How to Cook & Eat Bluegill

Fried fish in a frying pan
Fried fish in a pan. (Image: minadezhda/iStock/Getty Images)

Tender little panfish -- bluegills, crappies, pumpkin seeds and small perch and bass -- are freshwater fish small enough to be cooked in a frying pan over a hot fire built lakeside. These Great Lakes and Southern favorites are best eaten soon after catching. Although recipes vary according to favorite local seasonings, pan-frying is the preferred preparation and source of the bluegill's nickname. Cooks should insist that fishers gut and remove tails and fins before delivering fish to be cooked.

Step 1

De-scale the fish with a dull knife or scaling spoon and wash the fish in cold water. Fillet the fish by drawing a fillet knife down the backbone and peeling the fillet away between the ribs and second set of bones. Remove the second bones as you peel the fillet away.

Step 2

Soak the fish in a beaten egg, 1 cup of milk or Italian dressing. Use enough to coat the fish completely.

Step 3

Season flour or cornmeal with salt, pepper, garlic powder or other seasonings in a bowl. Drop the fish into the mixture and turn, a piece at a time, until coated evenly.

Step 4

Place fish in about 1/8 inch of oil in a hot pan and fry for four to five minutes on each side. Fish will be flaky and white when done.

Step 5

Serve with a garden salad and hot rolls or Italian bread. Serve the fish with capers sauteed in lemon butter or with lemon wedges as garnish.

Things You'll Need

  • Egg, milk or Italian dressing

  • Lemon or lime

  • Salt and pepper

  • Garlic and other seasonings

  • Flour, cornmeal or potato chips

  • Heavy frying pan

  • Safflower or other cooking oil

  • Capers

Tip

Bluegills can be sautéed without any coating, but just salt and pepper. Saute them in a hot iron pan. Or try sprinkling them with Italian dressing and baking them in aluminum foil in a fire that’s burned down to coals for eight to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets. Garnish them simply with lemon or lime for a beachside dinner and serve them with a warm German potato salad or cool veggie pasta salad. Use crab chips, a spicy chip available in the Mid-Atlantic region, for a crunchy coating that requires no seasoning.

Warning

Always take care when cooking over an open fire and use potholders when handling hot cooking pans.

Allow aluminum foil to cool a bit before opening a cooking packet -- it will be full of hot steam as well as tasty fish.

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