Nothing says summer like grilled bluegill. After letting my fly rod collect dust for a few years, I decided to get back into it. Bluegill are always the best gateway into a fly fishing addiction. Yes, the same fish that most of us caught as children with a bobber and an earthworm. All over the country this fish is targeted on light tackle. Whether it's via fly rod or ultralight spin gear, these fish are scrappy and a blast to catch.
Thankfully, I happen to know of a lake holding many in the 8-9 inch class that I stumbled upon during the Winter while ice fishing. Now Summer, I paddled back into the lily pads and found plenty in the same size class. Once a bluegill breaks the 8" mark, the shoulders thicken up and they become worthy of taking home to eat. There isn't a lot of meat on them, but don't let that discourage you. A good day of bluegill fishing can result in a pile of fillets, and these fish are great eating. From now on, this meal will be a Summer staple in our household. My wife eats them so fast it reminds me of those cartoons where the whole fish goes in and only bones come out in a second!
6 bluegill at least 7.5" long (preferably 8+") fully gutted and scaled
1 Cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves; minced
1 fennel bulb
Juice from 1/2 orange (slice other half)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Make 3 diagonal slices on each side of the bluegill, this is to help absorb the flavor of the marinade. Don't cut all the way to the bone.
Combine the olive oil, 1/2 Cup of diced fennel bulb (save the rest), orange juice, salt, pepper, and garlic into a 1 gallon seal-able bag and let the bluegill marinate for 3 hours. Make sure all the individual fish are in contact with the marinade. It will help to flip the bag every 30 minutes or so.
Take the fish out and place them in the fish grate as shown. Place a slice of orange and a few slices of fennel into each cavity. Weber makes the fish grilling grate I use. It's great to avoid fish sticking on the grill and also keeps the ingredients inside the cavity nicely.
For gas grill (which I don't use as I prefer wood) you want medium heat. For charcoal/wood grilling, let everything burn down to coals or the flames will scorch the outside of the fish. Place the grill basket down directly over the heat and cook with the grill open. You shouldn't need more than 15 minutes on each side.
Fish is done when it flakes right off the bone easily. You can use a fork to get the meat off one bite at a time or just pick them up and eat it like a cob of corn. This will get a little messy but have at it, don't leave a scrap of meat on those bones!
Jimmy is the author the Wild Game Cooking Blog called Primally Wild dedicated to Paleo Diet friendly recipes featuring wild game. If you like what you read and would love to get more recipes like this one, be sure to share and check it out at www.primallywild.com!!