Catching Bream in the Cold Weather and the Hot Summer
Day 1: Use a Depth Finder to Catch Big Deep Water Bluegill Bream
Editor’s Note: Few people fish for bluegills in the coldest winter and the hottest summer months in the South – except for the late Steve Pope of Centre, Alabama, who was a fishing guide at Guntersville and Weiss lakes in north Alabama.
When Pope called me in February one year and asked me to go fishing with him, I asked, "Well, Steve, what are we going to catch?" "Big, deep-water bluegills," Pope replied. I'd never fished for bluegills in February except while ice fishing at Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota. Since I'd always thought of bluegills as shallow-water fish, I had trouble believing that Pope could catch them in water 40- to 50-feet deep. However, on this trip, I learned the secret of catching deep-water bluegills in extreme weather.
Pope's Deep-Water Discovery:
"A few years ago, I was catching bream in the late fall," Pope reported. "I'd been fishing in 15 feet of water with a bell sinker on the end of my line and a glitter jig my wife made tipped with a waxworm up the line without any luck. So, I began fishing along the edge of a rocky bluff. As I moved from one location to another, I spotted a large school of fish on my depth finder in 48 feet of water. I didn't know what they were, but I knew that almost any kind of fish would attack and eat a glitter jig with a waxworm.”
Pope dropped his bait down to the bottom, and made one turn up off the bottom with his reel and immediately hooked a fish. When the fish reached the surface, Pope saw that he had caught a 1/2-pound bluegill. "That bluegill was as fat as a little butterball," Pope stated. Pope quickly took the bream off the hook, put it in his livewell and dropped his glitter jig/waxworm combo back to the bottom. In less than 2 hours, he'd caught his limit of bluegills, loaded his boat up and gone home.
"After the day that I caught deep-water bream in the late fall, I started using my depth finder to look for schooling fish throughout the winter and cold weather," Pope explained. "I often spotted large schools of fish in 45 and 50 feet of water at Lake Guntersville in north Alabama. At first, I’d think they were bass. But every time I stopped on a school, the fish wouldn't take bass baits. Then I assumed they were crappie. However, the fish wouldn't hit minnows or jigs. Then, when I fished with crickets and glitter jigs tipped with waxworms, I always loaded my cooler with 1/2- to 1-pound bluegills. Besides next to sheer rock bluffs (see Day 1), I found bluegills in 40 to 50 feet of water around deep bridge pilings. I didn't know why the bluegills were holding in water that deep, but apparently there was something down there they were eating."
When I fished with Pope, I soon learned the wisdom of fishing deep in the winter for delicious-tasting bluegills. Once we pinpointed schools of bluegills in that deep water, we'd hold the boat over the school with a trolling motor and fish vertically for them. Our ultralight rods would bow under the hard charge of the bluegills as our 6-pound-test line knifed through the water.
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About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (AMA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.