When do Bluegill Spawn?

when do bluegill spawn

I was recently asked by a friend, when do bluegill spawn? So I decided to write this post.

Bluegill generally starts the spawn in April and continues through August. The most vital factor required to start the bluegill spawning activity is the water temperature. Once the water exceeds 71.6 F, the bluegill will begin to move into their spawning beds. The 71.6 is a mostly universal temperature, though it can fluctuate slightly by region.

Certain northern climates may delay the spawn into June due to inclement weather and cooler temperatures. Determining the exact time isn’t that difficult because you can see it happen. If your local bluegill pond or lake is clear, you can see them moving onto the spawning beds. They will clear out spots in gravel or vegetation. Watch for open spaces, and you’re sure to see bluegill swimming around there.

I’ve been guiding anglers in different waters for years, and in that time, have come across bluegill in all types of conditions. There have been times I’ve had my clients catch a bucket of bluegill to use as bait for much bigger fish. Other times I’ve tossed a net for bringing in minnows along the weed line in the bay, preparing to take clients out for a day of deep-sea fishing.

The amount of time I’ve spent with a rod in the water is about the equivalent of what most people spend in an office. It’s been my day job, and I love it. I also owe all of that to catching bluegill in a pond as a young boy. I used to head down to the pond with a couple of friends, and we would sit there all-day catching bluegill during the spawn. Not only that, but I’ll tell you one thing that still holds true. They are one of the feistiest fish you’ll ever catch. You just need to do it on as light tackle as you can.

In this post, I’m going to break down the pre-spawn and spawn behavior of the bluegill. I’ll throw in some tips for finding and catching them as well. Stick with me while I take you through:

  • Pre-spawn and spawn
  • Locations
  • Who spawns first, bass or bluegill?
  • Bluegill baits
  • Best tackle

When Do Bluegill Spawn?

Each spring, once the water has hit the optimal temperature for the area, bluegill will move into their spawning beds and start their annual spawn. The time varies by region, though it typically starts in April or May. It begins in mid-to-late April in the southeastern US, once the water hits 71 or 72 degrees. It might take until mid-May in the northeast for temperatures to get warm enough.

Bluegill has been introduced in western lakes and ponds, which vary wildly in temperatures, so the times can range again from April through June, depending on temperatures and weather. Canada has some areas with bluegill populations as well and can see the spawn starting in late May or early to mid-June.

As the bluegill prepares for the spawn, the males will move into shallower water and start to create their beds, where anglers should have no issues spotting them throughout the following months. Males tend to build large congregations of beds and will guard them fiercely.

The spawn will last through August, during which time bluegill will spawn every 20 – 30 days. As the summer heat warms the water further, the bluegill will grow larger, and more will become mature. More mature bluegill equals more spawning beds. That means you’ll have more fish to target.

Where to Find Bluegill

Bluegill likes slow-moving and protected water with the structure to hide in or nearby.  Focus your attention on docks, submerged timber and brush, and any overhangs and points.

Aquatic vegetation is a good target, but be sure it’s not too thick. There needs to be enough room for the bluegill to get through easily. Don’t shy away from a windy day. The choppy surface provides an added sense of security for bluegill. If bluegill feels safe, they are in attack mode.

Once you locate them in the lake or pond, you’ll find that they are aggressive eaters.  Target them near drop-offs and in spots with a gravel bottom. Once you’re onto them, check the next section and learn how to catch bluegill.  

Who spawns first? Bass or Bluegill?

When you get to the lake, you want to know who spawns first because you want to know what lures to toss out there. Bass will start their spawn at the beginning of April through May. Bluegill will start theirs around late April, which the bass take full advantage of. Bass like to eat bluegill, so when their spawn wraps up, they snatch up any bluegill unlucky enough to be nearby.

While that may be unfortunate for the bluegill, it provides an excellent opportunity for bass anglers. Toss a bluegill imitation lure, and you’re sure to connect with bigger bass.

What Baits Catch Bluegill?

Bluegill first begins to feed when the water temps rise above 50°. They spend the winter months hanging about in a primarily sedentary state. The warming water invigorates them, and they start to attack their food aggressively.

That means they’re easy to catch with a small piece of nightcrawler, wax worm, cricket, or mealworm. Depending on the lake, you can use small crawfish, insects, and other little critters you find at the lake itself. Bluegill are aggressive, so the bait isn’t as crucial as locating them

What Tackle Works for Bluegill?

Lures are always an excellent option for bluegill. The old standbys are the Rooster tail in 1/16 oz and the size 0 Mepps Spinner. Anything topwater is exceptional as long as it’s small. Try throwing some small jerk baits, like little minnow imitations by Rapala.

Fly-fishing is always a great option for bluegill. Bluegill makes a fun fish, learn how to fly fish. Smaller poppers, wooly buggers, and San Juan worms should do the trick. Tie them to a light monofilament line. Use a 2lb test line for the best action.

Practice makes perfect, as they say. That rings especially true with bluegill. Keep at it until you catch them with regularity. They are fun and worth the time commitment.

Conclusion

Bluegill can be a lot of fun to catch. There are big ones out there. These feisty fish can live up to ten years and have known to grow to over four pounds. Imagine bringing a 4+ pound bluegill to your net with a fly rod or an ultralight fishing rod.

Beginning anglers can learn so many skills from bluegill fishing. It’s a great start for kids as well.

I’ve gone over the question of when do bluegill spawn in detail and have covered how to catch them. There’s only one thing left, and that’s for you to get out there and try it for yourself.

For more fishing guides similar to this, check out our fishing tips & guides page.

To find the best rod and reel for the next time you go after bluegill, check out the page below:

Eric Larson

Eric Larson

Hi, my name is Eric. I am a contributor for A Fellow Fisherman and a former charter captain who has been saltwater fishing since before I can remember. I grew up in New Jersey, fishing mostly the Delaware Bay and River, as well as many offshore charter trips. I have had an enormous passion for fishing my whole life, and am lucky to have done it as a profession. I am confident when it comes to telling people about the best techniques for catching fish, but am still open to a good debate.

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