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It is time for some fishing for bass, bluegill

July 4, 2012

CASH'S CATCH — Outdoor Columnist George Midgley's stepson, Cash Balentine, poses with this fish he caught on a fishing trip with George on Saturday. Photo by George Midgley

My boat is about to get some time on the water. My midget baseball team ended its season on Tuesday night, losing a heartbreaker to the Poteau Pirates 4-3 in the Ok Kids Regional Tournament at the Poteau Area Recreational Complex. Ben Klutts threw one heck of a game against us, and I want to wish him and the rest of the Pirates good luck.
Gary Gibson’s prep team at Wister is the host team for a regional tournament, which begins today and ends on Friday. Stilwell and Cameron are the other two teams in the tournament, and two teams will head to Chandler next week for OK Kids Prep State.
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Cash, Koby, and I are headed to Potts Landing this week to do a little fishing back in the Poteau River. I have not had a chance to fish the river this year, so I am excited about this fishing trip. The boys and I have not got to fish together yet this year, and I hope this is the first of many trips this summer.
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This week, let’s learn a little about one of the fish that roams the Oklahoma waters. Lepomis macrochirus, also known as the bluegill sunfish, is found throughout the state in all types of water. Bluegill sunfish are members of the sunfish family and are known by several names. You might be more familiar with some of them, such as: bream, blue bream, sun perch, blue sunfish, copperhead, copperbelly and roach.
Bluegills have small mouths and oval-shaped bodies. They get their name, and many nicknames, from an iridescent blue color on the lower portion of both the jaw and gill. A good way to identify a bluegill from other sunfish is to look for a prominent black spot on the rear edge of the gill-cover and a black spot at the base of the posterior portion of the dorsal fin. Body coloration is highly variable with size, sex, spawning, water color, bottom type and amount of cover.
Darker water tends to yield darker bluegills with olive to black backs that get lighter toward a yellowish belly. Clearer water will produce bluegills with blue-green backs with white bellies. Males typically have brighter colors than females, especially during breeding, when they may have orange to rusty-red breasts. Bluegills have five to nine dark, vertical bands running down their sides. The bands get lighter as they go down the side, disappearing near the belly.
Bluegills prefer quiet, warm waters with abundant vegetation, where they can hide and feed. They inhabit lakes and ponds, slow-flowing rivers and streams with sand, mud or gravel bottoms. Young bluegill will frequent areas that are shallow and weedy near the shore, while adults prefer deeper water during the day and shallower waters during the night. Bluegill will avoid direct sun, instead choosing the cover of aquatic vegetation and submerged brush.
Bluegill will primarily feed on a variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects, insect larvae and crustaceans. They will also eat vegetation, small fish, mollusk and snails during the year, but anglers seem to be able to catch them on just about anything. Bluegills are well-known for “bedding” in large groups. They create circular beds by touching one another. This occurs in water that is typically two- to six-feet deep over sand or gravel bottom, often among plant roots. Spawning typically occurs from April through October, with the peak in May and June, when the water temperature rises to around 70 to 85 degrees.
A female may lay 2,000 to 63,000 eggs that hatch 30 to 35 hours after fertilization. After the eggs are deposited and fertilized, the females are then driven away by the males who stay and guard the nest. The males tend to the eggs, fanning them with their fins to keep them aerated and free of debris.
The protective father will generally stay with the fry, guarding them for several days before leaving them to fend for themselves. Bluegills can grow rapidly in Oklahoma. For example, a five-inch bluegill in Oklahoma is typically two to four years old, and they have been known to live up to 11 years.
The bluegill’s willingness to take a variety of natural baits — crickets, grass shrimp and worms and artificial lures such as small spinners and popping bugs — during the entire year, combined with its gameness when hooked and its excellent taste make it an important sport fish in Oklahoma. The current record bluegill for Oklahoma was caught in 1987 and weighed is 2 pounds, 6 ounces.
Next time you are out fishing, don’t forget about the bluegill. It may be a smaller fish, but it’s qualities make it a trophy in every sense.
Have a great week!
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Email questions or comments to gmidgley_golf@yahoo.com.

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