Ask anyone who hunts and fishes and they will tell you someone opened the door for them to become a sportsman or sportswoman.
They may not mention that person or group of people as their mentor, or teacher, but that is how it’s most likely to have happened. Someone had to teach us how to track, hunt, tie a line to a hook and filet a bluegill.
Someone had to unlock the mysteries of the outdoor pursuits for them to begin their journey in the outdoors.
For me, my start began down the path by listening to the best storyteller I have ever known — my grandfather. Every summer of my youth, my brother and I spent a week at our grandparents’ home.
As a retired couple, having two adolescent boys full of energy raring to go and ready to run must have been a chore for them.
But, looking back, my grandfather always had a plan for surviving the week — to get us boys outside of the house as much as possible.
His go-to when his rowdy grandkids needed fresh air and space to stretch their legs was pond fishing for bluegill.
“Bluegill are abundant in small lakes around West Virginia and summer is a great time for anglers and their families to get out and catch one of these popular game fish,” said David Wellman, a fisheries biologist for the WVDNR.
Bluegill spawn in late spring and early summer and can be found in shallow waters when temperatures exceed 70 degrees.
Wellman said spawning bluegill are easy to spot, which makes them ideal targets for families, kids and new anglers.
“We look at bluegill as a gateway fish species because they are abundant, they like to bite and are easy to catch,” he said.
The good thing about bluegill fishing, Wellman says, is that it’s easy to pick up.
“You don’t need elaborate equipment to go out and catch a bluegill,” he said. “In fact, a cane pole with a bobber and a small hook with a worm will do.”
When baiting a hook, Wellman said anglers targeting bluegill should only use a piece of a nightcrawler or use smaller bait, such as mealworms and waxworms.
Bluegill also eat minnows, crayfish and other insects.
When fishing for bluegill or other sunfish, anglers should use a small hook, such as a size 6.
A pair of needle-nosed pliers or a pair of hemostats are also recommended for retrieving hooks from a bluegill’s small mouth.
“Bluegill are not picky eaters, so you have several options for bait,” he said.
As for fishing techniques, Wellman said anglers should use one with which they are comfortable. Popular techniques include bobber fishing and bottom fishing.
Bluegill fishing regulations
In 2021, the WVDNR instituted a statewide 30-fish daily creel and 60-fish possession limit for sunfish in aggregate, along with several other game fish. For more information, anglers should consult the 2021 West Virginia Fishing Regulations. All anglers 15 and older are required to purchase a West Virginia fishing license, which is available online at WVfish.com and at license retailers around the state.
If you get a chance, take a kid fishing this summer. Who knows, the simple little afternoon of catching bluegills in a farm pond might just strike a lifelong love of all things outdoors. It certainly worked for me.