How to Catch Bluegill: Ice Fishing for Bluegill Tips & Tricks [2022 Update]


Updated on September 23, 2022 by

Bluegill are one of the most commonly-targeted freshwater fish in the United States. They’re a smaller species in the panfish family, but they are known for their feisty attitude and distinct coloration. Most anglers know that bluegill can be easily caught throughout the summer months, but these fish can also prove to be a very popular target of ice anglers. 

Their behavior throughout the winter is somewhat similar to the summer months, but it can be tricky to figure out what pattern they will have when ice fishing for bluegill. In this article, we will lay out some of the most useful information related to ice fishing for bluegill and help shed some light on one of America’s favorite freshwater fish species. 

Bluegill

Ice Fishing for Bluegill Overview 

Bluegill tend to gather in large schools during the winter months as there is often safety in numbers and protection from larger predators that will usually hunt them throughout this season. You can usually find bluegill near structure or cover of some kind, but their behavior seems to change and can differ greatly from one lake to the next. One thing is sure, once you’ve found a spot where you can catch bluegill, you can bet that there will be a considerable number of them in the near vicinity. 

It’s common knowledge that bluegill can always be found in the shallows during the warm portions of the year, but they will begin to move out toward deeper areas when the water temperature drops below about 50 degrees. Once the water begins to cool off significantly, bluegill will move further away from the shoreline and will often suspend in water at or very close to some type of structure. 

Here are some of the best ice fishing for bluegill tips for catching these fish during the frigid winter months. 

1. Seek Out Cover 
How to Find Fishing Spots Near Me [...
How to Find Fishing Spots Near Me [2022 Update]

When it comes to the habits of bluegill throughout the winter months, many changes occur due to water temperature, depth, and the type of food sources these fish are known to target during warm weather. There are virtually no insects available once the lake freezes over, so bluegill will vacate their summer homes near the shoreline and venture far out into the middle of lakes, where they look for some type of structure or cover to hold close to. 

The best structures that usually hold schools of bluegill are brush piles and trees submerged at a depth of at least 15 feet. Bluegill will also hold near standing timber and large rocks that might provide them with a bit of cover and protection from predators. 

2. Look Along the Weedline 

Many northern lakes have weeds that extend inward from the shoreline and will grow out to a certain depth along the bottom. Where these weeds stop growing is known as the ‘weedline’, and you can usually bet that bluegill will find some type of cover very close to this line to stick to. Bluegill will mostly stay down in the weeds where they are hidden from the view of predatory fish that might be prowling through the water in search of a meal. 

When fishing an area with weeds, be sure that you don’t let your lure sink too far down until it’s in the weeds, but keep it just a few feet above the weeds. Finding bluegill is one of the most challenging parts of ice fishing for bluegill during the winter. This is harder to do in larger lakes, but once you locate a spot where you’ve caught one bluegill, you can be sure there are more nearby. 

Bluegill caught and held up with lure

3. Fluorocarbon Line is Essential 

Whether you’re using it as a leader, or as your main line, it’s crucial to use fluorocarbon line in the cold-weather months when the ice is frozen solid on the surface. This is because fish like bluegill have very keen eyesight and can usually see monofilament or especially braided line when it’s down in the water. These types of lines stand out more during icy months out of the year because fish can see them more easily due to the water being mostly still and more clear than any other time of the year. 

4. Fish Near the Surface

Most bluegill will be suspended down at a depth of at least 10 or 15 feet during winter. There might be times when they venture up toward the frozen surface, but for the most part, they will stick close to cover or weeds where they can be camouflaged from predators. You’ll need to fish your lure or bait above their position to have the best chance of bluegill seeing it. 

If you fish too deep, you risk your lure being below the level where the fish are. You can usually eliminate a lot of the guesswork by using a fish finder in these instances, but remember to fish from the top down when you first start dropping down on a hole, not from the bottom up. 

5. Less is More

Sometimes, ice anglers can get antsy and feel like their lure lacks action or isn’t moving enough to attract nearby fish. More often than not, fish will notice a lure moving in a way that’s more in line with the normal behavior of bait fish during the frigid months when the lake is frozen. 

Most lures require you to jig them up and down or in an erratic pattern. Bluegill can easily be spooked away from a lure that’s moving unnaturally quick and darting around too fast. Remember, you’re trying to match fish’s slow, sluggish movements and motions when they are in ice-cold water conditions. 

If you’re not sure how fast you should be jigging your lure or bait around, pay close attention to some of the more accomplished ice anglers near you or the lake. There are also countless videos you can find online that show the proper amount of action you typically want a lure to have when ice fishing. If you develop your skills based on what works for them, you can usually have a bit more success. 

Ice Fishing for Bluegill

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Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler and writer whose work has been featured in magazines for nearly a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States, as well as trout fishing in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. He enjoys keeping up with the latest news and gear items in the fishing industry and is always looking forward to his next outdoor adventure. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, The Outdoor Trip, Man Can Outdoors, Global Fishing Reports, and Bassmaster.