The Hybrid Bluegill

 What is a Hybrid Bluegill?

Hybrid Bluegill

Hybrid Bluegfill Photo courtesy of Blake Facey

The hybrid bluegill is the result of a cross between a male bluegill and a female green sunfish, resulting in a fish that appears much like its male parent with an oval body and pointed pectoral fins, but it has a distinguishing deep yellow to orange color belly.  It also has a slightly larger mouth than the standard bluegill and will be more aggressive than its pure bluegill parent.

How to Identify These Fish

The body coloring can range from olive to bluish purple with 6 to 8 vertical, darker olive stripes across the length of the body.  Blue, arcing stripes are featured below the mouth, proceeding back to the gills; the feature that gives the bluegill its name.   However, females and young do not exhibit these color features in nearly the intensity as observed in adult males.

The hybrid bluegill has become one of the most popular pond-stocking fish.  It is easy to catch, particularly for shore-bound fishermen.  It is a delicious fish to eat, adding to its gaming appeal.

Once resident in the eastern states from Canada to Mexico, intentional stocking and inadvertent human intervention has widened its habitat to every state, but their greatest abundance is still east of the Mississippi River watershed.

They are plentiful in all manner of water whether lake or stream and will flourish anywhere that will provide optimum temperature, sufficient food and breeding area.  While they prefer the calm water of a lake, pond or reservoir, rivers and streams that feature pockets of calm water will easily accommodate them.

The hybridization results in an extreme overbalance of male to female offspring; about 90 percent of the offspring will be male.  This has consequences that should be well understood for those who are concerned with re-stocking ponds.

Ponds that are stocked with the standard bluegill and not frequently fished will typically result in an over-population of bluegill.  Since an over-population will result in less food, the growth of the fish will be stunted, making it an unfavorable game fish that may result in wiping out the population of fish.

One of the easiest remedies is to fish the over-populated pond more frequently, but this may become a never-ending battle because as long as food is available, the bluegill will continue to reproduce.  The stunted growth may become a constant concern.

Another remedy is to stock the pond with a supply of hybrid bluegill.  Because a typical population of hybridized fry will be approximately 90 percent male, the population will not breed as readily.  This is not to be construed as a zero-growth remedy because 10 percent of the stocked population will be female.  Even though hybridized, these fish are still fertile and will reproduce, but the reproduction rate will be significantly reduced.

Habits of the Hybrid Bluegill

Hybrid bluegill, and their pure bluegill parent, prefer warmer, shallow water, which is why shore fishermen catch them readily.  A careful observation each season should see bluegill in the shallows along the shore of the pond.  If they are still evident, even at breeding season when they are more readily caught, then re-stocking is likely not necessary.

Hybrid bluegill, like their parent, can be caught during the entire year and are even known to be caught by ice fishing, but their easiest harvest is during the spawning season in the spring.  Later in summer, they will move to deeper water and will not be as easily caught.  A smaller lure is necessary because of their small mouth relative to body size.  Grasshoppers and night crawlers are ideal bait; fly-fishing with a small fly will also be successful.  Once one hybrid bluegill is caught, the likelihood of more success is high because they tend to congregate in schools.

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