My family and I followed the interpretive naturalist around the small lake, we were amazed at all the wildlife we saw around the water. The night before, we had looked at the park’s program schedule and found that there was going to be a “fishy friends” hike the next morning. It sounded like fun, and it was.

The interpreter told us that water is one of the main keys to supporting life. Boy, was he ever right! We saw frogs, toads, turtles, butterflies, dragonflies, birds and even a muskrat. However, our objective was to learn about bluegills, a small fish that inhabits many Indiana waters.

The interpreter told us that the scientific name for the bluegill is Lepomis macrochirus. The name is Greek. The first part of the name means “scaled gill cover,” the second part of the name means “large hand.”

I learned that bluegills belong to the sunfish family. The family includes largemouth and smallmouth bass, rock bass, both white and black crappies and pumpkin seeds.

All sunfish, including bluegills are nest builders. It was easy to spot their “nests,” as we walked around the lake. Their saucer-shaped “nests” can be found along the shoreline of ponds, lakes and streams in the late spring.

The nest usually consists of a circular depression in silt, sand or gravel. The male swims close to the nest and guards both eggs and newly-hatched young. Only a few days after hatching, the young emerge from the nest, at which time they are on their own to fend for themselves.

It was fun learning about bluegills, but the interpreter had one more surprise for us. As we walked back to the parking lot, he invited us over to his park truck. Inside was a cooler with clear plastic cups filled with green and blue Jell-O. Inside the Jell-O, there were gummy fish suspended in the gelatin, and it made them look like they were swimming in water. What fun!