I went to catch bluegill to take on a guided trip I have coming up Monday and thought while I was catching the bluegill that I should put this little tip in the tips section. Catching bluegill is pretty simple but gut hooking them is a problem when you're wanting them to stay alive for a long time. This little tip is pretty important to me as I don't like killing the bluegill and catching them from a pond that has a lot of them there is a big percentage of them that swallows the hook before you know they're on the line. To prevent this from happening you just simply reel in very slowly and keep the bait moving. When they hit the bait like that you can see it instantly and you very seldom will gut hook one like that ... if you hook one deep it'll most of the time be in the gills and that's almost instant death for bluegills. Once you throw out let the bait sink and then start slowly cranking the float back to you and that's all there is to it ... I caught 30 bluegill today and only guthooked one because I was wiping the sweat from my forehead and eyes and wasn't reeling. The reason this prevents them from being gut hooked is because it's moving for one thing. when they bite they usually will swim away from the direction the float is traveling or to the side and since you're reeling they don't have time to get a double grip on the bait. I don't know if I can explain that properly but when a fish bites it usually bites down on the bait and then they'll try to swallow it ... when the bluegill strike the first time they're just getting it before their buddies get it and then as they're swimming off they'll try to swallow so this method doesn't give them time to swallow before the hook goes into their mouths. There is another way to prevent the hooks from being swallowed and that's to use a jig tipped with worm. About a 1/8th sized jig or smaller works pretty well.
Using traps is another good method to catch bluegill but there's too many nerodia water snakes around here and by the time I get back to the trap there's usually a snake or three in the trap eating the fish ... it's kinda tough to get the snakes out of the bluegill traps so I don't mess with the traps any more. it's kinda fun to catch bait with rod n reel too.
Keeping them alive is pretty easy. just a small ice chest with aeration will keep them alive for a long time. you have to change the water regularly if it's hot out due to the ammonia build-up. they can't tolerate that too well in hot weather. The way I'm keeping these alive is in my bait tank that I used to have in my truck and I put my air hose over in the tank with the air compressor turned on ... the fitting on the hose leaks a little and it's enough air to aerate the tank very well ... the air compressor kicks on about every 30 minutes or so which isn't a problem. you can buy those little bubble type aerators at walmart that work really well too because the bluegill don't require much aeration. they're a lot heartier than shad are and can take a little more abuse. I've kept 20 alive in a 5 gallon bucket many times using one of those aerators from walmart that use the flashlight batteries.
Revised May 16, 2006:
I went to walmart today and they were out of nightcrawlers and I was out of jigs so I picked up some 1/64th jig heads and some Berkley gulp nightcrawlers and Berkley Pink Maggots. I think those actually work a lot better than the nightcrawlers because they bite them just as well as the nightcrawlers and the Berkley gulp baits stay on the jigs better ... I'd take and reel them slowly back to me about 2 ft under a weighted float so they'd not be able to swallow the jig before I knew they were biting and I caught 30 bluegill and green sunfish in just about 30 minutes so I'm sold on the Berkley gulp nightcrawlers ... I tried the pink maggots and they worked okay when I'd pinch them in half but the pinches of nightcrawler seemed to work better on the 1/64th oz jigheads since they're so small ... the pink maggots are larger so I'd get hits but I don't think the hook would stick them as they maggots were just a little too big for those jig heads ... I think the 1/32nd oz jigheads would work a lot better on the pink maggots.