Boat Dock Bluegills


There are times when the fishing is slow, especially during the Dog Days of summer. But there’s a fishing method that often produces, even on the hottest days: boat dock bluegills. I remember being a kid, running up and down the dock where my grandfather resided on his houseboat. My target was the hundreds of bluegills readily visible, suspended in the shade of the dock. Another attractant around boat docks are the many brush piles created, by used Christmas trees and natural refuse. The boat owners place the brush there, and it creates a great place to fish when weather is bad.

When fishing is slow on the main lake, I think of those days as I search for a boat dock . Again, the target is bluegills. There are always a few that are ready and willing to step in and turn an otherwise mundane scorcher into loads of fun.

My favorite technique is using a bobber and a cricket or worm. Sometimes, the bluegills are lying up against the pillars and the sides of the boats. I tend to move in close to the outside of the dock and pitch my presentation into the shadiest part of the slip. Between a boat and the dock is a great place.  An empty slip with a boat on either side is even better. This creates a dark, shady hole for the bluegills to hide. These open slips give the angler many more feet of fishable dock. It also lessens the chance of hanging up on a tie-up rope on one of the boats. Hanging up means physically unhooking your rig from the rope or dock, and spooks the bluegills out of that slip for several minutes.

You can catch several bluegills from the same boat slip, but after two or three you’ll find that the bite has slowed. Move on to the next slip, and give that one a rest. The commotion of catching those fish will send the remaining fish scampering for more relaxing domains, but remember to return to the spot later. There was a reason that the fish were there, so they’ll be back. You can fish a relatively small dock all day, with great results.

The best tackle for boat dock bluegills is a simple spinning rod and reel setup. The reel should be spooled with 6- to 8-pound-test line. A split shot above a small panfish hook is perfect for crickets and worms. A bobber helps keep your presentation above the dock cables and brush below. Bluegills also love to suspend under boat docks, so adjusting the depth of your presentation is easy with a bobber that can be adjusted up and down the line. A bobber also gives you a visual indicator. What’s better than watching a bobber go under with the weight of a bluegill?

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Bass love to hang around the docks too, so don’t be surprised if upon setting the hook you find yourself battling a big largemouth after it’s engulfed the bluegill you’re playing to the boat. Many bass cruise these docks for the cover and food, and a big bass will find a struggling bluegill hard to resist. But the excitement that is sure to ensue is short lived more often than not, because of the light panfish tackle. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, just keep chasing those bluegills around the docks and someday it will. When it does, don’t be surprised if you’re rigging up the old bass rod with a little bigger hook and a bigger bobber. You get the idea—but that’s for another article.

The next time you find yourself on the lake and the bite is slow, take a cruise to your favorite dock, or pull out the map and locate a marina. You can also search for a road near the lake. These roads often lead you to a few private docks that could produce.

Lastly, I mentioned that my favorite technique is to use a worm or cricket with a bobber—however, if you want to seriously target some monster bluegills, try removing the bobber and replacing the worm or cricket with a fat minnow. A Rooster Tail also tends to bring on the big bluegills. One word of caution: when fishing docks without a bobber, be prepared for many hang-ups. Vertical fishing is the best way to combat this problem. Give it a try. If fishing vertical doesn’t work, you may have to back off and toss your presentation up alongside the docks and allow the bait to slowly fall. This is a great way to catch fillet-size bluegills, which, according to my mom, are the best-tasting fish on earth.