The Fish Of Summer: Bluegills

It’s that time of year again.

The summer fishing season is upon us, and my Tracker boat is rigged and ready for any and all angling adventures that the fishing Gods have to offer. I like to fish long and hard, but I’m not averse to a leisurely day on the water, either.

Give me a week with my family on a summer getaway, and I’ve been known to “occasionally” kick back and take it easy. Truth is, my wife and five daughters love to fish, and when we’re together we often find ourselves tempting the piscatorial fates for bluegills.

Babe Winkelman

Fishing for bluegills is a pastime that’s been handed from generation to generation. It’s the quintessential fishing experience, and as old as the hills. What kid hasn’t caught a mess of bluegills with a red-and-white bobber rig, complete with a small hook tipped with a night crawler, from a dock? Docks, after all, are bluegill magnets — always have been, always will be. They hide in the shadows by the dozens, waiting for an easy meal to inhale.

Try Ultra-Light Gear
For anglers, using an ultra-light spinning rod, made by St. Croix or another manufacturer, can make for hours of frenzied fishing fun. A 3-weight fly rod works well, too. And if you want to take a stroll down memory lane, the trusty and easy-to-use cane pole is hard to beat, especially for kids.

But what if you’re looking for bigger bluegills — those slabs of summertime fun? One sleeper technique that works well for bigger gills is employing panfish crankbaits. Colorful and small in size, panfish crankbaits should be cast along or over shoreline vegetation. More often than not, big bluegills congregate there because the thick vegetation provides them the protective cover they desire from other gamefish. Besides, anglers rarely target these areas for bluegills, and the lack of fishing pressure can work to your benefit.

If you catch a mess of bluegills for the table, make sure they’re stowed away properly, particularly while you’re on the water. The goal is to keep your fish as fresh as possible before they’re cleaned for the pan. All fish stringers should be kept in the water. That’s a no-brainer. If you have an aerated livewell in your boat, use it. Many of today’s fishing boats have them, and they’re a real plus for long days on the water.

Tracker’s livewells have an array of features, including recirculation pumps, lights, timers, and pump-out systems. Trust me, such livewells come in handy.

Fillet With A Sharp Knife
But what’s the point of putting of bluegills in the livewell if you don’t have a basic understanding of how to clean and store them for the freezer?

Over the years, I’ve watched far too many anglers try to fillet fish with blades as dull as butter knifes. And a dull knife is a dangerous knife, my friends. Always — and I mean always — use a sharp fillet knife when cleaning fish.

Gerber’s Gator fillet knives feature surgical stainless steel blades that hold an edge better than any on the market today. They are reasonably priced and can be found at many sporting goods stores or Internet sites … including this one. Each knife comes with a sheath that has a built-in ceramic sharpener — a nice, nice feature, especially when you’re filleting fish for shore lunch and your blade suddenly turns dull.

If you have enough fish to freeze, there are several tips to remember. The first — and most important — job is making sure that the fillets are thoroughly cleaned. If the fish are fresh — the best fillets are always the ones that come right out of the water and into the frying pan — rinse each piece under a water sprayer until it is completely washed and contains no slime or blood.

A Fish Cleaning Tip
One cleaning tip is a bit unconventional, but worth the extra work and inconvenience. Wash each fillet in a small amount of liquid dish soap. It sounds crazy, but if the fillets are thoroughly cleaned and rinsed before freezing or cooking, you won’t taste the soap at all. The soap washes away any remaining slime, which can spoil the flavor of the meat.

Remember, too, fish fillets are best frozen in a vacuum-sealer that removes all the air and moisture from the bag. If you don’t have a sealer, wrap the fillets in plastic wrap, and then put them into Ziploc freezer bags.

Good fishing!

To check out some fine Gerber products, including a fillet knife, click here.

For more information about Tracker boats and St Croix Rods, see or

For a fine assortment of Freshwater fishing gear, click here.

Editor’s Note: Babe has shared his love of the outdoors with TV viewers for more than 25 years. Babe will share his tips and outdoor adventures weekly on In 1984, Babe’s “Good Fishing” program debuted and later his “Outdoor Secrets” show became popular with hunting enthusiasts. Babe’s programs appear on the Outdoor Life Network, WGN, Fox Sports Net, Fox College Sports, The Men’s Channel, Sportsman’s Channel, Great American Country, WILD TV, and Comcast. Babe also writes hunting, fishing and conservation columns that are carried by up to 350 newspapers each week. Winkelman sponsors include Chevrolet, Miller High Life, Johnsonville Brats, Crestliner Boats, St. Croix Rods, Browning, Hunter’s Specialties, Nikon, Minn Kota, Optima Batteries, Mathews, Honda, and many more.

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