May is the Month for Bluegill
of a unique opportunity to connect them with nature, creating lasting memories, and introducing them to a pastime they can enjoy for life.
Managing bluegill in impoundments can be tricky. In natural waters, such as streams and rivers, many fish species consume bluegill, which helps stabilize their numbers.
Impoundments usually have fewer predators. Farm ponds commonly hold only bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish. The largemouth bass, particularly if overharvested, don’t consume enough bluegill to prevent overpopulation. Competition among bluegill for food becomes high, and overall bluegill growth becomes stunted.
Prevent this problem by harvesting more bluegill. Take out four to five bluegill for every bass taken—up to 100 bluegill per acre per year. If you want more big bluegill, harvest fewer bass. If you want big bass, take more bass from the impoundment. You either manage for larger bass or larger bluegill. It’s difficult to have both in one pond.
Many fish hatcheries cross green sunfish with bluegill to produce hybrid sunfish. These hybrids grow quickly and bite aggressively, which makes them popular with anglers.
Hybrid sunfish also reproduce at a slower rate than bluegill, so they are less likely to overpopulate. Because of their reduced reproduction, hybrids will not support a bass population. If you stock hybrid sunfish, you also must stock bluegill as a food source for your bass.
In the Kitchen
Bluegill meat has great flavor and is firm and flaky. It is well suited for most fish recipes. To get the best flavor out of your bluegill, place them on ice or keep them alive until just before cleaning.
Once you’ve filleted your catch, rinse them immediately and completely. This step is crucial. Fish mucus, blood and scales adhere to fillets during the cleaning process. If not removed, these will give the meat a fishy taste.
The following three recipes are favorites at our household
6 bacon strips, cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups water
½ cup chopped carrots
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon dill weed
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 pound bluegill fillets, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup half-and-half cream
In a 3-quart saucepan, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside, discarding all but 2 tablespoons of drippings. Sauté onion and celery in drippings until tender. Add the next eight ingredients. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Add fish and bacon and simmer for 5 minutes. Add cream and heat through. Yield: 4–6 servings.
¾ cup corn meal
¼ cup all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound bluegill fillets
In a large ziplock bag, thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients. Crack the egg over the fillets and mix thoroughly. The egg helps the breading bind to the fillets. Heat oil to 350 degrees. Put batches of six or seven fillets in the ziplock bag and shake well to coat.
Place fillets in hot oil. If you are deep frying, the fillets float when they are done. If you are pan frying, three or four minutes a side is about right. Avoid overcooking. Bluegill fillets are small pieces of meat. Overcooking toughens them.
When fish are done, remove them from the oil and let them drip. Place the fillets in a single layer on a doubled sheet of absorbent paper toweling. Don’t put one piece of fish on top of another. The oil from the top fish will soak into the fish on the bottom, making greasy fish.
Flip the fillets on the paper toweling and let that side drain. Before serving, place the fillets on a fresh layer of paper toweling. This treatment leaves the batter crispy and practically oil free. Yield: 4 servings.
¼ cup chopped onion
1/4 cup celery
1/4 cup green pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
¾ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon each dried basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon each white, black, and cayenne pepper
½ cup diced Italian tomatoes, drained
1 pound bluegill fillets
Hot cooked rice
Minced fresh parsley
In a small skillet, sauté the onion, celery, green pepper and garlic in oil until tender. Add the broth, tomato paste and seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir in Italian tomatoes.
Arrange the fillets in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch x 2-inch baking dish; top with vegetable mixture. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve over rice and sprinkle with parsley. Yield: 4 servings.