Fishing

Attack of Gillzilla — my run-in with a monstrous bluegill at Halverson Lake

This massive bluegill was an unexpected catch at Halverson Lake.
This massive bluegill was an unexpected catch at Halverson Lake. Special to the Idaho Statesman

Early summer sight fishing is one of my absolute favorite pastimes.

There’s something especially thrilling about slowly stalking or trolling around a lake, alert to every movement happening under the surface. With the sun shining and a good pair of polarized glasses on, it’s pretty incredible how well you can watch the action unfold.

And every once in a while, it’s hard to believe your eyes.

My most recent shocker came on a trip to tiny Halverson Lake, one of my favorite off-the-grid spots off the Snake River near Melba. Conditions were perfect as I hiked into the desert oasis — sunny skies, warm weather and barely a hint of wind.

It was time to hunt some bass.

As I approached my first spot, I saw several decent-sized bass patrolling the shallows. Taking cover behind some tall cattails, I pitched a plastic worm into their general vicinity.

Fish on! One cast, one fish. It was going to be a good day.

I continued working my way around the lake, picking up more than a dozen healthy largemouth. Most fish were singled out by sight, and I often got to watch the take happen. There’s nothing better than witnessing the unharnessed aggression of a hungry bass on the prowl.

After a while, I came to a spot that looked especially promising. I scrambled over some rocks and peeked over a large boulder to have a look. Sure enough, there was a respectable bass hiding among the reeds.

Then I did a double take. I even wiped my sunglasses clean to make certain. This was no bass. It was a bluegill! And it was the biggest one I’d ever seen.

The soft plastics I was using were too big for a bluegill, even this Frisbee-sized specimen. Luckily, I had a container of live worms with me just in case I stumbled upon some keeper-sized ’gills.

It was time to sight-fish this beast.

I quickly tied on a small jig, tipped it with a piece of worm and dangled it in front of Gillzilla’s lair. I wish I could tell you it was a long, drawn-out battle of wits, but it wouldn’t be true. A panfish doesn’t get that big by being a halfhearted eater. On the second or third twitch of my lure, he came charging out and inhaled the jig.

I’m not sure if it’s the refraction of the water or your mind playing tricks on you, but a lot of sight-fished catches wind up being slightly smaller than you thought they’d be. That wasn’t the case this time — this fish was over 10 inches long, as round as a dinner plate and easily over a pound in weight. It would have broken the current catch-and-release state record, but he half-swallowed the hook and I already had a few nice bluegills on the stringer for dinner. So on this rare occasion, the whopper came home with me.

I finished the day with a few more bass and hiked out with a half-dozen ’gills for the frying pan. Gillzilla dwarfed them all. Who knows? Proportionately, that might turn out to be the biggest fish I catch all year.

Chalk it up as reason No. 101 why sight fishing is the best. Tight lines!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors@idahostatesman.com.

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