Maybe you’ve heard the rumor going around that bluegills cause more than 500 human deaths per year? You might have seen the Facebook post stating that a school of bluegills can dismantle a human body in less than 15 minutes. It’s been widely shared all over the web. But is there any truth to it? Is the bluegill a dangerous fish? A viral Facebook post went around last year claiming they were some of the most dangerous fish in America.
If you’re into fishing, you might be concerned. Do you need to avoid this hazard when you’re out fishing? And where did the rumor come from, anyway?! Let’s take a closer look at the truth behind this rumor and find out whether bluegills really are dangerous!
If you want to know the World Record Bluegill, see our post here.
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Is The Bluegill Fish Dangerous?
Bluegills are one of the most common types of gamefish. This freshwater fish is found in water all over North America, from Mexico all the way up to Canada. You’re likely to find bluegills living in a pond, lake, or stream near you. But recently, posts have been going around on Facebook, stating that bluegills are related to piranhas and just as deadly.
So, what’s the truth behind the story? Well, you’ll be glad to hear that there’s no evidence whatsoever that bluegills have ever caused a human death. Bluegills are a type of sunfish and are also referred to as blue sunfish, copperbellies, copperheads, and bream.
There’s no relation or link at all between the bluegill and the piranha. The only thing these two species have in common is that they’re both freshwater fish, but with very different habitats. The piranha’s natural habitat is in the rivers and basins of South America. Bluegills can be found all over Northern America – but there’s no overlap at all with piranhas.
Bluegill are quite a small fish, growing up to about 12 inches in total. Rather than being a predator, bluegills are prey to everything from trout and muskies to herons, turtles, and otters. And to reassure you, a bluegill’s spikes on the dorsal fins are not poisonous, either! While some fish may have toxins in their spikes, this isn’t true for bluegill.
Bluegills are one of the most common types of fish for fly fishers and anglers to target. There’s no reason at all to think that bluegill fish are a hazard. If you give it a try, you’ll discover that fishing for bluegill is great fun! These spirited little fish can put up a mean fight when you hook one. (They taste good, too!) Check out our article on fly fishing for bluegills here at Fly Fisher Pro.
What Do Bluegills Bite?
Now we know that bluegills do not eat or kill humans, and they are not known to bite the human body. In fact, the bluegills’ teeth are very small. Even if bluegills did try to bite humans, they would struggle to break the surface of the skin. So people have nothing to fear from the harmless bluegill. That just goes to show how little bluegills have in common with piranha. They are very different (and less threatening!).
So what do they actually eat? Bluegills mainly live off a diet of worms, crustaceans, smaller fish, and insect larvae. The bluegill is partial to caddisflies, dragonflies, and mayflies, and will pick them off the top of the surface. They will also eat them in larvae form, lower down in the river, or along the bottom. Bluegills are omnivores, so underwater vegetation is also a source of food for the bluegill species, too.
What Eats Bluegill?
The truth is that we’re much more likely to kill and eat bluegill than the other way around! Many people enjoy fishing for this species, as they are boisterous and put up a lively fight, making it into a great game. The bluegill fish is a tasty food too, especially when caught fresh and panfried. Kids often start learning how to fish by catching this abundant little sunfish, before moving on to game fish like trout or bass.
Bluegill aren’t just threatened by people, however. As they are so defenseless, many different species of fish, birds, and animals like to snack on bluegill. Larger gamefish will happily kill and eat bluegill. But they are also prey to birds, including herons and kingfishers. Even land animals like raccoons and otters count bluegill as a good source of food.
Who started the rumor that bluegill are dangerous?
So, we know the rumor about bluegills being deadly isn’t true! But where did it come from in the first place? Every angler worth their salt will be able to tell you that bluegill don’t bite or kill humans.
It seems that this post was first shared by Southern Catfishing in 2018. While the post says that the snippet of info was taken from Ohio Fish News and originally published in 1987. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll soon find out that there is no such newspaper or magazine called the Ohio Fish News. 
The page that shared this weird meme, Southern Catfishing, seems to have shared it ironically as a bit of a laugh – but some people took it as factual. If anyone who’s not an angler came across this post, they might have thought that it was literal and not tongue in cheek. This lead to a crazy spike in people searching for answers about the danger of these harmless fish.
If you are interested, you can check out our guide here on Fly Fishing Arizona.
Are Piranhas Dangerous?
The quick answer is that yes, piranhas are dangerous. They have sharp, powerful teeth that can give a nasty bite. But there’s a little bit more to it than that, because piranhas are actually pretty lazy! More often than not, piranhas will scavenge meat from dead creatures in the water than attack an animal or human. 
If you ended up in the water with piranhas, they would be more likely to see you as a danger than as a source of food for them. That’s because piranhas aren’t designed to eat people – we’re not their natural prey. However, if they feel threatened, they may attack as a form of self-defense, so piranhas are still a real hazard to humans.
Are Bluegills Dangerous? FAQ
If you’ve got questions about bluegill, here’s where you’ll find the answers!
Do bluegills eat people?
No, bluegills do not eat people, you’ll be glad to know. Bluegill fish prefer to eat insects, small fish, and crustaceans. There is no evidence at all that a bluegill fish has ever bitten a human or attacked anyone. People have nothing to worry from bluegill, even if you come across a school of them in the water.
What is the most dangerous fish?
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, one of the most dangerous fish in the world is the pufferfish. They are venomous creatures that are highly toxic to humans. Some of the other most dangerous fish species include the lionfish, which can cause nasty wounds from their deadly fin spines, the candiru, and the great white shark. 
The piranha is up there in the top 10 most dangerous fish, too. It’s well-known that a school of freshwater piranha can strip a human body of flesh in a matter of seconds.
So there you have it. There’s no truth behind the Facebook memes that keep popping up, trying to convince people that the harmless bluegill is a deadly creature. Piranhas and bluegills are no relation to each other, living on different continents and belonging to different families.
Bluegills won’t bite you, but they will put up a fight if you catch them! That’s why fly fishing for bluegills is such good fun. So get on out there, catch yourself a bluegill, and fry yourself some dinner!
The Wrap Up
So there you have it. There’s no truth behind the Facebook memes that keep popping up, trying to convince people that the harmless bluegill is a deadly creature. You have absolutely no reason to worry about bluegills. They are not harmful to humans and would not attack or bite you. Piranhas and bluegills are no relation to each other, living on different continents and belonging to different families of fish.
Bluegills won’t bite you, but they will put up a fight if you catch them! That’s why fly fishing for bluegills is such good fun. So get on out there, catch yourself a bluegill, and fry yourself some dinner! For more articles about fishing, visit Fly Fisher Pro. And feel free to share this article if you found it helpful!