Gone Outdoors

How to Fillet a Bluegill

by Thomas Lynn

Due to their abundance in freshwater lakes across the United States, bluegills are one of the easiest fish to catch. Bluegills gather around docks and bridges, so a watercraft is not needed to catch them. Bluegills will bite small lures, live night crawlers, minnows and insects, so selecting the proper bait is an easy task. Once caught, bluegills are equally easy to fillet and cook. They are often called "panfish" because they rarely grow larger than the pan used to fry them.

Lay the fish on a flat surface and make a vertical incision between the gills and pectoral fin. Apply a downward cut until you feel the fish's backbone. Do not cut through the backbone.

Rotate your knife 90 degrees so the cutting edge is facing the fish's tail and the flat side of the blade is flush against the backbone. Start cutting parallel with the backbone in a back-and-forth, sawing motion towards the tail.

Maneuver your knife around the ribcage and continue sawing towards the tail. While it is possible to cut through a bluegill's ribs, you will have to clean your fillet later to remove the bones, adding extra time and steps to the process.

Turn your knife blade skyward roughly 45 degrees and cut the fillet away from the tail by cutting through the fish's skin. Avoid cutting too close to the fish's tail -- you do not want any tail meat or skin attached to your fillet.

Put your first fillet on ice or in cold water, flip the fish over and repeat steps 1 to 4 to produce two freshly cut bluegill fillets.

Items you will need
  • Curved fillet knife


  • Sharpen your knife on a sharpening stone before cutting the fish. A dull knife will make this easy task harder and increase your chance of injury.
  • Keep your eyes on your blade and cut in a comfortable area. If you're distracted or careless while cutting your bluegill, you may slip and lacerate your fingers or palms.


  • Wear a protective glove. Fillet knifes are designed to cut through skin and bone and can cause serious damage if used incorrectly.

About the Author

Thomas Lynn is a writer in New York. His work has appeared in various Web and print publications. He studied English in the New York University system. Lynn has been writing professionally since 2009, covering politics and emerging technologies.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images