The Best Time of Day to Catch Bluegill in Summer, Spring, Fall, and Winter


If you are looking for non-stop action, then there is no better choice than Bluegill fishing. These fish will practically swarm around your bait if you time it right.

Yes, I said time it right. Bluegill fishing is fun, but you’ll need to set your watch and put your thinking cap on to get the maximum reward.

What is the best time of day to catch Bluegill?

Normally, the evening produces the best results for catching Bluegill, and today I’m going to tell you why…

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What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Bluegill?

Over hundreds of sessions and keeping a careful record of the number and times I have caught Bluegill, I have to say that you will see the greatest success when fishing for Bluegill in the late evening, just before sunset.

Specifically, this will be around 5:00 – 7:30PM in the summer months.

freshly caught bluegill against a grass background

Why is this?

While they are predatory, Bluegill tend to eat smaller animals. This can include minnows, small crayfish, worms, and other insects. In turn, these smaller creatures all love to feast on one thing.

Plankton.

Plankton only tends to be present when the water is relatively warm. As a result, you will want to fish in the times when the sunlight has had the greatest chance to have full effect.

Wait, no fishing for Bluegill at night?

Now, I’m not saying that it is impossible to catch a few bluegills at night. Still, your catch rate will be greatly diminished if you go outside the times I mentioned above.

Why?

Bluegill isn’t what is known as an apex predator. As a result, they try to avoid being out in conditions where they become food. Nighttime, in particular, is a difficult time for Bluegill. They don’t have the most tremendous night vision, whereas fish like bass and walleye do…

Both of which love nothing more than a juicy Bluegill supper. And there’s a reason why Bluegill makes for a super effective catfish bait.

If you fish at the above times, particularly in summer, you’ll find that you will catch steadily. Still, there is a direct relationship between your catch rate and how much light is available.

The darker it gets, the less you’ll catch.

Morning isn’t the best time for Bluegill. Again, it isn’t impossible, but it is far from optimal.

While there are low light conditions in the morning, this tends to be the time when the “heavy hitters” such as bass are out looking for breakfast. You can read more about the best times to fish for bass here.

Twinned with this is that the insect and tiny creatures that Bluegill like to feed on haven’t had time to warm up and get going either.

bluegill close up being held in hand

The Best Time of Day, in Summer, Spring, Fall, and Winter

Want the good news?

You can catch Bluegill all year round! The techniques are broadly similar, so all that remains is to pick the best time to fish for Bluegill, and you’ll be sure of at least a fish or two, and maybe more?

Here’s what you need to know.

Best Bluegill Fishing Time in Spring

Bluegill don’t seem to be put off by a little cold water, so spring can offer exciting times when it comes to catching these hard little fighters.

And there’s more good news.

Bluegill spawn fairly late into the spring, meaning that as they emerge from their winter respite, they are actively feeding for a longer period than most other species!

All that said, you probably don’t want to just turn up at any time of day.

The best time to fish for Bluegill in the spring is from midday onwards up until dusk.

The water will still be cold, so to allow for maximum feeding activity, you want to pitch up when it is warmest for the season. The later hours of the day are generally when this happens.

It is possible to begin slightly before this period if you want a fuller day. I’d advise fishing shallower areas or targeting spots where Bluegill seeks cover, such as weed beds, sunken trees, and overhanging features such as trees or bushes.

Best Bluegill Fishing Time in Summer

Summer is where the magic happens. It is the best time of year to catch Bluegill.

You’ll find that it might take a couple of weeks after the weather warms up before the bluegill start showing, as they will be busy spawning into the very early parts of summer.

However, once they are done, the water will be alive with them feeding and taking full advantage of the abundance of small creatures.

The advice I gave at the beginning stands here. The best time to catch Bluegill in the summer is the early evening going into the late evening.

You’ll probably be able to see them too.

In the evening, the water will be absolutely buzzing with fly life. As a result, you can expect to see Bluegill slashing and crashing on top of the water as they take their pick of the biggest insects.

Mid-afternoon comes as a close second to the above time.

Here’s why?

You’ll remember I said that bluegills like to take shelter away from bigger predators. There is never a time that this is more relevant than during the day when the light conditions are at their brightest.

How does that help you?

Well, provided you have a pretty good idea about where bluegills like to hang out, you can stand a reasonably good chance at catching them.

Areas to focus on are in deeper water, specifically areas that border grassy patches or weed beds. Overhead structures such as jetties and pontoons can also produce some really great results. Look for semi-submerged trees as well, as these are well-known Bluegill holding spots.

Best Bluegill Fishing Time in Autumn

Autumn can be a great time to catch Bluegill.

But, I have to be honest. It won’t be quite as active as in the summer.

That said, there is no reason why, if you get your timings right, you can’t have a super productive day.

You’ll want to maximize your time somewhat. As I said previously, when the sun goes down, the Bluegill take cover. And the sunsets a little earlier in autumn.

The best time to fish for Bluegill in autumn is from just before midday until early evening. You’ll still get the hatches that cause the Bluegill to go into a feeding frenzy and provided you choose the right bait.

Best Bluegill Fishing Time in Winter

Winter is the slowest time to fish for Bluegill, and there is a very limited ‘optimal’ window where you are likely to catch them.

You are going to be a little bit restricted.

In the morning, the water is too cold to encourage much activity out on the water, and the evening comes pretty quickly, especially in the months of December and January.

So what is your best option for fishing for Bluegill in the winter?

I’d suggest aiming for somewhere around the midday mark as a happy compromise. You’ll get relatively warm water, and the Bluegill will at least be able to see your bait.

Bonus tip…

Try fishing slightly deeper when trying to catch Bluegill in the winter. Unlike in the summer, when the shallows heat up relatively quickly, in winter, the deeper parts of the lakes and ponds are those that stay the warmest, giving you the highest chance of success.

Best Bluegill Fishing Time – Cheat Sheet

Time of Year Best Bluegill Fishing Time Places to Try
Spring Midday until dusk Shallower water
Summer Midday until dusk During very bright conditions, try shady spots like jetties, pontoons, and underwater structure
Fall An hour before midday until early evening Both shallows and deeper water. Try open fishing areas even during bright conditions
Winter Around noon Deeper water

Is it Better to Catch Bluegill in The Morning or Evening?

Do you like a challenge?

If so, fishing for Bluegill in the morning might be for you.

As I said above, Bluegill are most active during the later hours of the day, with activity peaking just before the sun begins to set.

In the morning, the water can be a little too cool for it to be worth them coming out in search of food. That said, in the height of summer on fairly shallow lakes, you might find that the water has retained some of its residual temperatures overnight, and the fish wake up ready to feed.

Bluegill will take small minnows, and these tend to shoal and be most prolific during the quiet hours of the morning when the lake is entirely still, so if it is around spawning time, by all means, give the morning a go.

As a general rule, the evening is when you will have the most success, regardless of the season. Having kept a record for a few years, I have found that the later hours of the day easily outfish the morning.

fisherman fishing from boat in lake

What’s Better for Bluegill: Day or Night?

Without a shadow of a doubt, the best time to fish for Bluegill is during the day.

Bluegill don’t have the eyesight to be effective hunters at night. There is always the possibility that they become food if they stray too far from cover.

You can try and catch them at night, but you will need to make it easy for them. I’m talking about things like glow-in-the-dark lures or baits that are impregnated with a strong scent to make them easy to locate.

My advice?

Save your time and energy for when you can really catch a full bag. Using the times above, you’ll find that you have a much better success rate.

If you want to fish at night, I’ve got a better suggestion for something you will definitely catch. Catfishing at night? Absolutely, check this out.

Bluegill Tactics for Different Times of the Day

So, we’ve established that, in the round, Bluegill are pretty much a daytime sort of deal. But now we know the best time to catch Bluegill. How do we best go about doing it?

Don’t worry, my friends, here are all the answers:

Midday

There are two places that you ideally want to look for Bluegill when the sun is at its peak. Two words, my friends.

Deep and dark.

First off, try fishing in areas where there is extensive cover in which Bluegill can hide. If I can see it above the water, there is a good chance there are Bluegill below. My favorite spots tend to be alongside the reeds (especially if there is a dropoff) and over sunken logs.

If you can’t find the cover or the lake seems sparse, try and cast into pockets and holes as these are prime spots for smaller fish who are clustered together taking shelter.

Fishfinders can really help identify these spots, and something such as this fish finder is even castable.

Mid to Late Afternoon

This might just be my favorite time to fish for Bluegill.

First off, if it isn’t working out, you’ve still got the evening to come.

Secondly, the water will be alive with all of those little things that Bluegill love to feast on.

Oh, and top tip.

You don’t tend to get minnows around too much in the afternoon, so try where you can to stick to natural baits. I find small worms particularly effective.

The Early Evening

As soon as the temperature drops, it is time to get a line out into the water. The fly life starts to slow down and alight on the surface, and sometimes you’ll even see a film of bugs and insects, making it Bluegill time.

You can try a variety of tactics too. Fly fishing will work well, as will lures and small live bait.

The hours between about 5:00pm and 19:30pm are the ‘witching hour’ where you’ll catch the most.

Summary

Unlike some species that emerge at night, Bluegill are best caught during daylight. The best time to catch Bluegill is in the late afternoon leading up to the early evening, particularly in the summer.

You can catch during other times and seasons, but you won’t have the same measure of success.

What’s your favorite tactic to catch Bluegill? Let me know in the comments below!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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