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How Big Do Bluegill Get? (With Average and Record Sizes)

How Big Do Bluegill Get? (With Average and Record Sizes)

Featured image courtesy of Dan Spengler

Despite being a pretty small fish species, the bluegill is one of the most popular game fish of the wider sunfish family.

Given its status and immense popularity, I decided to do some research on the size of bluegill and write this article. I hope you’ll find it informative!

Bluegill have a maximum size of about 14 to 16 inches and 4 to 5 pounds. The average bluegill will have a length of about 4 to 8 inches and an approximate weight of 3 to 12 ounces.

Keep reading this article to find out more about the varying size and growth rate of bluegill and how big the current world record gill is.

What Is the Maximum Size of Bluegill?

a happy angler on his boat holding a super sized bluegill
Courtesy of Dan Spengler

Like all panfish, bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) aren’t the biggest of freshwater fish species. Nonetheless, they are an extremely popular fish that can be found in many US states.

Because of their relatively small and compact body shape, they can inhabit tiny lakes and ponds, which makes them a desirable target species in such water bodies. 

In the right conditions, fully grown bluegill can reach a maximum length of about 14 to 16 inches and a maximum weight of 4 to 5lb. 

4lb+ fish are scarce and usually only found in waters that can produce the right conditions.

Such conditions can include:

  • water temperature
  • size of the water body
  • water depth
  • oxygen levels
  • food abundance
  • predation
  • population size
  • genetics
  • hybridization

Hybrid bluegills (a crossing of male bluegill and female green sunfish) occur in many lakes and ponds and can sometimes fool anglers, as they often grow somewhat bigger than regular bluegill.

These hybrid gills usually have larger mouths, thicker backs, and bigger bellies, which is why some anglers think they’ve caught a real giant. 

And they kind of have! It’s just not a “real” bluegill they’ve caught.

On the other hand, if you do manage to hook a 3 or 4lb common bluegill, you really have caught yourself a monster!

What Is the Average Size of Bluegill?

a fisher on a lake holding a smaller bluegill
Courtesy of Dan Spengler

On average, bluegill have a length of about 4 to 8 inches and a weight of 4 to 12 ounces. 

But once again, the maximum and average size of any given bluegill population is based on various factors. 

The length of the winter season and the corresponding water temperatures are probably the two most important factors.

That’s why your average bluegill down in Florida will measure 6 to 8 inches, while the average gill up in Minnesota might only measure 4 to 6 inches. 

Another often overlooked factor is fishing pressure

Bluegill are an extremely popular fish species and excellent table fare. 

In fact, they are ranked as one of the tastiest freshwater species in America (some say they even taste better than walleye) and the number one among all the sunfish species (and there are quite a few). 

It’s not a big surprise, then, that many anglers take home many of the bigger bluegill they catch.

That, in turn, can affect the entire population and reduce the average size of the remaining fish.  

PRO TIP: If you want to keep catching monster gills, be sure to practice catch and release! 

What State Has the Biggest Bluegill?

If you want to catch giant bluegill, you’ll have to head south or west! The states of Kentucky, Arizona, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and California, in particular, are excellent slab bluegill destinations.

Once again, the most obvious reason is the temperatures and warm climate down there, which simply means that many fish species grow larger than further up north, where the climate is colder.

Other reasons include the lack of larger predators (such as northern pike and musky) and the fact that these southern states have many well-managed bluegill fisheries. 

What Is the Biggest Bluegill Ever Caught?

The current world record bluegill is an ancient catch from 1950. 

This was a genuinely colossal bluegill that weighed close to 5lb, and the fact that it was caught more than 70 years ago shows you how rare these enormous creatures really are.

The behemoth of 4lb 12oz was caught on Ketona Lake (Alabama) on April 9th, 1950, by angler T. Hudson. It measured an unbelievable 15 inches, which is very large for this species. 

Again, a bluegill of such an incredible weight and length is extremely rare, and the question is if this particular world record will ever be broken. Only time will tell, I guess!

How Big Is a Trophy Bluegill?

an angler holding a trophy bluegill is his hand
Courtesy of Dan Spengler

Generally speaking, most anglers would agree that a true trophy bluegill will measure at least 10 inches and weigh around 14 ounces to 1 pound.

But the definition of a trophy bluegill will vary from state to state, so it’s not really that easy!

As I’ve mentioned earlier, southern bluegill tend to grow bigger than those found in the northern states.

And so, anglers from Minnesota or Michigan might consider an 8-inch bluegill a trophy fish, while anglers from Florida or Texas might call a 10-incher a trophy catch.

As always when it comes to fishing, it’s all about perspective.

If you’ve never caught a bluegill in your life and then catch your first fish of 5 inches or so, you might call that first fish a trophy. And why not!?

Catching a new species is always something special, and you’ll probably always remember that first bluegill.

So, to you, that fish is a trophy catch.

Fishing is all about the joy of the catch and to be one with nature.

Any fish can be a personal best, and you can always catch a bigger one and then call that one a trophy! There are no actual rules or regulations here, so it’s all up to you!

How Fast Do Bluegill Grow?

a panfish angler measuring a bluegill
Courtesy of Dan Spengler

In optimal conditions, bluegill grow relatively fast and can reach an approximate size of 4 to 5 inches after only two years.

Furthermore, most fish also reach sexual maturity at age two, which explains why many bluegill populations are so huge.

However, once they reach 7 or 8 inches in length (age 5 to 7), their growth rate slows considerably to about half an inch or so per year. 

What’s also interesting is how important water temperature seems to be for the bluegill’s speed of growth.

Researchers have found that their growth rate and overall body size are usually lower and smaller in constant water temperatures above 93F and below 77F.

According to their study, the optimal temperature range for bluegill is between 85 and 88F. 

How Old Do Bluegill Get?

Bluegill can reach the impressive age of 11 or 12 years. Fish of that age tend to measure between 12 and 14 inches and 3 to 4 pounds.

The average lifespan for most bluegills is somewhat shorter, between 5 and 8 years.

These average-aged fish will have an approximate size of 6 to 10 inches and 3 ounces to 1 pound.