Lepomis Macrochirus, The Common Bluegill
The common bluegill. Known scientifically as Lepomis Macrochirus. I am sure there have been many studies on this small fish. It ranges in waters through out the United States. It has value as an important part of the ecological system. Not on the top of the food chain, but also not on the bottom. Many of anglers and pond owners know that a good population of bluegills in a body of water can help gauge the health of that body of water. They help eat some of the small critters while providing food for the bigger ones. We are all pretty familiar with these fish. I am not going to go into a life cycle or a scientific review of this fish. Nor am I going to give instructions on how to pursue and catch a bluegill. Nope…I just want to write about bluegills and what kind of impact they have to us fishermen (or woman).
The bluegill and its relatives are one of the most identifiable fish in our country. Even the youngest and non fisher types know what a bluegill looks like. Sure it has many different names depending on where you live, but for this article’s sake it will be referred to as the bluegill. They are popular, but not to the extent of other fish. Many even consider them trash type fish. It is just natural when pursuing an animal as prey, that we are usually drawn to the biggest of its type. Large mouth bass are the top predator in many small ponds and streams. As such, they are highly sought after fish. Their size and aggression make them great sport. The bluegill however, never gets the notoriety the bass gets. I have never seen a B.A.S.S. (Bluegill Anglers Sportsmen’s Society) tournament on TV. Heck it is hard enough to find books or articles dealing with these fish. So why would one fish for and admire such a small fish? There are many reasons but I want to tell you from my own point of view.
The bluegill is probably the first fish someone catches on rod and reel. It usually starts with an older relative taking a youngster to a local stream or pond with rod in one hand and live worms in the other. They are great starter fish because they are plentiful and pretty easy to catch. This is also the first time many young fishermen touch their first live fish. You know when they look at it with awe and say “I want to let him go”. Then they carefully grab it with their fingers trying not to get them all slimy. The fish of course wiggles (as if on queue) and he is quickly dropped to the ground. This chain of events is the first stepping stone for a hobby that may become a life long passion or just an experience that is part of youth. If you are reading this, then you probably fall into the passion category.
So why as an adult do I look at the bluegill as a fish to pursue? I have many reasons, but I will explain the most important to me. The bluegill was one of my first fish. I remember as a small boy going to the creek by my house and fishing for them with bobber and worms. I was always impressed with their ability to tug on my line as they fought for freedom. Their various colors and appearance would captivate a small child like me. As I got older my fishing attention was drawn away to bigger and more sought after fish. I was able to catch some impressive bass and salt water fish that turned me into a true angler. Now after many years it seems like I am right back were it all started.
Some things in life elicit an old memory long forgotten. A visit to an old restaurant with a smell that throws you back to your childhood. A certain toy or book you discovered from your past that reminds you of a certain Christmas or other event. Bluegills do that for me. I find myself looking in awe at these little fish just as I did some thirty years ago. They offer me a comfortable feeling like a child in his mother’s arms. They make me feel like a kid all over again.
On a practical side they also fill a fishing need. No longer do I have the ability to go to lakes or bays and consume entire weekends fishing. I still fish very regularly without sacrificing time with my family. The bluegill is the perfect quarry to fill the fishing void I find myself in. Fly fishing is a whole new aspect of the sport for me. The bluegill is so plentiful I can go to any small body of water near me and practice casting while catching a few fish. The best part is that a fly rod is the perfect weapon for catching them. It is like I am starting out in the sport all over again. These little bluegills have sent me on a new learning experience that has once again changed my life forever. So the next time you are able to catch one of these little treasures, think about how many people are affected by this simple little fish. (Oh and by the way, they also make great table fare).