in attacking bait. Even though the normal catch is a few inches long and less than a pound; be careful in handling these fish as they have sharp spines and fins (back and bottom) and can leave a painful reminder. They can weigh up to 3+ pounds.
Where to Find Them
Bluegills and their immediate cousins live in ponds, streams, rivers, and lakes. They like to hang out near water vegetation, tree stumps, rocks, under docks, bridges and other natural or man-made structures. In the spring spawn and summer seasons, they like warm, shadow waters. They fiercely protect their nests. If you approach the water quietly, you may see them warming in the sunlight. Depending on conditions they will move between shallow and deep waters. The good thing is that if you locate one, chances are there will be others.
There are many choices for both the type of equipment and the bait that can be used for fishing for smaller Sunfish..
- Bamboo, Spincaster, Spinning, Fly and Tenkara combo’s can be used for Bluegills and their immediate cousins.
- Poles and fishing line in 2-4 pound range are more than adequate for these fish.
- Common lures used include small soft plastic worms, poppers, flies, jigs, small spinnerbaits.
- Natural baits such as any small insect, trout worms, night crawlers, meal worms, crickets, grasshoppers and small fish, bread.
- Using a small – mid size boober with live bait a few inches from the bobber is normally very effective and the best for new anglers to see when the fish bites.
Always become familiar with the local rules and regulations that are in effect in the places you fish.
Remember to get out to get in……..