Native to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin. Introduced to Arizona in 1932. The bluegill has blue coloring on the chin, a solid black opercle flap, a small mouth and a dark spot at the rear of the dorsal fin. The body is very compressed or flat and has from five to nine dark vertical bars on the sides. Length: 4 to 10 inches. Weight: 3 ounces to over 2 pounds. Can live up to 10 years.
Location and Habitat
Bluegill are found in most reservoirs or ponds below 5,000 feet elevation and rarely occur in streams and rivers. They prefer shoreline areas less than 10 feet deep in the warmer months, often orienting to submerged structure such as trees and rock reefs. In the absence of predatory fish, they are prone to stunting and large populations of small bluegill occur.
These fish spawn in April and May. They are nesters and guarders preferring sandy or fine gravel areas in water less than six feet deep. Most often their nests are grouped. The male guards the nest and the fry for several days after hatching. Females may spawn more than once each season. Generally mature after the second year.
Aquatic and terrestrial insects and invertebrates are the favored food, but bluegill will take worms and even snails.
Bluegill will eat anything they can get into their small mouth. Worms and mealworms are an angler’s favorite bait, but bluegill will take small poppers, flies, small spinners and jigs. Bluegills are gregarious, so when you catch one, there are usually more in the same place.
The meat is white, flaky, firm and sweet. Many consider the bluegill to be one of the finest tasting freshwater fish available.