Bluegill Fishing in New York

by on March 7th, 2015
Share Button

As game fish, bluegill don’t always get the respect they deserve. They are often the first fish caught by young anglers, which is perhaps why fishing for sunfish is seen by some as being “just for kids.” But the pursuit of big bluegills – those all-too-rare hand-sized monsters – is anything but easy. Even average-sized ‘gills put up a hefty fight on light tackle, and few fish taste better than a plate of batter-dipped, deep-fried sunnies.


If you are after big bluegill, spring to early summer is the time to hit the water in New York. In April, bluegill start to show up in shallow water to feed and, eventually, get ready for spawning. May and June see bluegill (and pumpkinseed sunfish, too) spawning in droves in the state’s lakes and reservoirs. You can often spot them from shore. Bluegill dig out nests on shallow flats, usually forming colonies consisting of dozens or even hundreds of nests. Unlike bass, bluegill are so abundant and spawn so prolifically in many lakes that selectively harvesting a few during this season doesn’t usually hurt their numbers. And, unlike bass, nesting bluegill rarely need too much coaxing to bite.

Baits and Lures

As far as baits and lures are concerned, keep it simple. Tiny jigs tipped with soft plastic grubs, tubes and creature baits can tempt bluegills like nobody’s business. The ideal jig weight is 1/16 to 1/32 oz., and baits less than an inch long fit well in a bluegill’s tiny mouth. Choose bright colors like chartreuse, white and hot pink. Such small offerings work best in light to ultralight tackle, which allow you to hurl the tiniest morsels much farther than with heavier rods and reels. Of course, live bait works wonders as well. A red worm or bit of nightcrawler can be suspended under a bobber and cast across a spawning flat with wondrous results.

Summer Bluegill

A few bluegill will continue spawning well into summer, but by July most of the biggest ‘gills will have wrapped things up and headed to deep water to feed and recuperate. Look for these fish around the first major drop-off near the flats where they spawned. Areas with weeds or, better yet, a mix of rocks and weeds with both deep and shallow water nearby are top spots in the summertime. Some bluegill will also head to shoals, rock piles and deep weedbeds where available, and by August most shallow areas are populated only by small bluegill and sunfish.


A few lakes stand out for bluegill fishing in New York. These fish are so plentiful that it would be easier to list lakes that do not have bluegill than those that do, but Lake Ronkonkoma, Black Lake, Oneida Lake and Saratoga Lake are destinations to consider. The Finger Lakes, especially Conesus, Honoye and Keuka can yield also substantial catches. And of course lakes Erie and Ontario, along with the St. Lawrence River, are top fisheries for bluegill (and just about everything else) especially in bays and backwaters. Relatively unknown ponds and swamps all over the state also hold potentially untapped bluegill resources.

Regardless of your destination, a day of bluegill fishing will almost never leave you empty handed, and there’s always a good chance of ending up with some perch, a few crappies or even a bass or two in your pail as a bonus.

Prev Article: »
Next Article: «

Related Articles