For anyone who likes to fish for bluegill, keeping them from swallowing your hook can be a real problem.
In this quick guide, I’m going to go over a few tips and recommendations to prevent this from happening so you can spend more time fishing.
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How To Keep Bluegill From Swallowing The Hook
To prevent bluegills and other panfish from swallowing the hook be sure you are using the correct type and size of hook. Try a #6 circle hook, or a small 1/32 oz jighead. Be sure to pay close attention to your line, and set the hook immediately after the bait is taken. Lastly, consider mashing down the barbs on your hook so it’s easier to remove, even if swallowed.
A swallowed hook leaves you the option of killing the fish when you remove it, or cutting the line and hoping the fish makes it. That’s no fun!
Researchers have studied the effects of various types of gear and techniques to see whether bluegill would swallow the hook.
In the study, over 600 bluegills were caught in a Canadian lake using various techniques and tackle. A few things emerged as being the most important:
Use The Correct Hook Size & Type
A #6 circle hook the least likely to hook a bluegill in a debilitating or fatal location (swallowed).
The circle hook, because of its rounded design, is far more likely to catch in the mouth than to be swallowed into the bluegill’s gut or gills. A traditional J-hook has a straight shaft. Because of this, it is easier for the bluegill to swallow down.
When a circle hook is set it rotates in the bluegill’s mouth and is more likely to catch on the lip or side of the mouth.
When the researchers looked at their catches, there were far fewer swallowed hooks in the bluegills caught with circle hooks, regardless of setting style.
Large hooks (#1/0 and #2) were more likely to hook fish in the eye, and small hooks (#10 and #14) were slightly more likely to be swallowed, making the intermediate-size circle hook (#6) the least likely to hook fish in a debilitating or potentially fatal location.A Synoptic Review of the Ecology and Management of Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) with Implications for Fishery Management in Wisconsin
See Also: Fishing Hook Sizes & Types
Leave The Bobber At Home
The other main thing that the researchers found was that bluegills caught by a fisherman using a bobber are far more likely to be deep hooked than fish caught without a bobber, no matter what hook type is being used.
There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that the line and the bait are floating slack which makes it easier for the bluegill to swallow the hook. The second is that the bobber will cause the angler to set the hook a little bit later or become somewhat complacent. This also allows the fish more time to swallow the hook.
Bluegill often hit a bait once, then comes back and grab it again. Have you ever see your bobber ‘bounce‘ up and down quickly? That’s those tricky bluegills hitting and coming back.
Try fishing without a bobber. Keep the slack out of your line, and pay close attention. You will most likely see that your getting more bites, and you’ll begin to really learn and feel the bite by intuition and instinct.
See Also: What Do Bluegill Eat?
Note: If you need to use a bobber to keep you bait off the bottom or free from snags- that is okay too. But just be sure your using the correct bobber.
I like Thill Slim Bobbers made from Balsa Wood:
They are ultra-sensitive and slim line-shaped, so when you get a bite the bobber will react instantaneously!
Mash Down Your Barbs
If you don’t want to use circle hooks, another trick to minimize damage to the fish is to mash down barbs on regular J-hooks.
This allows you to get the hook out of the bluegill with less damage if you do hook the fish a little deeper than you like.
There is a common misconception that barbless hooks catch less fish, but that is not the case. As long as you keep constant tension on the line, there is no reason a barbless hook should pull out.
So let’s recap on how to keep bluegill from swallowing the hook:
- Be sure to use the correct size and type of hook. I recommend #6 circle hooks, micro jig heads, or long shank aberdeen style hooks in size #8-#10.
- Consider leaving the bobber at home, and instead closely watching your line ‘twitch’ for bites. It will make you a better angler overall!
- Mash down the barbs on your J-jook, so that even if they do swallow it, its much easer to remove.
Bluegill fishing is a ton of fun, and I hope this article helps you the next time your chasing these popular panfish.
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