Bobber and worm fishing for Bluegills and other panfish

By Sam Thompson

Bluegills are a perfect target for fisher people who want something that’s easy to catch, but still tasty if you choose to keep a few for the pan (hence the term panfish). Because they are aggressive feeders and are present in extremely large numbers in many Washington lakes and rivers, they are ideal for kids and novice anglers alike.

Bluegills and other panfish (pumpkin seeds, crappie, etc…) can be caught with many different techniques. Just to name a few, jigs, flies, rubber worms and night crawlers will all catch bluegill and other panfish.  My favorite method as a child was a worm and bobber rig. Some of my fondest childhood memories are fishing for bluegills in Fazon Lake in WhatcomCounty.  There were evenings when I would catch and release over 50 fish in the span of half an hour.

Overall, it’s a fairly simple rig. The diagram below illustrates my preferred method of rigging up a float and worm rig. Since these fish are small in size, large examples reaching only half a pound or so, I recommend using an ultra light rod rigged with 4 or 6lb test line. For their size, these little guys fight hard and the ultra light setup adds to the fun.

bluegill rigging diagram

I like to cut my night crawlers into ¼” to ½” long pieces before putting them on the hook. Since panfish have very small mouths, giving them nice bite sized chunks means a better chance of them getting the hook. This is also a good time to talk about hook size. If you’re planning to keep everything you catch, bait holder hooks with barbs on the back of the shank are fine. Sizes should be small, 8 to 10. If however you’re planning to release most or all of the fish, use larger, barbless hooks. The larger hooks are less likely to get inhaled and lodge in the gills, mortally wounding the fish.  To aid in casting ease and also to keep your float sitting correctly you’ll want to add a few small “split shot” weights to the line just below your bobber (as shown in the illustration). Split Shot is traditionally made of lead. These days there are many eco-friendly options available as well.

Remember, these fish have very sharp and spiny dorsal (the one running down their back) fins and should be handled with care. The best way to avoid getting spiked while removing them is to gently push the spines back and down against the fish’s back, then using your hand, maintain gentle pressure to keep the spines from popping back up and spiking you.

What you’ll need:

Float: thin wood or plastic float, a classic red and white plastic bobber will also work fine.

Hook: Size 8 – 12 bait holder if planning to keep fish, size 10 – 12 barbless if planning to release fish.

Weight: 2 – 3 medium size split shot

Bait: Night crawlers cut into pieces or red wigglers cut in half