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Fishes of Wisconsin

Common name: Bluegill

Illustration: Virgil Beck

Illustration by Virgil Beck.

Scientific name: Lepomis macrochirus (Lepomis means "scaled cheek"; macrochirus means "large hand", possibly in reference to the size of the pectoral fin).

Distribution: Bluegill occurs in all three drainage basins in Wisconsin (Lake Michigan, Mississippi River, and Lake Superior). Originally it was not present in the Lake Superior basin, but as a result of widespread stocking, it is now present and reproducing in many lakes and rivers.

Spawning: Spawning takes place from late May to early August (peaking in June) at water temperatures between 67 - 80º F. Males select a sand or gravel bar that can be hollowed out to form a nest. Before and after spawning, the male bluegill defends the nest against all species, but most vigorously against other male sunfishes.

Angling: Plain garden worms are the favorite bait for bluegills, but they can be caught on a number of different types of lures. The fly fisher can have fun with poppers, especially in spring and early summer, when nests are concentrated in shallow water. Most large bluegills are taken in deep water during the summer months by drifting with the wind using worms. Wintertime jigging in the weed beds with grubs or mousies on ice jigs also produces excellent results.