How does "Big Bluegill" feel about conservation?
Easy. We're all for it.
Big Bluegill members are a gang of anglers who know they're on to something special.
The bluegill is really the perfect fish when you think about it. Perfectly satisfying to fly fishermen and bobber slingers. Equally satisfying for ice fishermen and kayakers. Beloved by catch and releasers, as well as those who fish to dine. Targeted by the trophy fisherman, and the folks who just crave action.
The bluegill is all things to all people.
The perfect fish.
But how can we make the most of this great gift to anglers?
To start, we can learn all about it. You can't protect what you don't understand. Too many things in our world go away, right before our very eyes, simply because we didn't take the time to observe and study what we cherish most.
What sort of things have we learned about bluegill?
The bluegill is almost too good at some things. If given the chance, bluegill will produce astounding numbers of their own. Sometimes to the point that they become too small to catch or eat. A lake, stream or pond with untold numbers of tiny bluegill satisfies noone. In theory, the perfect bluegill fishery would never reach these types of numbers. The perfect fishery would have adequate numbers of appropriately sized larger predators to keep pressure on the fish under 6 inches, and adequate human pressure, when needed, to remove fish in the 6-9 inch range.
We've also learned the big male bluegills hog the best spawning areas. Agressive males that are protecting nests are easy to catch. The big male bluegill is true to himself. He'll sacrifice all
to protect his young. We also know that when big parental males are left to protect their nests that younger males forego spawning, and instead invest their energy into growth. In theory, the perfect bluegill fishery would always have adequate numbers of these beautiful fish to cover the best spawning beds so that the intermediate size fish would grow rapidly into eating and catching size.
Another thing we're aware of, is that when properly managed, and when anglers show intelligent restraint, that your favorite water body can support fish that are great size for eating, and still leave enough fish to give an opportunity for trophy anglers to catch 9-11 inch fish--the so-called dinner plates that we all dream about as kids. And then dream about as adults. And then dream about as retirees.....
So back to Big Bluegill and conservation. How does this all fit together?
Start by learning the local regulations. Then follow them.
Next, try to take advantage of the local state fisheries biologists. They can be almost limitless sources of good information in regards to the status of the bluegill fishery in the water body you're about to fish.
Find out what sizes are present. Try to figure out what numbers. If a good number of bluegill are present, and you want to keep fish, that's great. It's legal, ethical and delicious. But try to avoid going all out on the bigger spawning males. Of course, that can be hard to do, but when restraint is shown in harvesting these biggest, most agressive males, all of the smaller males are going to put on the feed bag, and put on weight so they can be caught and kept for future meals. Those biggest, brightest, most beautiful males are the ticket to future success. Protect them during the spawn, and you'll have more good sized fish in the future.
This probably goes without saying, but make sure to evaluate how many bluegill are actually needed for consumption. Too many people clean and freeze fish, but never end up eating them. If you've read this far, you're probably not one of these people. But spread the word--take what you can eat, but don't waste.
If you're releasing fish, bluegill lend themselves well to barbless presentations. It's not so much that the barb damages the fish. It's more to do with the fact that it's difficult to retrieve a barbed hook from such a tiny mouth. Carry some small curved hemostats, and if that barb has been flattened, even a little bit, you can get that hook out much easier.
Bluegill are absolutely delicious, and a very renewable resource when handled properly. People who harvest 8 inch bluegill, and throw back most 9+ inch fish and nest guarding parental males, are not only protecting their own resource, but they can also feel better about returning larger, rarer gamefish, because their freezers are already adequately stocked. Maybe that's the true beauty of the bluegill. If you keep bluegill, you really don't need to keep as many smallmouth or largemouth bass, or northern pike or walleye. Everybody wins.
Take a moment and look at the following website.
These people have got it all together. One of them is even a valued member of "BigBluegill". They discuss great ways to keep your water clean and your shoreline uncluttered. They care about your kids, and making sure they have the opportunity to catch big bluegill just like you.
Recycled Fish and Big Bluegill and other organizations are about to take the world by storm. It's time to act. There are people who want to take away your right to fish. If we're all shining examples of what it really means to be a sportsman, they'll never have a chance.
OK, let's briefly review the BigBluegill stewardship credo...
* Learn all you can about the behavior, lifestyle and feeding habits of bluegill and redear sunfish
* Find a harvest strategy that allows for bluegill to thrive, both in individual size and numbers
* Enjoy the fruits of more and bigger fish of all species through bluegill management