Bluegill Sunfish
Typical Size
6-7" (3-6 oz.)
Decent Size
7-8" (8-11 oz.)
Nice Size
8-9" (12-16 oz.)
10.7" (4 lbs. 12 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

1 lb.
Genus/Species Lepomis macrochirus
Common Names bluegill, kiver, bream, copperbelly, brim
Hot Spots Robbins Pond, Maquan Pond, Indian Pond
Best Time May - October
Best Baits earthworm, mealworm, spinners, small jigs
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait or spinning

Bluegill sunfish vary in color but typically have dark olive green backs and upper sides blending to lavender, brown, copper, or orange on the sides. The lower side of the fish, just below and behind the head, is reddish-orange or yellow. The rest of the underbelly is often pale silver/violet or white/violet. They also have a dark spot at the end of their gill cover and have vertical bars on their sides. The name comes from the blue color (very distinct in breeding mails) at the bottom of their head and gills. It is an extremely compressed-bodied fish with a relatively small head. It has a spiny dorsal fin that is connected to the soft dorsal fin. The anal fin has three spines with the rest soft. The mouth is small and has numerous teeth so tiny that they are completely harmless.

Bluegill Sunfish
The fish you loved to catch as a kid is still fun on ultralight tackle.
Bluegill sunfish are one of the most hearty of the sunfish species and can tolerate a variety of habitats, including ponds, lakes, and streams. It is generally found close to shore at depths of one to five feet near areas of structure or vegetation. However, it can also be found in depths of 20 feet and in areas of no structure or vegetation. They are most active in temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees. Bluegills are opportunistic feeders, eating a varied diet of insects, small fry, worms, snails, tadpoles, and young crayfish.

Bluegill Sunfish range throughout the United States due to stocking and distribution efforts. On the south shore of Massachusetts they can be found mixed with the native pumpkinseed sunfish, in just about every pond and lake.

Spawning takes place in late May when the larger males start making beds just a stones throw from shore in about two to three feet of water. These fish make their beds by fanning the sand and gravel areas with their bodies, making circles on the bottom. The male bluegill will stay on the bed until the young fry hatch and swim away.

You can fish for bluegill sunfish with many different kinds of bait. Worm is by far the most popular but mealworms and crickets are just as productive. These feisty little fish are often a child's first introduction to fishing as they are easily accessible, hard to spook, and greedily accept the plainest of baits. The simple worm and bobber rig with a 1/4 to 3/8 ounce sinker will catch numbers of these sunfish.

Another popular method for taking bluegill is jigging. Jigging involves tying on a small panfish jig and casting it, then engaging the reel and bouncing and pitching the jig off the bottom constantly as you slowly retrieve the slack line. You can also cast out a small spinner, letting it drop to the bottom, then engage the reel and quickly and begin a moderate retrieve back to the shore or boat. Using jigs and spinners is highly effective and, in my opinion, more fun.

Fishing for bluegill sunfish is not considered important commercially nor recreationally, as it is classified as a forage fish, rather than a game or food fish. However, when you consider the amount of kids it turns on to the sport of fishing, that later become license purchusers for more glamorous species, it's importance is immeasurable. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, we are blessed with easy access to some great bluegill fishing. Although it is considered an edible fish, due to the questionable mercury and other pollution content of our fresh waters, I would definitely recommend against it.