The Nose Knows the Way to Early Summer Bluegill

Looking for a fight? Then grab an ultralight spinning rig or a three-weight fly rod to pick on spawning panfish in early warm months

While watching one of the Major League Fishing events unfold, yours truly observed with keen interest the way a particular MLF pro kept targeting bream beds to catch a few willing bass.


While I'm never one to turn down a swashbuckling battle with a spunky black bass specimen, the sheer abundance of bluegills in front of this angler's bass rig also piqued my own fish catching curiosity.

Because when armed with a ultralight spinning rig or a lightweight fly rod, there are few better ways I prefer to spend a late-spring or early-summer day than by battling platter-size panfish that give a tremendous account of themselves in the water.

Given the way they can leverage their bodies during a lightweight tackle fight to the boat, ounce for ounce, bluegills are among the sportiest fish that swim.

If you’re interested in catching a mess of warm-weather bluegills, then start by using your eyesight to find abundant concentrations of these willing sunfish, but don't forget to use your nose too.


There's little doubt panfish hotspots can be easily seen in many shallow-water areas located near weed beds, brush piles, stick-ups and stumps. That's because bluegills – or bream as many anglers call them – are usually visible in and around such shallow confines, especially near easy-to-spot spawning beds.

In some places, anglers can find numerous spring and early-summer bream beds lying close together in shallow water conglomerations that vaguely resemble craters on the moon’s surface or a very large wasp-nest.

Spawning Bluegill Beds
While oval depressions scraped out in sandy, shallow water areas can often be spotted by observant anglers, a faint watermelon rind like smell can often be detected in the air when spawning bluegills are around. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

But, bear in mind an angler’s eyesight is only one way to locate catchable numbers of bream during the spring and early summer months. Because when it comes to locating bluegills, the nose often knows the way according to Texas A&M educated entomologist and fly fishing guide Rob Woodruff of Quitman, Texas.


“When you find them, there’s almost a watermelon rind kind of smell in the air, kind of like how people on the (Gulf) coast can find speckled trout by smell,” said Woodruff, a 2015 finalist for the Orvis Guide-of-the-Year Award, who loves to target East Texas 'gills with a one, two or three-weight fly rod.

However, an angler is able to locate a good bluegill spot or two, the truth is that they should be able to locate many more in the same general vicinity. Because when it comes to spring and summer bluegill – or their redear sunfish, longear sunfish, redbreast sunfish, green sunfish, warmouth, hybrid sunfish or copper-nosed bluegill cousins – where there's one, there's usually plenty more.

Some sage old crappie fishing advice once given to me by outdoor writer and television personality Steve Pennaz is highly applicable here: “Don’t spend a lot of time in a place where the fish aren’t biting.

In other words, during the late-spring and early-summer months, if you can't connect with bluegills on a regular basis, move on down the line until you find a spot filled up with willing and active fish.

A fishing hotspot that can be found with an angler's eyes and their nose, not to mention a set of ultralight fishing gear.

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