Bluegills are most susceptible to angling during the spawning season. Fish bluegill nests, but don't overlook the edges of weed beds, brush, or similar cover in the water. Bluegill can always be caught around brush and submerged tree limbs. Winter is an excellent time to fish for bluegills, although several holes may have to be bored in the ice before the fish, concentrated near the bottom are located. Once the bluegill are found, fishing action is usually fast. The best fishing gear for bluegill is ultralight tackle with 2- or 4-pound test line. The rod should be lightweight and flexible. A small hook,size 6 to 12, baited with a piece of worm, maggot, cricket, or small grasshopper should be fished with a tiny bobber and no weight. The bobber, usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter, should be large enough to just float the bait. The bait should be cast beyond the spawning nest and retrieved slowly across the nests until a strike is felt then set the hook and hang on. Tiny jigs or weighted flies can be used by spin fishermen who prefer artificial baits. Another deadly gear for fishing bluegill is a properly used fly rod. Flycasting around weedbeds and brush with black flies, spiders, and tiny poppers provides great sport and large numbers of pan-sized fish.
Ice fishing is a nice way to recreate during the winter and stock up on excellent tasting bluegill fillets. Ice fishing gear includes a small 5-or 6-inch diameter ice auger or spud, ice skimmer, 5-gallon bucket, two small ice fishing rods, and several teardrop lures, maggots or waxworm larvae for bait, and tiny bobbers. A teardrop lure baited with a white maggot or waxworm larvae should be fished 2 or 3 feet from the bottom. Tiny sponge bobbers work best because the ice can be quickly broken from the bobbers by squeezing. The bucket makes a nice chair while fishing and carries everything except the auger when walking.
Best bass fishing occurs in the spring and early summer. Live baits such as worms, frogs, crayfish, and minnows can be used, but artificial baits are often just as productive. The best artificial lures consist of plugs resembling natural bass food such as minnows, frogs, and crayfish. Many avid bass fishermen use only artificial lures and fish for sport rather than the tablefare bass provide. Hook sizes should be no smaller than size 1 and usually range up to 6/0. Heavier tackle may be needed in bass fishing to set the hook to "horse" bass away from snags or through the weeds. Most bass rods are medium to heavy action and line strength should be between 8-and 12-pound test. However, light or even ultralight tackle may be preferred, particularly in the springtime, when vegetation is at a minimum. Fish around tree stumps, brush, points jutting from shore and weed bed edges for these are the hangouts frequented by bass.
Fishing for old whiskers in farm ponds requires different techniques than those used in rivers. Catfish naturally avoid light and because of their feeding habits they are usually found near the bottom, often in deep water. Mid-summer is the best time to catch channel catfish, although early spring fishing can be good. Tackle should be medium weight, although catching catfish on ultralight gear is exciting. Line strength should be 6 to 12 pound test and hook sizes should be from 1/0 to 4. Commonly used baits are prepared blood or stink baits, chicken entrails, liver , cut shad,crayfish, and earthworms. Still fishing in ponds is best, but if no bites are obtained in one place within 10 minutes, move to another spot. Cut shad is best during early spring fishing, while liver, chicken entrails,and prepared baits work better during mid-summer. Best results are obtained if baits are fished on or near the bottom using slip sinkers or no weight and an open bail or free spool reel condition. The idea is to present the bait as naturally as possible and provide very little resistance when the bait is taken. The hook is set after the catfish runs with the bait.
Fish like all other animals, are parasitized by other living things. A healthy fish can tolerate some parasites with little ill effects. The most common parasites in Iowa pond fish are black spot and yellow grub.
The terms "wormy" or "grubby" are most frequently applied to fish infested with yellow grub. This parasite is found in both bass and bluegills. The yellow grub is enclosed in a cyst which frequently lies just beneath the skin. Many times a bulge is noticeable at the base of the fins or tail. The living worm when squeezed from this bulge is light yellow in color and about 1/4 inch long and 1/20 inch wide.
Black spot consists of small, black grains embedded in the skin and flesh. These black spots are the home to a small fluke. They are found on several species of fish, but are very common on bluegill.
Black spot in fish fillets
Yellow grubs in fish fillets
Neither of these parasites has man as a host, and therefore is completely safe to eat. In addition, thorough cooking will kill both parasites. It is not practical to try to remove these parasites from a pond. Pond owners and fishermen must be resigned to the fact that occasionally they are going to catch a fish containing one of these parasites.
Another problem sometimes found on fish in ponds is a fungus called Saprolegnia. This grayish, cotton-like growth is usually a secondary infection caused by some adverse environmental condition such as disease, low oxygen levels, or spawning stress. Many times it is seen on the tails, sides or bellies of fish which have rubbed these areas raw while spawning. Fish not too badly affected will recover, but some will die.