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Bluegill and Shellcracker Team Up for Fun
by Steve McCadams

 Does the sight of a bending pole and a line zipping through the water stir up your fishing pox? How about a tugging good time from a fish with a hefty appetite and an attitude to go with it?

 Time is at hand to test your tackle on some bedding bluegill or redear sunfish, commonly referred to as shellcracker. 

  It's an annual ritual that occurs every year in early May. Shellcracker swim the shallow coves where submerged grass and bushes mix to offer them a comfort zone for spawning. Bluegill are often close by too, fanning craters in the mud bottom where a little gravel is mixed in for good measure.

 Should you happen to toss a cricket or wax worm into their world and trespass on their little homestead, war can break out in seconds. Enter their zone if you dare but be prepared for a fight to the finish.

 For over a week now the rusty rascals have been on their spawning spree all over Kentucky Lake. Every angler should partake of a few hours of battle with these powerful panfish that really pack a punch.

 Once warm weather arrives, these feisty species go on bed in the 1 to 4 foot zones. Surface temperatures need to be in the mid to upper 60's before they initiate spawning and there's the influence of a full moon that further stimulates activity.

 Males approach the shallows first and set up shop. Often referred to as "bulls", the male bluegill take on a dark green appearance on their ventral side with a bright orange belly below. Their hormonal changes cause the deep, dark color phases which signal the peak of spawning. Female bluegill sport a light green or pale yellow appearance.

 Redear also have similar changes as the males are greenish all over while the females are somewhat yellow in appearance. The distinct red gill flap separates them from bluegill and usually they're larger and somewhat longer.

 Redear sunfish get their name from the red gill flap but most southern anglers refer to them as shellcracker as they feed on small, freshwater mussels that inhibit the lake bottom.

 In addition to being fun to catch, both species offer tasty fillets. In fact, many anglers rate them right up there with crappie or saugar when itcomes to a fish fry. 

 Crickets are the bait of choice for bluegill while redear are known to have a passion for redworms or wax worms, also known as meal worms. The little white grub is a tasty delight but sometimes the fish hit the bait just to defend the nest.

 Casting a light spinning rig with a few split shots, long shank bait
keeper hook and a bobber will put you in business.

 While it's a great way to introduce a youngster to the great sport of fishing, it tends to bring out the kid in all of us once the bobber disappears time after time.

 Some things never go out of style. Fishing for bluegill and shellcracker in the peak of the spawn is one of them.

 Don't wait for the fish alarm to sound. Now is the time to strike a trot to the lake and wet a hook for these babies.
 There's another two or three weeks of prime spawning time too so grab a friend and head on out. If you show up with the bait and tackle, these fish will provide the fun and excitement.

Steve McCadams
 is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area and host of The Outdoor Channel's television series  IN-PURSUIT.