Punching BluegillsBy Jason Mitchell - February 1, 2013
Most lakes have a variety of weed types and we have found bluegills around just about anything that resembles cover especially at first and late ice. Some weeds like the cabbage variety typically die and break down fast during the winter but at times will still hold fish. Other plants like Chara or even bulrushes can hold fish. My favorite winter weed however is coontail. Coontail grows to deeper depths and will often remain green much longer through the ice. Any type of weed is better than no weed providing that the fish are holding in the depth of the weed but green weeds are almost always best if they are available.
An underwater camera like the Vexilar Scout can be invaluable for weed recon work. The crisp picture and lack of refraction can give you great information on what condition, what species and what color the weeds are.
High sun or predators like northern pike can push bluegills into the weeds. When fish hunker into weeds, the angler often has to fish more through more holes to contact fish. When fish stop moving, you have to move to be successful. The other key to being successful when targeting panfish buried in weeds is to use tackle and equipment that will punch through the weeds to reach the fish. Think like a bass angler using a heavy jig to punch through pads or slop to get down to fish.
When trying to reach bluegills that are buried in the weeds, use presentations or jigs that drop hard enough to fall through the leaves and stalks. This usually isn't a finesse game because to light or too slow of falling jigs get hung up near the top of the canopy. The weight of tungsten is ideal. Jigs like the Northland Tackle Mooska punch through the weeds and reach the fish.
Another really good option that is often overlooked is to take a small Buckshot Rattle Spoon or Forage Minnow and attach a short chain dropper. We recently filmed and aired a television program where we discussed this presentation. The advantage of this combination is that the weight of the spoon cuts through the weeds but the chain on the bottom is very flexible giving the hook a very delicate action and the chain is easy for fish to suck in.
On fisheries with good weed growth, extracting bluegills from the jungle is part of the game at some point each winter. By approaching the weeds with the right mentality and the right tools, this extraction process is made much more effective.