The Saga of the Sea Run Bluegills

Note: I'm including one of the original posts on the topic of anadromous bluegill to go along with the bad poetry.

Date: Tue, 5 Mar 1996 11:55:57 EST
Subject: Sea-run 'Gills Confessions

Well, folks, since Creed let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, about our Sea-Run 'Gills here in Virginia, I guess I'd better 'fess up. We've been sort of keeping a low profile on this information, hoping to eventually get things back to normal, but now that Creed talked, I'll explain. I live right on the Occoquan Reservoir in Northeastern Virginia, and fish for the 'Gills quite a bit now. When I first moved into this house, I'd walk down to the water with my &'9" 4wt, tie on some #14 nymph, knot a piece of flashabou on the tippet just above the fly, and have a ball. Most of the bluegill here were the native freshwater-only fish, and were in the 4 to 6 inch range, with an occasional one pushing 8 inches. These little critters were always hungry and a lot of fun on light tackle.

Then it happened: some idiot in the water authority maintenance crew forgot to shut off the spillway one night and allowed the water to continue to pour over into the lower Occoquan River (a tributary of the Potomac in the brackish tidal waters). The reservoir only went down a couple of inches, so everyone thought it was no big deal; first rainstorm would lift the level right back up to full. The big deal, however, was that some of those d**n Sea-Run 'Gills managed to swim up the spillway, just like the wild salmon out West do, and got into the reservoir. Now, for those of you who have never seen one of these fish, you'd probably figure this was no big thing; the problem is a LOT of fish came up the spillway. Funny thing, how they won't try to come up the spillway during the day, but at night, they SWARMED up the water!. These fish are really beautiful: backs are colored an olive-black with silver under-color, sides are chrome-bright silver with black bars, the cheek is a brilliant royal blue, and a pure-white belly.

The other distinguishing characteristic is that they are BIG! The average size is around 18 to 20 inches long, and about 14 to 16 inches tall, from tip of dorsal fin down to belly. The average weight is around 10 pounds. I guess the closest thing to one of these you all might be familiar with is a Permit fish from down South. After a few weeks in the fresh water, the fish will lose a lot of the chrome-bright color, and begin to develop the normal bluegill coloration. These fish put on weight in the saltwater just like the steelhead do on the left coast.

It only took about two months for these things to eat up almost all of their smaller cousins, not to mention all the juvenile bass in the reservoir. In the spring, we normally are serenaded by the mating geese and ducks in the reservoir near the house. This area is known for raising large families of Canada Geese, Mallards, Teal, and various other varieties of waterfowl. This past spring, we saw very few. I wandered down to where the creek entered the main body of water one evening and stood on shore as a mallard and her family of 8 ducklings swam slowly up the creek not more than 20 feet away from me. As I was quiet and not moving, she must have figured I was harmless. All of a sudden, I saw a splash and one of the ducklings disappeared! Momma duck and the rest immediately made for the far shore of the 20 foot wide creek, but three more ducklings disappeared before they got there. I pulled out mypolaroid lensed sunglasses and suddenly saw what was happening: there was a "school" (looked more like a university, from the size of the fish) of the Sea-Run 'Gills that were feeding on the ducklings! Now, I always thought this was primarily done by muskies, pike, and a few big ol' hawg largemouth. Never thought I'd ever see some bluegills doing this.

I still go fishing on the reservoir, but now I use a 10wt with wire-snelled flies. There's a whole lot fewer fish, but when you do catch one, wow! We've had to post no-wading signs around the reservoir, because if you're wading when one of these fish hits, it'll pull you right on in, assuming you don't let go of the flyrod when all the line and backing is gone and fish keeps on pulling. The only safe way to fish for these is from a boat. On the average, your john-boat will be pulled a quarter-mile before the fish tires enough you can bring him alongside to release. The DFG has also posted signs about not fishing from canoes, as these fish pull hard enough they'll roll a canoe right on over.

The local fishermen have all been pressuring the DFG to leave the spillway open for a couple of nights in the fall when the Sea-Run 'Gills are trying to get back to the saltwater. Hopefully, if we manage to get rid of most of them, the native freshwater bluegill and the bass will be able to re-establish themselves in the reservoir. A lot of children who were used to catching fish have been disappointed for the last couple of years. Not to mention the catastrophic rise in the cost of duck and goose feathers at the local fly shops; we've had to tie mostly hair-based flies for the past year and a half now. It's also hard to buy a hook in a size larger than 1/0 these days. The last set of poppers I tied up, I had to use some Eagle Claw bait hooks. The baitholder barbs on the shank are actually pretty good as they help keep the wine bottle corks from turning on the shank. I'll really be glad to get back to tying some smaller flys someday - having to use two peacock tailfeathers in place of jungle cock for cheeks on streamers also gets expensive.

Well, now you know the sad problems we are having in Virginia in our warm water fishing.


"Bother," said Pooh, as he released another "dream bream."

If you're having a dream
About massive old bream,
Just heat up the pot
Until its quite hot
And cover that sucker with cream!

From: Chris Knight
Subject: Sea Run 'Gills

Brother Taylor wrote:

>Those are actually sea-run Capons, the smaller cousin of the sea-run
>Leghorns, often called River Chickens by the Caponese.

Can't say as I need much more inspiration than that for a brace of Sea-run 'Gill Haiku. 8^)

Anadromous 'gills
chrome scales with a burst of orange
built like a Harley

Surf and turf special
sea-run bluegill and capon
mythic feast of kings

Hell, you knew it would happen sooner or later, right? 8^))

From: Chris Knight
Subject: Sea Run 'Gills

Clyde wrote:

>Speaking of Sea Run 'Gills I tangled with one of 'em this past season.
>...... I took a quick photo of it and put it on the company ftp server.
> You can see it at:


Caught on Kodachrome
the cuddly steel rocket beast
Anadromous 'Gills

Chris Knight

Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997
From: Chris Knight
Subject: Landlocked Sea-Run 'Gills???

Agust wrote:

>The lake at Disney is private and you are supposed to >hire a guide to fish it.........
>There are some scary big bass in that lake, and bluegills
>that look like their steroid intake needs to be better regulated.

It's not just the steroids. No, sir. You've just brought to light something Disney would rather people not know about. In case you wanted to know the real reason Eisner got that huge severance package, it's because he threatened to blow the top off of this scandalous secret:

Who would've thought it
Disney stocking their lake with
feral sea-run 'gills

Largemouths easy prey
They're stocked as forage, mostly.
'gills: pain in the bass

Spawning migration
to the vast sea of R.V.s
better change those sheets

News Flash!: Claude Freaner captures mythic anadromous bluegill on film!

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