Fly Fish for Bluegill (Then Make Fish Tacos)

Want to pick up fly fishing? Rig up and head out this May for spawning bluegills in Northern Michigan.

May is a month of bounty. Asparagus is shooting up, flowers are blooming and morels are hiding across the North. My favorite boon during this prologue to summer is the bully bluegills beginning to spawn. Bluegills on the beds are a riot. Mature, aggressive and sporting broad flanks that make for a delectable mess of fish tacos…

Bluegills are most aggressive, and eager to smack a dry fly, during the spawning phase. Water temperature will be your best indicator, with most bluegills navigating to the beds once lakes hit temperatures of 65°F or higher. Check shallow lakes and inlets as these will be the first areas to have warmer temps. Another telltale sign: the subaqueous craters lining the shoreline that were scooped out by males to spawn in. Females hover within the depression while defensive males circle the perimeter. Take advantage of the irritability of these large males and you’re sure to fill a stringer in no time.

Lake fishing is an ideal introduction to the sport of fly fishing as the wide expanses allow for uninhibited back casts. Don’t worry about perfect presentation. Unlike skittish trout, bluegill will be hard-pressed to refuse your splashdown offering. Work on casting as close to the nests as possible though, waiting for the bluegill to rise ever so slowly before sucking in the fly with a satisfying plop! Prime fishing happens at dawn and dusk, so get there early and/or stick it out until sunset for the best bite.

Andrew VanDrie writes from Traverse City. 

Bluegill Tacos

Coat the fillets in all-purpose flour. Dunk in egg wash and coat with panko breadcrumbs. Heat up oil in a cast iron skillet and fry for 1–2 minutes per side until golden brown. Plate on corn tortillas and top with avocado, red cabbage slaw, Blue Top’s Garlic Hatch Creamy Hot Sauce and freshly squeezed lime juice.

Gear Tips

Select anything from a 3-weight to 5-weight rod with floating line. The Bug Launcher from Temple Forks Outfitters is a great learner’s tool at $89. Stop by The Northern Angler or Orvis Streamside in Traverse City and the staff will be happy to let you test out rods and rig you up. These local fly shops will also hook you up with a handful of foam spiders, poppers and insect imitation (my favorite pattern is the Hippie Stomper).