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Categorized | Outdoors

Fishing on the surface for summer Bluegill? 

Jared Collins with a decent bluegill caught on the surface.

Jared Collins with a decent bluegill caught on the surface.

By Jack Payne


The day was hot and sticky and darn right uncomfortable to me. Hot humid weather is not for me. I can put on extra clothes but I am limited to how much I can remove. Two good things: one, we were on the water and two, this summer these type of days have been in short supply!

Most summer days you will find me fishing the deep water. But, given the right conditions, I will surface fish until my heart is content. We just enjoyed a few good days of this type of fishing. In many of my articles, I talk about a short window when the big gills will feed on the surface.

Very low light conditions, especially when the surface is glass smooth, is perfect for surface feeding fish. These fish give away their location with the small dimples and rings on the surface. At times you might see a hundred or more on the surface.

Normally the best locations will be found over deep water and downwind from a nice weedbed. Lakes with a nice marl bottom appear to have a larger insect hatch and thus more surface activity. Sometimes this will be in 20 feet of water and other days perhaps 40 feet of water.

Another pattern exists and is rarely used or found. We found it out of sheer frustration. Bluegills most frequently will stay above the thermocline. Any moderate priced graph will show the thermocline.

During our last muggy hot spell, we were on our favorite bluegill lake having minimal luck in the deep water. We graphed few fish, no large schools and a handful of bottom hugging fish. Out of frustration we threw out a slip bobber with a floating spider and a very small split shot.

Within 2-3 seconds we had a fish on. Once we realized that the fish were riding high we switched gears. On each of our rods we placed a Missile Casting Float from Stopper Lures. These are plastic missile shaped floats that are deadly with a fly in the spring time.

These floats have an eye on both ends. Your main line ties onto one end and a dropper or leader line on the other end. The key is in keeping the leader line as long as possible but still a few inches shorter than the length of your rod. This makes casting much easier and keeps distance between the float and your offering.

On the business end we used either a Hot Leg Spider, a Black Gnat fly or an Ice Spider or an Ice Ant. The ice jigs are winter teardrops with either rubber legs or hand tied feather hackle. The two jigs are preferred if the fish are hitting best say down 1-3 feet from the surface. They sink very slowly!

The first two are used on pure surface feeding fish. Simply cast out and reel in the slack so that your line to the float is tight. Let it set for a few seconds and start twitching it in. Move it in 6-12 inches at a time and let it rest for a few seconds.

The flies will stay on the surface and look like a bug skittering across the surface. The ice flies look like some type of plankton or water insects rising up and down. If you wish you can add a spike or a wax worm. We first go without any bait and add if the situation calls for it.

When you find a school of fish you can bet that they will be within 100 yards of the same location the next day. Maybe 200 yards if the wind changes. Only after a hard wind or during a cold front will the fish change up drastically.

Rafts and docks are a great location for surface fish. Just remember that these are private property so avoid walking on them or fishing them when the owner is using them. The best docks sit close to the water and I like the old rafts that have cobwebs hanging off of them.

Fishing with a missile float is much easier for kids. They like the visual sight of the float. The floats come in clear and in two high visibility colors. It is a system that can be used for much of the open water season.



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