PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Bluegills in South Dakota’s northeast lakes don’t grow very fast, according to a state fishery biologist.
Brian Blackwell of Webster has a study under way, trying to see whether state fishing regulations might be changed in some way that could lead to more big bluegills.
Some anglers want to catch trophy-sized bluegills, he explained Friday to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission.
So Blackwell is looking at bluegills in three lakes — Pickerel, Enemy Swim and Clear — to learn more about the populations.
He said bluegills take seven years or more to reach nine inches. That’s about as long as one-and-a-half dollar bills.
For comparison, most of the rooster pheasants that hunters shoot in South Dakota are less than one year old, and deer with sizable racks are four or five years in age.
And unlike yellow perch, which tend to not live beyond three years, bluegills can get to 10 years and older.
Blackwell’s study began in 2019. He runs trap nets along shorelines to capture quite a few, tags some of the larger ones and then releases them.
Anglers are asked to report catching tagged ones, with $100 rewards for hot-pink.
Male bluegills as they mature will build nests in May and early June as places for females to lay eggs. The males will aggressively defend the nests until the fry can swim away, according to Blackwell.
He said that vigor makes larger males on the nests vulnerable to anglers. They also can be more easily caught again in August, as the food supply of invertebrates dwindles.
Blackwell is working each of the three lakes on a three-year rotation, with Enemy Swim wrapping up this year, Pickerel in 2022 and Clear in 2024.
One of the things he’s studying is whether GFP’s daily bag limit of 15 is the right number. Minnesota reduced the catch limit to five on several lakes as part of trying to improve quality.
“Potentially we may want to go that direction,” Blackwell told the commission.