Column: Bluegill are bountiful at West Boggs

Photo Provided by Larry LaGrange
Larry LaGrange (right) and Father Don Ackerman cleaned the fish they had caught at West Boggs Lake. If you enjoy bluegill fishing, Boggs is one of the best selections in the area to catch a large amount.

By Larry LaGrange

Bluegill fishing? My dad would cringe. He considered the lowly gill to be a starter fish and not much more. Kid stuff.

The only times I ever saw him bluegill fish were on two occasions when the bass weren’t cooperating at Kentucky Lake and then again at Reelfoot Lake. At Kentucky, the mayfly hatches in late May to early June were something. For a short period, willow trees along the bank would be laden with mayflies. Maybe an inch or so long, these non-biting dragonfly-looking bugs were caviar to bluegill. Puzzled, we watched anglers beating on certain willows with boat paddles; we quickly realized they were helping the mayflies tumble down and hit the water. There could be thousands on one willow, and there were plenty of willows. When the flies hit the water, anglers would back off, and soon bluegill would come running. It was a feast for fish and fisherman — if you like bluegill, which dad didn’t. But that year the bass had abandoned the shallows for the deep, and our fishing was shot down, so we caught some bluegill, reluctantly. Occasionally a bass would join the melee.

The other occasion was at Reelfoot Lake in the mid 60s. We had tried Kentucky Lake, but it was high and unfishable, so we opted to run down to the earthquake-formed lake, which neither of us had seen but had only heard about. I recall clearly going into the boat dock office and dad asking about bass fishing.

“Bass?” the dock guy said. “This is bluegill season, man. You can catch ‘em good right now! Nobody’s bass fishing!”

And people were catching them — buckets and coolers and fish baskets full of nice gills. So, if you can’t beat ‘em… We tried our hand at it and caught some on our bass outfits, but Dad’s heart wasn’t in it. He was die hard bass. And the heavy equipment we used wasn’t suited to bluegill.

So that brings us up to the present. Last year in mid May, some friends and I did a couple of days at West Boggs Lake, north of Loogootee. The fellows who joined me liked to bluegill fish, and I have learned to love crappie, so I figured I would enjoy catching some of those little guys, just to be sociable. I hadn’t been to Boggs in years but I had heard that it had been renovated in 2014 and fishing was good.

The first spot we pulled up to on the first evening looked promising. A sunken tree always has something on it. I baited up with a meal worm, also new to me. About an inch long, these guys are perfect panfish fare. I set a bobber about three feet deep, cast out near the tree, and waited maybe 30 seconds. The cork slid a little to one side, and I set the hook. I thought I had a nice crappie, but no, it was a bluegill, a heavyweight loaded with eggs. It was a struggle to pull out with my limber crappie pole.

I thought, “This bluegill thing might be OK.”

Did we knock it out of the park? No, but we caught some really nice fish, heavy with spawn and packing a punch on light tackle. It was enjoyable. Who can tire of seeing that cork slide glide away, knowing it might be a pound gill on the other end? Very few small fish bothered us — most were definite keepers. The lake’s 622 acres have plenty of shoreline cover and abundant grasslines; the whole place just looks “fishy.”

This year two friends and I returned for an encore the first week of May. We rented a trailer for two nights. These three-bedroom mobile homes go for $99 a night, and they are clean and comfortable. There are four of them about 100 yards from the shore, so we could pull up to the bank for lunch or a rest and easily walk up to the trailer. Cabins and a 250-site campground are also available.

Check-in was at two, so we got unpacked, arranged our gear, and headed out to see if we could find some spawning spots. Even though it was mid-afternoon, the first area proved productive and after that it was game on. We ended up our evening, day, and one morning’s efforts with 84 fish that we cleaned, all bluegills and redears except for one crappie. We had caught numerous bass, but none had hit the 14-inch keeper mark. They were  entertaining on our light tackle, but we were always disappointed to find it was a bass tugging back and not another keeper bluegill to take home for the pan. Soon this lake will be a first-class largemouth spot.

Gate fees are pricey. Entrance is $8 and launching is $8. The good side of the cost is that it keeps some folks away, so there’s less pressure. But it might be worth the price, especially if you like bull bluegill or sporty bass. Just a lot of fun is a good description for Boggs.

Go to for all the activities this nearby place has to offer. Call 812-295-3421 for information on the rentals.

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