At about 7.5 inches apiece, reeling in a bluegill is certainly an accomplishment. By the time you wrap up your day of fishing, you have several bluegills in the cooler. You’re contemplating releasing them all, but then again, maybe you’ll have one for dinner. Can you even eat bluegill?
Yes, bluegill is an edible fish species and one that’s regarded for its quality. The texture of bluegill meat is firm so you can cook it in plenty of ways. With a mild taste, even those family members or friends who don’t really like fish might find bluegill palatable!
In this article, we’ll talk further about eating bluegill, including its nutrition facts and whether you can consume the fish raw. We’ll even have a few recipes so you can dress up bluegill and impress your loved ones when you whip up dinner tonight.
Let’s get started!
So, Can You Eat Bluegill?
Bluegill goes by many names, including perch, copper nose, sunny, brim, and bream. A common fish throughout North America (and especially Texas), you might find bluegill in ponds, lakes, rivers, or streams.
The biggest bluegills are 12 inches and weigh more than four pounds. That’s a pretty big catch that you won’t want to let go of.
The good news is that you don’t have to! Bluegill fish are edible like most other sunfish. While some parts of the world such as Japan and Korea view sunfish as delicacies, since many sunfish are so common in the United States, they’re not as highly regarded.
What Does Bluegill Taste Like?
That’s not to say that bluegill tastes bad though! If anything, it’s just the opposite.
Compared to crappie, many anglers prefer bluegill. The flesh of bluegill is firm and can flake when it’s on your fork on its way into your mouth. As we talked about in the intro, the flavor of bluegill is very mild.
Some people refrain from eating seafood because they don’t like that overpowering fishy taste. That won’t be something you’ll experience while savoring bluegill. Even kids with picky palettes should be able to stomach bluegill so you won’t have to make them a separate dinner.
Is Bluegill Nutritious?
Is your mouth watering yet? It should be! Bluegill is not only delicious, but it’s nutritious as well. A plain bluegill fillet is under 100 calories. By battering it with lemon juice, canola oil, an egg, baking powder, and flour, the calories increase to 363.9 per serving. A three-ounce serving of bluegill has 21 grams of protein too!
Besides the abovementioned nutrients, you’re also consuming:
- 16 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin B-1
- 28 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin B-3
- 46 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin B-6
- 76 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin B-2
- 33 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin B-12
If you’re on a diet, eating bluegill is a smart choice. You can easily stick within your calorie limit without overdoing it on carbs or fat. If you’re on a diet where you limit carbs such as Atkins, you can continue burning body fat while eating bluegill.
Even if you’re not dieting but you’re still health-minded, bluegill makes a great choice.
Can You Eat Bluegill Raw?
You’re a huge sushi fanatic, so raw fish is something you find quite delicious. Although you don’t see bluegill on the menu at any of your favorite sushi joints, you can’t help but wonder if you’re allowed to eat it raw anyway?
Yes, you can, but many anglers recommend cooking bluegill, as it tastes better that way. As you’ll recall, raw bluegill is rather firm, which isn’t exactly conducive to a sushi roll that slides down the throat.
We’d say to stick to tuna and salmon for sushi and eat cooked bluegill instead!
How to Clean Bluegill
You brought your bluegill home, bones, skin, eyes, and all. You need to clean it to cook it, but how do you do that?
If you don’t already own one, you’ll need a fillet knife for sharpening. The Rhinoreto fillet knife is an Amazon bestseller and costs less than $25, so it’s a great pick. You should also have a fish scaler and a dull knife.
Here’s how you clean the fish.
With your dull knife or fish scaler, remove the fish’s scales. Start at the bluegill’s head and make your way to its tail. You want to get rid of all the scales across its body.
Now it’s time to cut the bluegill’s head off. Aim your filet knife behind its gills and slice in one fluid motion.
With the filet knife still in hand, cut the fish’s stomach from the tail up to the top where its head would be. This is gutting your bluegill. Butterfly it by spreading it out and then take out all the organs.
Next, slice off the fins and tail, again using your filet knife.
3 Recipes Starring Bluegill to Make for Dinner Tonight
Do you want to impress your family with your enviable cooking skills? Try making bluegill one of three ways!
For a low-effort dinner that looks impressive on the table, make whole-fried bluegill. The fish should still have its guts, scales, and head taken off, but you could leave the fins and tail if you want.
Here are the recipe quantities:
- Peanut oil (8 cups)
- Pepper and salt (as you see fit)
- Old Bay seasoning (2 tablespoons)
- Cornmeal (4 cups)
- Eggs (2, beaten)
- Milk (4 cups)
- Bluegill (8 to 12 fish)
Grab a clean medium bowl and add the egg and milk. Whisk the ingredients until they’re foamy and fluffy. Then let the bluegill fillets soak in the mixture for 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the pepper, salt, Old Bay, and cornmeal, stirring until everything is incorporated. Then pour half your quantity of peanut oil into a Dutch oven or deep fryer, turning the heat on medium.
After the 10 minutes have elapsed for the bluegill to sit in the egg and milk mixture, put the fish in the oven or deep fryer. Let the fish cook for about four minutes per side or until golden, then flip and cook them on the other side. When both sides are cooked, plate and serve!
A classic, simple recipe, pan-fried bluegill is delicious. The recipe isn’t all that different than the one above, but you don’t use whole bluegill.
Lifestyle blog The Gingham Apron recommends these ingredients:
- Lemon (1, sliced)
- Canola oil (4 cups)
- Pepper and salt (as you see fit)
- Old Bay seasoning (2 teaspoons)
- Cornmeal (1 cup)
- Eggs (1, beaten)
- Milk (2 cups)
- Bluegill (12 fillets)
Transfer the egg and milk to a shallow bowl, again whisking until the mixture is fluffy. This time, let the bluegill fillets sit for an hour. In the meantime, put the pepper, salt, Old Bay, and cornmeal in another medium-sized bowl and stir until everything is well-mixed.
Turn your stovetop to medium and pour the canola oil onto a pan. Remove the bluegill fillets from the milk and egg mixture and coat them in the second bowl with the cornmeal and Old Bay.
Hold the fish with tongs and put the fillet on the pan. Let each side cook for two minutes. Blot away excess oil with a paper towel before serving. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you can add some tartar sauce or lemon as garnish.
We have one more ultra-tasty bluegill recipe for you, this one for bluegill parmesan. The recipe comes from Taste of Home.
You’ll need the following recipe quantities:
- Paprika (half a teaspoon)
- Salt (1 teaspoon)
- Minced parsley (2 tablespoons)
- Parmesan cheese (1/3 cup, grated)
- Breadcrumbs (half a cup)
- Butter (1/4 cup, melted)
Grab two shallow bowls, one for the butter and the other for the seasonings, cheese, and breadcrumbs. Mix those ingredients until they make a batter.
First, coat the bluegill fillet in butter, then put it in the batter so it sticks. Next, take a baking pan measuring 15 inches by 10 inches by 1 inch and grease it. Put the fish on the pan and cook it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Tips for Preserving Bluegill Until You Can Cook It
If you caught a fat, meaty bluegill early on in your day of fishing and you don’t plan on riding back to shore anytime soon, you have to preserve the fish between now and the time you cook it. Here are some tips for doing just that.
Keep It On Ice
As we touched on in the intro, putting your caught fish in a cooler is a good move. The cooler should be packed with ice (actual ice, not ice packs).
Storing your caught fish like this is good for two reasons. First, you’re cutting contamination risks. Secondly, you’re preserving the bluegill meat’s freshness and firmness so it tastes delicious later.
Avoid Direct Sun
Even with the cooler lid closed, it’s still not a good idea to leave the cooler out in the sun. Push it under your boat seat or in another enclosed area of the boat until you’re ready to go home.
It’s no secret that sunlight can begin to spoil the bluegill, ruining its depth of flavor and quality before you can even get it home. If you caught an especially large bluegill, it’s such a waste to have to lose it this way.
Chill Until Used
You might get home and decide that after a day in the sun, you’re too exhausted to cook. Rather than make bluegill for dinner tonight, you order a pizza instead. That’s fine, as you can always store your bluegill for another night.
First, bring your bluegill to the kitchen sink and rinse it. Then dry it down with a few paper towels. Wrap the fish in aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or wax paper and put it in a plastic zippy bag.
In the fridge, the bluegill is good for about 24 hours. When kept on ice in the freezer, you can store the fish for weeks.
Just make sure you don’t wait too long. You’ll be able to tell your bluegill went funky if it smells especially fishy (trust us, you’ll know the smell). The fish will also have developed a milky, slippery, slimy texture.
Your bluegill must go in the trash immediately. Do not consume it!
Bluegill is an edible fish that’s low in calories and high in vitamins and protein. Whether you fry it whole or cook it in fillets on your stovetop, you have plenty of ways to enjoy bluegill with your family or friends!