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Bluegill

Practically every state in the lower 48 has waters that support a population of bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus). This scrappy panfish is the most common species in farm ponds and smaller waters everywhere. Hardy (they tolerate a wide range of water quality), abundant (one female bluegill may deposit as many as 38,000 eggs in her nest), sporting for its size (it typically swims at right angles to the angler when hooked, and pulls extremely hard when doing so), and usually not finicky about feeding (insects, snails, small baitfish, worms, and, as many a kid has discovered, bread balls), the bluegill provides about as much guaranteed sport as any species can. They also are superb table fare, ranking with the yellow perch and walleye in that category.

The downside, if any, is the bluegill's size. A 1-pound bluegill is a whopper; unfortunately, bluegills are so prolific that a population of them can quickly become stunted if fish are not removed regularly.

Best baits include garden worms and red worms, grasshoppers, crickets, grubs, and small minnows. Lure fishermen can use small jigs and spinners, miniature crankbaits, and small soft plastic baits. Flyfishermen can enjoy quick, tremendous sport by casting small dry flies, wet flies, and nymphs.

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