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Spring fish-finding 

UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF WARMING DAYS and dogwood blossoms, we often find ourselves going bluegill fishing a little too early in the season. The weather is nice and the woods are alive, but our presentations will go untouched in the shallow spawning areas if the water is still too cold. We know this, but we try it anyway, often due to cabin fever and the need to get outdoors. That’s OK. Any time spent outdoors, especially during beautiful weather, is worth every minute, even if you don’t get a bite. But what if you could catch a few bluegills, even before the ideal conditions have arrived? May can be a great time for anglers—you just have to know where to look. 

Like most other fish in the spring, bluegills are thinking about spawning. Each species has its preferred water temperature to spawn, following a natural order of things. Bluegills prefer water temperatures between 68 and 75 degrees. Of course, there can be other contributing factors that can initiate a spawn earlier or later, but for bluegill anglers, May is a great time to be on the water. 

To extend your bluegill season and catch a few even before the spawn is underway, try locating staging bluegills. Bluegills, like all species, stage in deeper water while waiting for the perfect time to move up and lay their eggs in shallow water. They congregate at the first or second drop leaving the spawning area. A drop is where a flat, a large area of the same depth, drops into deeper water. This drop can be a 2-foot drop or sometimes a 10-to-12-foot drop, depending on the location of the spawning grounds. 

If you are fishing the shallow water and not getting any bites, you might be a little early to the dance. Moving back to the first drop on the flat can result in catching a few pre-spawn bluegills. The steady spawning progression is happening earlier than you might think. A warm rain in April might push the bluegills up closer to where they are going to spawn. They will stay there unless there’s a quick drop in temperature, which could move them out even deeper to wait for warmer days and warmer water. 

Using a drop shot rig is a great way to catch pre-spawn bluegills in May. A drop shot uses a leader below the hook with a sinker at the bottom of the line. This keeps the bait off the bottom. A red worm or a wax worm on a small hook works great, but a small jig can also be productive on pre-spawn bluegills. If warm days and dogwood blossoms call you out a little early this year, try locating staging bluegills and extend your bluegill season.

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