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An Ogemaw County Year; Bluegills

Updated: Jun 30

This post is part of a project in the works; "An Ogemaw County Year". The blog and eventually the book will encompass nature noticing, research and facts over the course of a year with a watercolor painting for each entry. Originals and prints will be available via the website as they are completed and prepped and the book will be available upon completion.


 

As I paddled towards the kayak launch on a calm, sunny morning at Devoe Lake, I felt the serenity of the water around me. As I approached the shore, the water became crystal clear, revealing the lakebed below. Leaning over the edge of my kayak, I peer into the depths and spot numerous small depressions scattered across the sandy bottom. These are the nests of Bluegill, nature's jewels of the lake.


Each depression was  guarded by a vigilant shadow—a male Bluegill, shimmering in the sunlight. These dedicated fish hover protectively over their nests, their vibrant colors flashing as they fanned their fins to keep the water circulating around the eggs. The scene was mesmerizing, a testament to the dedication and resilience of these small but significant inhabitants of the lake.


I took a moment to marvel at the sight, careful not to disturb their delicate ecosystem. The water around me teems with life, a microcosm of the intricate balance that sustains the lake. It's a privilege to witness such a vital part of nature's cycle, right from the edge of my kayak.


Cherished by anglers of all ages and skill levels, Bluegill are prevalent in most Midwestern lakes. These adaptable fish thrive in shallower, warmer waters where other species might struggle. They have a hearty appetite and will consume nearly anything that doesn't eat them first, from breadcrumbs to insect larvae and even a moth on the water's surface. They feed almost constantly during the spring and summer, making them an exciting catch for fishing enthusiasts.


Bluegills play a crucial role in any lake or pond ecosystem, serving as a vital food source for many predators, including herons, larger fish, and anglers. Even their eggs and young are consumed by creatures like snails and crayfish.


Near the banks, you might observe Bluegill nests, which are shallow depressions in the sandy or muddy lakebed. These nests are constructed and meticulously maintained by male Bluegills. The males clear away plants and debris to create an ideal spot to attract females, who lay their eggs in the nest. Once the eggs are laid, the male guards them diligently, fanning the nest with his fins to ensure proper water flow and to deter predators, including other Bluegills. Interestingly, these nests are often found in colonies, with multiple males building their nests close together. They appear to recognize their neighbors and avoid each other's eggs, though how they achieve this remains somewhat mysterious.


The male Bluegill's dedication is impressive. He continues to fan and guard the nest for 5 to 10 days until the eggs hatch and the tiny fry can swim away. This nesting activity typically occurs in late May or early June when the water temperature rises above 55 degrees.


At the Rifle River Recreation Area, this fascinating process can be observed at the kayak launch on Devoe Lake in June. We take care to avoid disturbing the Bluegill nests near the shore, launching our boats from the dock instead of the bank. It is truly a delight to witness these jewel-like fish protecting their nests, a small yet vital part of the lake's vibrant ecosystem.


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