Bluegill: A Fish For the Family – Hunt & Fish

Bluegill: A Fish For the Family

Posted on: June 29, 2018 By: FHMD

I can remember my first fish as if I had caught it yesterday. It was a small but spirited bluegill from the waters of the Gunpowder River on a simple cane pole. Indeed, a defining moment in the life of a young angler. I haven’t been the same since! Now, sixty years later, that special joy and excitement still fills my spirit every time I see a bobber dip below the water’s surface.

To be honest, most of today’s anglers have had a very similar experience to launch their angling careers. And why not? Bluegills, and close kin, are the perfect fish for not just children but for families alike. They are abundant, willing biters that keep young and old busy for hours with baiting hooks, playing fish, and at times leading to a delicious fish fry at day’s end.


Maryland anglers don’t have to look very far to find good bluegill fishing. Waters such as sprawling Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County to Piney Run Reservoir in Carroll County to the multitude of mill ponds and tidal creeks on the Eastern Shore have bluegills, pumpkinseed sunfish, various hybrid sunfish, and introduced red ear sunfish in varying mixtures that can assure some fast-paced summertime action. Most of these fish will be spawning throughout the months of June and July, with peak activity often coinciding with full moon periods. They will make saucer-shaped beds in shallow 2- to 4-feet depths that have sandy or gravel bottoms. The aggressive males will be “on bed” much longer than the egg-dropping females who will quickly lay their eggs then leave the nesting site.

After the rituals of the spawn most mature bluegills, those eight inches and larger, will move out of the shallows and head to deeper waters, but there will always be a percentage of fish that remain shallow and are easy to catch for both experienced and rookie anglers alike. Early morning and late evening will see a movement of larger, adult fish back to the shallows to feed and these can be some of the best times to catch quality sunfish.

The beauty of summertime bluegills on many waters is that tackle options remain simple, with classic bobber-and -worm tactics catching many with some large fish in the mix. The Maryland state-record bluegill – an astounding 3-pound 7-ounce giant from Deep Creek Lake – was caught back in August of 1997 by then 10-year old Sarah Brennahan on just such a rig. Classic baits remain as common garden worms, or store-bought nightcrawlers catch the lions’ share of fish in most waters.

Our family has been enjoying bluegill fishing for several decades as children, then grandchildren enter the realm of family fishing fun. Small public and park lakes that dot the central Maryland countryside have pumpkinseeds, bluegills, and various hybrid species to keep everybody happy. We often pack a few snacks, sodas, sunscreen and insect repellent, and make a day of it. Keep in mind that young children may not immediately share your interest in fishing, but might just be crazy over that small crayfish that is scurrying in the shallows or a butterfly they can’t quite catch. But giving them the opportunity to enjoy a day of fishing with cooperative bluegills is a gift that may last a lifetime.


Bluegill Waters

Rocky Gap Lake: 243 acres, near Flintstone, MD in Allegany County. Features bluegills, crappies and red ear sunfish. Camping available in Rocky Gap State Park.

Piney Run Reservoir: 300 acres, near Eldersburg, MD in Carroll County. Day-use park with a daily entry fee, good bluegill and crappie fishing. Boat and kayak rentals available.

Cunningham Falls Lake: near Thurmont, MD in Frederick County. Features a 46-acre lake with bluegills, crappies and red ear sunfish. Boat rentals and overnight camping available in  Cunningham Falls State Park.

Deep Creek Lake: One of Maryland’s summertime vacation spots has bluegills and yellow perch for early morning, late evening fishing to avoid the boating traffic. Many overnight accommodations and rentals available in Deep Creek Lake State Park. Located in Garrett County.

Eastern Shore Mill Ponds: Tuckahoe Lake in Queen Anne’s County and Caroline County, Smithville Lake in Caroline County, and the city of Salisbury in Wicomico County (multiple ponds) have quality pan fisheries.

Be sure to check the 2018 Maryland Guide to Fishing and Crabbing for a list of additional public waters on the Eastern and Western Shores, and visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fishing Service webpage for information on or to get fishing licenses for the whole family.


This post was written by Jim Gronaw

Images courtesy of the author