There’s a lot you can do with your catch; it can be taxidermied, released back into the river, or eaten. If bluegill is your fish of choice, you may be wondering whether or not it can be eaten. Let’s find out.
Bluegill fish can safely be eaten. Bluegill is a fairly abundant fish species that can be found all over North America. Most anglers would consider them to be a high-quality fish with a mild flavor. It cooks extremely well and is most commonly fried or cooked whole.
Okay, so it can be cooked, but how is the best way to do that? Read on for some tips on catching, cooking, and cleaning bluegill!
How and Where to Catch Bluegill
Before cooking bluegill, you obviously have to catch one! As mentioned before, you can find bluegill in most parts of North America, so if you have a lake or river nearby, you shouldn’t have a terribly difficult time finding a place to catch them. The first thing you should know is the hook size. The largest recorded bluegill caught was a mere four pounds. Bluegill is a small fish species, so your hook should probably never exceed a No. 10 in size.
No. 10 and No. 6 are usually the recommended hook sizes. Thin wire hooks with long shanks are recommended because they are easier to remove from a bluegill’s tiny mouth. Your bait should also be on the smaller end of the scale. Again, bluegill doesn’t usually grow to be any larger than the aforementioned four pounds, so bait that is too big won’t get the job done. Live bait is a popular choice, though if you use worms, you will have to stick with just a small piece of worm that’s just big enough to cover the hook.
Mealworms, crickets, grasshoppers, nightcrawlers, and red wigglers are also very effective live bait options. Artificial lures will work too, as long as you get the right kind. Black jigs and tiny spinners usually work pretty well as long as they are 1/32 ounces or smaller. If flyfishing is your sport of choice, small flies and poppers have proven themselves to be effective as well. Just make sure the lures are not too big and can easily be removed from a bluegill’s mouth.
The next item of business is to decide where you will go to catch bluegill fish. As mentioned above, the bluegill is a prominent species in North America, including Canada and parts of Mexico. If quantity is your goal instead of size, most rivers and ponds will provide the amount of fish you need.
An important thing to remember is not to overlook small farm ponds. Some of the largest recorded bluegill caught were caught in farm ponds and they were present in large quantities as well. If you are interested in finding one of the very best ponds, you may want to consider talking to pond owners and other anglers to learn some tips.
If you prefer ice fishing, there are options there as well. Using small hooks and bait is especially important here because bluegills are not aggressive fish and will not feed as much during the wintertime. Small, brightly colored hooks (often referred to as teardrops) are best to use during the winter if you’re trying to catch bluegills. You should also use a small bobber that is just large enough to suspend your bait. Waxworms, mealworms, mousies, or goldenrod grubs are good live bait options to use.
Cleaning and Cooking Bluegill
Once you have caught your fish, take them home and it’s time for cleaning! Cleaning a fish can be a pretty meticulous process, so make sure you know your stuff before getting started.
Because bluegills are so tiny, they are an easy fish to gut and clean. All you really need is a simple filet knife (though electric fillet knives and scalers are also available for ease of cleaning) to get the job done. The first step is scaling. Take your knife and start running it along the fish’s body in the opposing direction to the natural scale position (against the grain, if you will). If you have an electric scaler, this process shouldn’t take longer than a minute or two.
Once the scales are removed, the next step is to cut off the head. You may be tempted to make a straight cut between the head and the gill cage. You shouldn’t do this though. If you cut diagonally from the top then under the head, you will keep a large chunk of shoulder meat rather than cutting it off. Cut down diagonally, then underneath, and that way, you’ll be able to keep most of the meat. Since bluegills are so tiny, you definitely don’t want to waste any morsels.
How you cook your fish is completely up to you, but frying is definitely the most popular method. If you would like a visual representation of how to cut your fish and cook them, watch the video below! It will provide you with a gutting demonstration as well as a cooking demonstration.
After you have removed the head, it’s time to cut out the guts. Stick your knife in the hole and cut all the way along the stomach down to the fish’s anus. Once you have done that, you should be able to see something of a small pocket inside the fish where the head has come off. Stick your fingers in there and yank out the innards. Once that part is done, you have officially gutted your bluegill!
You can either leave your fish whole or cut it into filets. Fileting is fairly easy. Just slide your knife along the side of the fish all the way down to the tail and cut it off. You can remove the skin if you’d like to, but you can also leave it on if you want to try out a different flavor. Additionally, before frying a whole fish, you can score the sides to allow oil and breading to make it inside and cook the meat evenly. Keep in mind that you will have to deal with picking the bones out if you cook it whole, but the fins and tail will crisp up quite nicely, so you may find that it’s worth it.