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Working the bluegill beds is a good way to spend a day
Spaulding Outdoors
By Jack Spaulding

Toward the end of May, my brother-in-law John Malady of Lafayette and I usually reserve a weekend for shovelnose sturgeon fishing on the Wabash River. Unfortunately last weekend, the Wabash River was running very high from the deluge of spring rains; and a lot of really big trash was washing down the river.

John and I both agreed getting swept down and sunk by an uprooted tree cascading down the swollen river was hardly a good way to spend a Saturday, so we opted to try bluegill fishing instead. I wasn’t hard to convince as there are only two other types of freshwater fish I prefer over bluegill… those are walleye, and yellow perch. Bluegill it would be.

John had the boat and bait ready to go when I arrived at his place around noon on Saturday, and we headed without delay to a little visited DNR property north of State Road 26, known locally as Knop Lake.

Knop Lake is not an overly large body of water, consisting of maybe seven to 10 acres with plenty of shoreline bordered by steep banks and trees. An earthen dam with a level control spillway keeps the small impound at fishable levels even following the heaviest rains. According to John, Knop Lake was once a private location, but years ago, was purchased by the DNR.

When we arrived, there were three other boats on the lake, but plenty of room for us as well.

Once the boat was in the water, we proceeded along the shoreline, anchoring and working brushed over spots close to the bank holding prespawn bluegill.

The weather had been 11 days of consistent rain and overcast, but Saturday dawned beautiful. The day was capped with a bluebird-sky and high barometric pressure with a soft wind from the east. By almanac standards, you just can’t get a much worse day for fishing conditions. Like John said, “These bluegill are used to dark, overcast skies and a low barometer. Fishing could be tough today.”

And, tough it was.

We were blessed with an abundance of good bait consisting of two large cages of live crickets and 350 wax worms. We were carrying enough bait to fish for days, let alone a long afternoon of coaxing bites now and again from lock-jawed ‘gills.

Like a couple of well-known professional sporting teams from Indianapolis, we started out strong. Within minutes, two nice bluegills were in the livewell. Thinking we might have misread the effects of the weather conditions, optimism spread a grin on both of our faces.

An hour later with only two more in the boat, the optimism was fading, and we were faced with having to really work for our fish. In the past, I have observed, bluegill to be opportunistic feeders.

This fact was again proven by the number of fish I missed in the course of the day. On the rarest of occasions after a perfect cast within inches of the bank under the overlying canopy of tree limbs, I intently studied the bobber for the slightest hint of a bite. After a few minutes, my concentration began wavering and my eyes wandered to one of the boats in the distance, a bird, an ugly bug in the bottom of the boat, or a strange shaped spot on my shoe, and then when I looked up, my bobber was nowhere in sight.

Time and again, my lack of focus followed by a desperate yank of the rod only brought back a cricket bare hook, and produced a chuckle from John. More times than not, I found myself hoodwinked by opportunistic bluegill waiting to hit the bait when I wasn’t looking.

There is an old saying, “Little bait - little fish, big bait - big fish.” For Knop Lake bluegill, it rang true. With both baits fished on a number 10 wire hook, the larger sized crickets consistently caught the larger bluegill, while the smaller wax worms caught significantly smaller bluegill.

We worked the lake, fishing hard for eight hours with a total catch of 14 keeper-size bluegill and two channel catfish John boated while working the shoreline.

Averaging less than two keepers an hour made for some pretty slow fishing. But as another old saying goes to which John and I both agree, “The toughest day fishing is better than the best days at work.”

Free Fishing Weekend
A special family time is fast approaching as Indiana’s DNR drops the fishing license requirements for a family fun weekend. June 10 and 11 is the time to load up the car with friends, family and fishing poles, and enjoy a free weekend of fishing.

Hoosier adults do not need a license to fish Indiana’s public waters during Free Fishing Weekend. Children under the age of 17 do not need a fishing license at any time.

To help kids and adults celebrate Free Fishing Weekend, state-owned recreation areas located across Indiana are planning fishing derbies, casting clinics, fish printing demonstrations and fish cleaning and cooking classes. The free fishing weekend provides the opportunity to check out a new lake or river, or introduce friends and family to a favorite fishing spot. Some state properties programs require preregistration, and anglers are urged to call their favorite state property for details.

Although no fishing license is needed to fish public waters on Free Fishing Weekend, all other fishing regulations are still in effect.

More panfish fishing basics can be found online at:

DNR property information can be accessed at

Indiana fishing regulations can be found at

This farm news was published in the May 31, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.