BluegillThe short answer why bluegill are important—they’re the backbone of the food chain. If they don’t abound, sportfish like bass and channel catfish won’t thrive.

Our friend Steven Smith at the Noble Foundation explains bluegill reproduce at incredible rates. They may spawn three or more times per season and lay 2,300 to 81,000 eggs per cycle depending on the maturity of the female. Bluegill may begin reproducing at approximately thee-inches. They spawn when water temperatures reach 67 to 89, but prefer 72 to 79. Spawning beds may be found in one to five-foot depths. Males construct nests by forming a circular depression four to 24-inches wide and two to six inches deep. Sandy or gravel areas are preferred sites. The male attracts females by swimming in a circular motion and making grunting sounds. Bluegill are colony spawners. You may see up to 50 beds in one site.

Fry hatch within three to four-days, depending on water temperature. Survival rates are contingent on safe habitat and above-mentioned food sources produced by fertilization. Bluegill experience rapid growth the first three-years. Development slows at maturity. Life expectancy is four to six years, however, some have lived almost 11-years.

We get calls from folks wanting to feed mature bass or catfish “minnows”. Mature fish need big meals. Minnows are not economically efficient forage supplements. Ten pounds of minnows cost $100 and may be consumed in days. That same $100 would buy you approximately 65 adult bluegill that are baitfish factories for years.