Bluegills are a type of freshwater fish native to North America. They work great to bait for larger species, but they are also considered high-table quality by anglers, and a lot of people enjoy eating them. We’ll show you how to clean a bluegill and prepare it for cooking and eating.
However, to eat and enjoy this fish, you need to know how to prepare and fillet it first, which is where we come in.
We have written this article to tell you a little more about bluegills and how you would go about filleting one. We also add some fishing tips and cooking recipes at the end for good measure!
What Are Bluegills?
Bluegills are also known as sunfish or pumpkinseed because they look similar to bluegill sunfish (also called a pumpkinseed).
The bluegill is a common game fish throughout the United States and Canada. It’s not uncommon for people to catch them in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.
Bluegills grow up to 4 inches long and weigh from one-half ounce to two pounds. Their diet consists mainly of insects and other small creatures that live in water.
Bluegills can be found in many different types of waters including freshwater, saltwater, brackish, and even some tropical waters.
The bluegill has been used by Native Americans as food since before European contact.
Most bluegills prefer clear water with little vegetation or silt. However, they will tolerate muddy conditions if there are plenty of grasses and weeds available.
The bluegill is an excellent baitfish for catching larger species like carp, catfish, and bass. If you’re looking for a quick way to catch a few bluegills, consider using a minnow lure.
Minnows are great for attracting bluegills because their shape resembles that of bluegill. A minnow lure works well when fishing shallow areas where the bottom is covered with plants and debris.
Now that you know how to recognize one, you might be wondering how you go about preparing and filleting one ready for you to eat. Luckily, our step-by-step guide below will guide you through the process.
How To Clean A Bluegill?
Step 1: Cleaning Your Fish
Before you start clean a bluegill, make sure it’s clean. This means removing any foreign objects such as leaves, twigs, or rocks.
You may want to rinse your bluegill under running water first. After rinsing, pat dry on paper towels.
Step 2: Cutting Off Its Head
Once your bluegill is cleaned, cut off its head. Using kitchen shears, carefully snip off the top of the head, just behind the eyes. Then remove the gills. Be careful not to damage the gills whilst cutting them off.
Step 3: Removing Its Backbone
Next, remove the backbone. Start at the tail end of the fish and gently pull back toward the head. Use kitchen scissors to cut along both sides of the spine until it comes free. Pull it away, and voilà!
Step 4: Remove Its Skin
Remove the skin from the body of the bluegill. Use a sharp knife to slice around the edges of the flesh. Make sure to avoid slicing into the meat.
When you get close to the bones, stop. Now, turn the fish over so that the belly side is facing down. Cut away the skin from the belly.
Step 5: Separate Its Flesh
After you have removed all the skin, separate the flesh of the bluegill from the bone. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut between each rib. Do this slowly so that you don’t accidentally cut into the meat.
Step 6: Slice Its Meat
After separating the meat from the ribs, slice the bluegill into pieces. Use a sharp knife and slice across the grain of the meat. Don’t worry too much about getting every piece of meat. Just make sure to keep the meat intact.
Step 7: Rinse It And Dry It
Rinse the bluegill under cold running water. Pat dry on paper towels. Once it’s completely dry, place it on a plate.
Step 8: Cook It!
If you’d like to cook your bluegill, you’ll need to do a bit more prep work before cooking it. First, soak it in ice water for 20 minutes. Next, drain and pat dry again.
You can then either grill it, fry it, bake it, or broil it. The choice is yours. Be creative with seasoning, sauces, and sides, and, most importantly of all… enjoy!
How To Cook Bluegill
As we have mentioned, there are plenty of ways to cook bluegill, however below we have listed a couple of our favorite recipes for you to try at home.
Pan-Fried Bluegill Recipe
- 1 cup flour
- 2 eggs beaten
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups cornmeal
- Bluegill fillets (about ½ pound)
- Oil for frying
In a bowl, combine the flour, eggs, salt, and pepper. Stir to mix thoroughly. Add the cornmeal gradually, stirring constantly. Mix well.
Dip the bluegill fillets in the batter, allowing excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper; let stand 10 minutes. In a deep skillet, heat oil to 375 degrees F.
Fry the fillets, turning once, about 12 to 15 minutes total, until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.
Baked Bluegill Recipe
- 6-8 Bluegill fillets (make sure the skin is removed)
- 2 cups milk
- 1 egg
- 1/3rd cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3rd cups panko bread crumbs
- 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese (grated)
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- Sprinkle of black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking tray with plenty of non-stick cooking spray. Then, in a medium bowl, mix flour, salt, and black pepper.
In another bowl, mix the panko bread crumbs with the cayenne pepper and Parmesan cheese. Dip the soaked fillet into the flour, before dipping into the breadcrumb and cheese mix.
Mix some milk and eggs in a separate bowl until fluffy, and add the fish fillets to soak for up to 10 minutes.
Pat the ingredients onto the fillets and place them onto the baking sheet.
Cook for around 6-10 minutes until the outside crumb is crispy brown. The fillets should be tender when poked with a fork and then should be ready to eat.
Bluegill Fishing Tips
Tyger Leader is reader-supported and may earn a commission when you book or purchase using our links. Learn more about our affiliate disclaimer here.
Bluegill Fishing Tip 1: Keep it Cold
When you’re out fishing, try keeping your bait cool by submerging it in a cooler full of ice. This will help prevent the bait from spoiling quickly.
Bluegill Fishing Tip 2: Catch Them Early In The Day
If you want to catch more bluegill during the day, try catching them early in the morning. They tend to feed earlier in the day than they do later in the day.
Bluegill fishing Tip 3: Find A Good Spot
To find good spots to fish when you go out, look for areas where there are lots of weeds, shrubs, and trees. These places are usually near streams or ponds.
We hope you have learned all about how to clean a bluegill in this article and take note of some great recipes to try and fishing tips if you fancy fishing for the fish yourself.
Remember, filleting is a vital preparation step if you want to cook and eat the fish, to ensure all the bones are removed, and you get as much of the juicy meat as possible.
We promise they are a great fish, and you won’t be disappointed if you dare to try some soon!