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Running of the Bulls
By Ron Anlauf

Giant bluegills are a special fish and not all that easy to find in this day and age. Big gills aren’t nearly as difficult to run into but giant is a whole different story. Giant gills are real pole benders and can put up a respectable fight and are an awesome fish to behold. So how big is a real “giant”? Well big could be defined as fish in the half to three quarter pound range while giant starts there and pushes the needle to a pound and over. The pound and over club is a rare one indeed but if you’d like to join your timing might never be better.
They say that timing is everything and given the present conditions that means right now. Those conditions include mild winters that have lacked the killing effect of thick layers of ice and heavy snow cover, and have allowed shallower sloughs and lakes that normally freeze out to carry fish over into the next season. Bodies of water that do occasionally freeze out are some of the best for running into monster gills as the limited number of fish that survive have little competition and can grow fast and fat.

The author explains that timing is the key

The author explains that timing is the key

to catching giant bluegills this

Given their basic makeup shallower lakes and sloughs are often difficult to get to, especially in a boat. That’s a great thing if you’re an ice angler because it limits the amount of pressure a body of water can receive. It can even help hide the fact that a little swampy puddle of water out in the middle of nowhere might be teaming with big bull bluegills. Some of the best are those that are only reachable during the winter when the muck and mud freezes up solid enough to get on with a snowmobile or ATV.

Unless you have a close friend with some inside information you’re probably going to have to find your midwinter hot spots on your own and will require some investigative angling. That’s means you could come up empty now and then but that’s part of the challenge, and the fun. When you do hit it big all of the hard work will suddenly become worthwhile and you should be able to return time and time again as long as the same conditions exist.
One of the big plusses to working smaller water is that there are only so many places for fish to hide and you can quickly determine if you’re barking up the wrong tree. With a power auger like the Eskimo Z51 you can hit the middle, the edges, and anywhere else you think could be holding fish and you really don’t want to overlook anything. After you’ve cut some holes you can go back and get to work and try offering them something they can’t refuse, like a tiny #6 Northland Doodle Bug tipped a maggot. Even big gills like teeny tiny tidbits and they really like bugs, and with the Doodle Bug and maggot combo you can have the confidence that if there are fish close by they’ll show up on a depth finder and take what you’re offering.
With a flasher type depth finder like Marcum’s LX-5 you can see everything that’s going on below the hole and whether or not fish are at least coming in for a look. Big gills will show up as solid red marks on the LX-5’s three color readout and are exactly what you’re looking for, but don’t let interference fish like small perch keep you from moving on. They’ll show up as green, yellow, or red marks if there are enough of them, but you can separate them out if you use the zoom or back down the gain.
Light line is another key to catching heavy line shy gills and two pound is a good compromise. You can go lighter but then you run the risk of breaking off big fish and that really defeats the purpose. Softer action rods like St. Croix’s model LIR24UL Legend Ice Rod or Northland’s TSCC-24UL Silver Series Trick Stick will help you stay connected and get your fish up and on the ice.
Another popular saying includes the idea that all good things come to an end. And so it goes with swamp run bluegills as the first long drawn out winter will bring it all to a screeching halt. The moral of the story is to make your move now while you still have a chance. See you on the ice.

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