Monday, October 18, 2021

The Bluegill, Start to Finish

The bluegill is probably the most common warm water fish caught throughout the United States. A lot of us started fishing as youngsters fishing for the bluegill. These fish will hit almost anything that moves in the water. I remember catching this fish as a boy fishing from the bank in our pond near our house. The first fish my grandchildren landed when they started fishing was the bluegill. Any size bluegill will produce a bend in the light fishing rod. The excitement on the face of a small child landing bluegill is priceless. I know I have witnessed that excitement. 

Bluegill and Crappie are the only fish I keep to dress for table fare. Both these fish are excellent to eat if they are dressed and prepared right. I'm not a fan of the so-called tried and true method of cleaning these fish. Scraping the scales off their sides and cutting their heads off is how we prepared them for the skillet years ago. My family and I thought they were delicious to eat at the time. 

It took years for me to discover that a filleted fish has a much better taste than a fish fried whole with the skin and bones. You eliminate the fishy taste when the skin and bones are removed from the fish. I filleted my first bluegill 45 years ago one afternoon on the back porch of my school Principals house, dressing bluegill we had landed that afternoon. The first fish I filleted on my own wasn't perfect but over time I mastered the process. 

This little Rapala 8" fillet knife is all one needs to fillet bluegill and crappie. The knife needs to be razor-sharp. A dull knife will not get the job done properly!
Both these beauties were taken off the rock walls on Smith Lake using the Boogle Bug poppers this past Thursday. A meal for two can be prepared from the meat taken from 5 or 6 bluegills this size.  
I created this video some time ago explaining exactly how to fillet quality-size bluegill. The same technique can be used on the crappie as well. 

The Receipt for delicious bluegill and crappie

Take all fillets and place in a pan with water and add 3 to 4 tablespoons of salt and stir until all the salt is dissolved into the fillets---let sit overnight in the frig--the salt removes all the blood from the fillets

Remove the fillets the next day and wash all the salt off the fillets

Spray a cookie sheet with pam and coat all the fillets with cornmeal mixed with lemon pepper, salt, and black pepper

Bake all the fillets on 450 in the oven and turn the fillets over in about ten minutes and continue to bake until done. The process of baking the fillets takes about 20 minutes or less. You want the fillets to be tender and not overly baked which will make them tuff.

For those of you who like the fillets fried use a fry daddy adding Crisco, or Coconut oil to fry the fillets until they are golden brown--remove the fillets and let set on a paper towel to drain the oil 

French fries, coleslaw, and hushpuppies are all sides dishes that are delicious to eat with the fillets. Don't forget the tartar sauce and catsup---almost forgot a cold beer to top the meal off!!

Enjoy the meal!


  1. Hi Bill. I can remember scaling buckets and buckets of Bluegills after a day of fishing the lakes in Wisconsin. It must have made me brain dead because I can't remember anything after.

  2. Bill thanks for the video. Those are wonderful little fillets that when prepared should put a smile on your face.

  3. Over the years I've acquired a number of fillet knives but I still like my two birch-handled Rapalas. 'Gills & crappies? Great fun on a fly rod and called "panfish" for a reason. Makes me hungry thinkin' about them. Thanks!

  4. Mark
    We use to scale bluegill using a spoon. Let's say I've come a long way in the fishing cleaning technique. Thanks for the comment

  5. AIR
    The supersize bluegill is a blast on a 3 and 4 wt. fly rod. I've only landed a few crappie using the fly rod. I usually use my microlight spinning/rod combo. Thanks for the comment

  6. Alan
    The fillets are the added bonus when fishing for the bluegill---gotta love'em. Thanks for the comment

  7. Never tried bluegill, but looks and sounds delicious, Bill. Nothing like a favourite recipe and technique honed over time.

  8. I can almost taste those bluegills, Bill, delicious indeed. Thank you, also, for stirring some pleasant memories of a first fish coming to a small kid's line.

  9. Justin
    They taste like shrimp if they are deep-fired. To eat the healthy way bake the fillets. Thanks for the comment

  10. Walt
    The bluegill and crappie are the only fish Cathey and I eat, so good!! Thanks for the comment