A Baitfish is a small fish caught for use as bait to attract larger predatory fish. Species that are typically used as baitfish are common and breed more often.
Bluegill is found in freshwater across most of the U.S. and it’s quite popular as baitfish because it has a great nutritional value for large fish species.
It’s a natural food source for bass, pike, and several catfish species like flathead, bullhead, channel, and blue catfish. It’s available in plentiful amounts and it’s easy to catch because it bites all around the year.
So, can you use bluegill as bait in saltwater? You can use bluegill as bait in saltwater but it might not always be effective. That is because bluegill is a freshwater fish so it doesn’t survive for a long time in saltwater. You can mostly use bluegill to target catfish and bass in saltwater.
Keep reading to learn more about how to catch bluegill and how to effectively use it as bait.
Can Bluegill Live in Saltwater?
Bluegill is a freshwater fish, so it can’t live in saltwater.
It might survive for only a couple of hours in cold saltwater, however, the solute-concentrated environment of the ocean will draw out all the water from its cells which will lead to dehydration, slow down the fish’s metabolic rate and eventually result in death.
While using bluegill when fishing in saltwater might not generate as much success as it does when fishing in freshwater, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give bluegill a chance as bait to target large species when out in saltwater.
How to Catch Bluegill Fish?
Bluegills are very easy to catch and do not grow to huge sizes, so you need to select your fishing gear accordingly. You also need to use the right kind of bait and techniques to increase your chances of success to catch them.
It’s recommended to go for lighter gear when targeting bluegill as it will allow you to feel its bite more effectively.
You use an ultra-lite graphite fishing rod with a small spinning reel that’s spooled with a light fishing line such as a 2 or 4-pound test monofilament line.
When it comes to the hook size, it’s recommended to go for smaller hook sizes like 6 or 8 since bluegills have small mouths. It’s also recommended to use hooks with long shanks to make it easier to remove the hook from the bluegill’s small mouth, especially if the bait is swallowed.
For the bait, it’s recommended to use live bait such as earthworms, grasshoppers, crickets, catalpa worms. Make sure to cut the bait into small pieces to fit the bluegill’s smallmouth.
I have a complete guide on how to use live Bluegill for Muskie fishing here which you should definitely check out.
How to Use Bluegill as Bait?
Using bluegill as bait can be tricky, especially in saltwater. You need to make sure the bluegill you’re using is small enough (below five inches) to appeal to a wide variety of fish species. You also need to make sure it’s lively since most fish will be attracted to its natural movement.
To rig a bluegill fish, the hook has to be secure and it’s important to avoid hooking any of the fish’s organs as this will kill the fish rapidly and prevent it from moving naturally in the water.
If you’re fishing with whole bluegill, live or dead, you can rig it by running a circle hook through its back behind its dorsal fin. This method is the most ideal when fishing in water with no current.
You can also rig it through the nose with the hook point oriented upwards. This method is the most ideal when fishing in moving water as it makes the bait more aerodynamic and reduces snags.
What Fish Can You Attract with Bluegill as Bait?
There are many large fish species you can attract with bluegill as bait.
Using live bluegills is the best way to target trophy catfish species including flathead, bullhead, channel, and blue catfish. That is because bluegills are a natural food source for these species. They can also be used to target bass and pike.
Is it Legal to Use Bluegill as Bait?
It’s illegal to use bluegill as bait in some states such as California. You need to check with your state’s fishing regulations regarding the use of bluegills as fishing bait. You can also check the posted signs at the boat launch before you head out on the water. It’s very important to comply with the regulations to avoid facing charges and having your fishing license suspended.
Speaking of fishing licenses, you should definitely check out my guide to fishing licenses in the US. It has all the info you need for every state on where to get your fishing license, how much it costs, and where you won’t need it.
What Kind of Bait Fish Can You Use in Saltwater?
There are many kinds of baitfish that you can use to successfully target saltwater fish species. You can use shrimp and sardines to target species like trout and Spanish mackerel. You can also use minnows, pinfish, and shad to target species like redfish and red snapper.
Can You Use Bluegill as Cut Bait?
Yes, you can use bluegill as cut bait by cutting them in half. You can use the head, back, and tail sections as bait. Cut bait is the most ideal when targeting smaller fish species as it can easily fit in the fish’s mouth. It’s also recommended to use small hook sizes when using cut bait.
Where to Fish for Bluegill?
Bluegills gather in specific habitats, depending on the season. They gather in shallow areas during their spawning season in spring and early summer. They tend to move to deeper areas in the water as the weather gets warmer during the summer. You can find them along undercut banks near fallen trees or near the edge of lily pads and other aquatic plants.
When Is the Best Time to Fish for Bluegill?
The best time to fish for bluegill would be their spawning season during spring and summer. During this period, bluegills will be more active and they can be found in shallow water. After the spawning season is over, bluegills will move to deeper waters for the rest of the year.
What Does Bluegill Feed On?
Bluegill can be limited with what they eat since they have a small mouth. Young bluegills feed on small aquatic invertebrates called zooplankton. As you grow bigger, they will be able to eat larger aquatic creatures and insects.
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