Fishing Basics

 Bluegill and Crappie

If you have never caught a fish and don't know where to start then this page is for you.  If you're really into it, the links at the bottom of the page are for the accomplished fisherman!                 Fishing Basics     Bluegill and Crappie
What kind of fish shall we fish for?  There are many species of fish, so it depends where you are fishing, either in salt or fresh water.  The basics are essentially the same no matter where you are.  The "science" of the sport gets deep but it doesn't have to.  The idea is that you get outside and spend some time away from noise, traffic and worries of everyday life.  Take a kid, friend or spouse and get to know each other.  That way you'll have fun whether the fish are biting or not.   On this page I choose to "talk" about bluegill but there are links on crappie at the bottom of the page.  The reason I like fishing for bluegill is because it's the easiest fish to catch.  In the process of fishing for them you will probably catch crappie, small mouth bass, or anything else.  Bluegill are easiest to catch during the warm part of the year.  Fish have to eat in cold weather, but they don't eat as much and they tend to go into deeper water where they are harder to find.  During warm weather you'll find them in fresh water between six inches and six feet.  Often they form large groups when they "bed".  If you see round sandy spots of something that looks like moon craters then you might have found bluegill on the bed.  Bedding is referring to the time when the fish raise there eggs in the sand.  The bigger fish will be in the center of the patches.  You can't lose when you find that.  
Let's think like a fish!  Have you ever noticed that when you are on the bank, the best place to fish is out in the middle?  Then when you are in a boat the best place to fish is at the edge.  When we set out to match wits with a fish we are not starting out on a good foot.  Let's look at it from the other side for a moment as if we are being humaned for by a fish and see what would work.  You are sitting on your sofa watching TV when something the size of a hickory stump slams into the roof of your house.  SLAM!  Now there is a big hole in the ceiling with a big rope hanging through with a big weight and hook on it.  On the hook is a big ugly plastic Big Mac.  What is the first thing that you do?  It might be your living room but you are not going back for a while.  Now let's say you are walking across a parking lot and you see a twenty dollar bill.  After you pick it up you see another and then another.  It will not be long before you are running around excited and help is starting to come from everywhere.  Soon the National Guard is called in to control the crowd.  Then with little notice one of us is hooked and quickly pulled away.  Then another and yet another.  Soon we will catch on and run away.  Now the fish has a stringer full of humans and is ready to go home.  I hope that they don't ever get that smart and I hope we get just a little bit smarter than we are.  The point is that if you will think like a fish then you stand a better chance of catching one.  If you can get your bait to the fish without the fish knowing it you will catch fish.                                                             Fishing Basics     Bluegill and Crappie
Studying fish.  I had a 30 gallon fish tank in the house one time with bluegill in it.  I learned a great deal about them just by watching them.  First I had five fish about 4" long each in there.  They were young and full of energy.  They were willing to take chances much like the young people in our society.  When an object (such as a rock) was dropped into the water the closest fish would swim up, suck it up into his mouth and blow it back out.  They would do this sometimes two times tasting it to see if it was good or bad.  Before the rock hit the bottom it would have gone through every fishes mouth the same way.  Eventually they would learn and do nothing when a rock was dropped.  After they were used to rocks I would drop little pieces of hamburger into the water.  It looked different so they would swim up, suck it in and blow it out but quickly suck it back in and keep it.  Then I dropped live crickets on top of the water.  A fish would swim up, suck it up and after one time spitting it back out it stayed in its mouth.  From there on, when they sucked in a cricket, it stayed in and that was it.  A half grown Bluegill could eat 12 full grown crickets.  They will keep eating until they burst.  I never went that far but they were willing.  Later I caught two full grown bluegill and replaced the little ones with them.  This was a different experience.  They were older, smarter and not at all willing to take chances.  They did not put any more effort in eating than they had to.  When they did they made it count.  Much like we are, the older we get the lazier we get.  The two large fish did all of the same test that the small ones did except that they learned quickly.  I could not afford to see how many crickets they could eat.  During that time I fished a lot and always had minnows left over after the trip.  Of course they went into the tank.   Once it became work for the big fish to eat he would back up in a corner and wait.  As a minnow would drift into danger it would fall victim to the big fish.  A large bluegill only has to get within about 1-1/2 inches, and with one quick flex of their gills the food was vacuumed in to the fishes mouth.  When that happens to a floating cricket, a bit of air was sucked down with the cricket making a cracking sound much like a 22 caliber rifle in the distance.  If you hear that sound around a pond then there are large Bluegill feeding.  The bigger the sound the bigger the fish.                                                                Fishing Basics     Blu
Finding fish.  If you were outside and someone was after you, would you go and stand in the middle of a field?  I wouldn't.  I would get behind a tree or bush or in a hole.  Fish are no different.  Their entire life they have to hide from the bigger fish.  The bigger fish have to hid to sneak up on the smaller fish.  The water changes temperature during different times of the year and they might go to different depths but they will be next to something for safety.

The five gallon bucket verses the 20ft bass boat with the 225 horse power motor, which on can you afford?  So do you have a bucket?  The bucket has been around longer than the bass boat and I'm sure that it will be around far longer.  You can carry everything in it and then sit on it when you get there.  Then you can bring home your fish in it.  It is a good place to start even if later you decide to spend the big money.   
What kind of pole do I need?  Start off with what you have.  If you don't have anything let me suggest the Zebco 33 and about a 5-1/2 foot pole.  The real sells for about $20, and the pole for about $10.  You can buy them as a combo for about $25.  The set will give you a lot of trouble free fishing and is capable of holding what ever you catch.  Cane poles are good but it is hard to carry a fifteen foot pole around, however they make telescopic ones that compact to less than 3 feet.  

Zebco   33 Spincasting Reel Loaded With 10 Pound Test Line

Cane pole benefits.  First of all there is no real to stop working.  No spool of line to make a birds nest with.  If you can place the bait into the perfect spot in between the limbs of a fallen tree straight down from the tip of your pole, you can lift the bait straight back up with out getting hung up on the limb.  The rod and real will have to drag across it and get hung up.  Many times I use a long pole with a real so that I have the best of both worlds.  I grab the line in front of me and pull it to the side which shortens the line as if I am reeling it in.   Then I can cast it back out with a little swing and letting go of the line.  This gives me a longer cast than the cane pole.  In this way the real is just there for line adjustment.                                                  Fishing Basics      Bluegill and Crappie
Rod and real benefits.   With the rod and real you can fish farther away and use lures that have to moved through the water like a minnow swimming.  I like to wind my fish up as they are fighting.

Setting up the hook and stuff.  There are many ways to do this.  First buy an assortment of lead split shots and carry a pair of needle nose pliers.  Don't use your teeth to crimp the shot.  The pliers will also be used to reach down into the fish's mouth to retrieve a hook.  You will have to experiment with the weight that works for the application.  Use #8 Aberdeen hook with a long shank so that you can get a better grasp on the hook when in the fish's mouth.  Short hooks get swallowed too deep.  Slick plastic lines are slippery so use a clinch knot to attach the hook.  Use crickets or red worms.  You can dig earth worms or place a few pieces of plywood on the ground to attract black crickets.  When you look under the plywood you'll have to be fast to catch them.  Take the time to make sure you don't grab a black widow spider!  I buy everything at the store.  Tie the hook on and add a split shot and try letting it lay on the bottom.  That way there is no bobber or line or anything the scare the fish.  Then there is the style of fishing where you use a float.  It could be called a float, bobber, cork, etc.  It will allow you to adjust the depth of your hook wherever you want.  Remember the smaller the better.  Wind is your enemy in this case.  If the float is too light, the wind will blow it back to you, too big and you will scare the fish off.     Click here to see more on the float setup.           

                                                  Fishing Basics      Bluegill and Crappie

Clinch KnotHalf Blood Knot to Clinch Knot
  1. Pass the line through the eye of the hook, or swivel.
  2. Double back. make five turns around the line.
  3. Pass the end of the line through the first loop, above the eye, and then through the large loop. Draw the knot into shape.
  4. Slide the coils down tight against the eye.

                                        Fishing Basics     Bluegill and Crappie

Crappie  The difference with crappie is that you will use minnows and you will not fish on the bottom.  They will be suspended in brush such as a fallen tree.  Also you will use a #2 wire hook with the minnow hooked so that it can stay alive and swim around for as long as possible.  A float sets the depth.

Where can I find information so I can get started?     Try the links at the bottom of the page and see what you can learn.  If you're allergic to the outdoors then try my section on "How to play the five string banjo".  If that doesn't appeal to you then try "Learning to draw with CAD."  There is always something to do here, just look around.

 Warren Yates 



Bluegill Recipes



Illustration by Virgil Beck.

Common name: Bluegill

Lepomis macrochirus

Black Crappie
Pomoxis nigromaculatus
Freshwater Fish Identification

Largemouth Bass
Micropterus salmoides
White Bass
Morone chrysops

Striped bass

Morone saxatilis



Cyprinus carpio

Copyright 2001  

Fishing Basics     Bluegill and Crappie