June 14, 2023
All across the land, the springtime fishing bite is on for all kinds of species just waiting to be caught during this year’s Great American Spring 2023.
That includes the fish-rich state of Florida, home to Outdoor Sportsman Group editor Jeff Weakley, who lives near the Sunshine State’s eastern coastline where there’s never a shortage of things to chase with a rod and reel.
From tarpon and snook in the Sunshine State’s saltwater to double-digit Florida largemouth bass in inland lakes and even peacock bass and other warmwater exotics roaming the canal country in and around Miami, the Florida Sportsman executive editor never runs out of fishing options for his various boats or pedal-drive kayaks. But believe it or not, one of Weakley’s favorite springtime endeavors in the angling arts is the pursuit of big bluegills, slab-sized sunfish willing to bite on water bodies not far from his own backdoor!
The bluegill, the biggest little fish in the land, is of course the piscatorial species that most anglers get started with early in their youth. Prone to attacking crickets wriggling on a wire hook under a floating bobber, small minnow-tipped jigs at the end of a spinning rod, or a rubber-legged wriggling fly on a two or three-weight fly rod, these panfish never quite get outgrown by some anglers like Weakley. They are fun to catch no matter your age and plentiful nearly everywhere in the land.
Find a dock, fish the deeper edge of an aquatic weed bed, or even probe the shadowy recesses of a blown over tree creating a laydown in shallow water, and you can just about be assured that wherever you live and fish, there will be a few bluegills hanging around.
Bluegills—and lots of other familiar panfish too like redears (shellcrackers), pumpkinseeds, longears, redbreasts, green sunfish, and even warmouths to name a few—can be caught with a variety of techniques throughout the calendar year. The action really shines during the late spring and early summer spawn, full-moon and new-moon breeding cycles that leave shallow areas pockmarked with dozens of saucer-shaped spawning beds and platter-sized ‘gills ready to whack anything that comes close, putting a serious bend in your lightweight fishing gear!
Weakley enjoys all kinds of Florida angling from big to small, especially when the local bluegill bite is on and he’s got a lightweight graphite or fiberglass fly rod in hand along with a fly box filled with small bluegill sized topwater poppers, rubber-legged sponge spiders, dry flies, and even slow falling sub-surface patterns like a Verduin’s Cap Spider.
Before Weakley hits the water, he’ll be sure to give his fly-fishing outfit a little TLC and attention. For starters, he’ll make sure that he’s got the right leader size and tippet attached to the end of the fly line, often ending in light four or six-pound test breaking strengths more typically associated with trout fishing. Next, he’ll pull off some coils of fly line from his fly reel, stretching the line gently and dressing it to make sure that it will unroll with ease on the forward cast and gently lay down a bluegill bug on the water.
Once those chores are done, it’s time to have some fun, the kind that catching a few dozen ‘gills can bring during the course of a springtime afternoon, as long as your ego doesn’t keep you from enjoying some of this pint-sized piscatorial fun more typically reserved for youngsters. And since bluegills are plentiful in most places in Florida and elsewhere across America, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally keep a few for the dinner table, as long as you keep only what you can use.
If this sounds like a way to enjoy some time on the water this spring, you’ll have to target these panfish where they happen to be in the water column right now. To find spawning bluegills this spring, first find the spawning beds in skinny water only a foot or two deep—think the dimples on a golf-ball, and you’ll know what to look for—or slightly deeper spots near the edges of weed beds, fallen trees, or cypress knees. And believe it or not, one other surefire way to find spawning sunfish is to smell them out, sniffing the air for the aroma of a ripe watermelon.
Since bluegills are rarely loners, if you catch one panfish this spring and early summer, odds are, there are plenty more around waiting to be caught. You can do that with a 7’6” or 8’ fly rod, of course, or a spinning rod or cane pole should you desire. From a variety of flies to small jigs, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits to live crickets, earthworms and small minnows, bluegills usually aren’t too finicky and there’s most often a springtime panfish adventure ready to go across much of the US.
Speaking of ready to go, you’ll be ready for your day on the water and a bodacious bluegill bite after you’ve taken care of a lawn chore or two back home.
According to Weakley, whether you want to target the superb early morning bite for big bluegills and then do your lawn care, or reverse things with early yardwork and late afternoon panfishing excitement, the TITAN MAX Havoc Edition zero-turn mower from Toro is just what the fish-catching doctor ordered.
With a rock-solid mower foundation built upon an ultra-strong tubular steel platform, a powerful 26 hp Kohler 7000 Series engine with a canister air cleaner, and hassle-free, toolless air filter replacement, this is a mower that will leave the neighbors searching on their smartphones to find out what it is that you’re mowing with!
With a tough-as-nails IronForged cutting system deck, easy height-of-cut adjustment, a damage-resistant rubber discharge chute, and a three-blade system that delivers impressive 18,908 feet-per-minute cutting speeds, this mower will dispatch cutting chores quickly on properties up to seven-acres in size.
If power and performance are part of the TITAN MAX Havoc Edition’s appeal, so too is its stylish good looks that include 23-inch aggressive tread tires, two-toned aluminum wheels, a black paint scheme with striking accent colors, and looks straight off the bass boat showroom floor, and this is one good looking machine designed to get the yard work done and you on the water.
Add in features like integrated LED task lights, a high-back seat with armrests, a cup holder, a step-through front end to climb aboard, and an impressive four-year, 500-hour limited warranty, and you've got years’ worth of cutting ability harnessed into a powerful lawn tool that aims to get you outdoors a little more quickly each weekend.
After all, the year's best big bluegill bite doesn't happen every day, so time is of the essence when these dinner-plate-sized panfish are aggressive, biting well, and willing to put a bend in your flyrod!