But, I did have these fish in the freezer. I caught these bluegills through the ice last winter, and it was about the only time I actually enjoyed ice fishing. The ice was thick, as we had a frigid winter, but that Martin Luther King, Jr. day, the sun shone brightly and I believe the temperature was 60 degrees. The Game and Parks office where I used to work up in Norfolk has a tradition of going ice fishing every MLK Day. The last time I went before that, it was about 5 degrees, the wind was howling, and I had just moved to Nebraska literally a week before from SoCal. It was shoddy fishing. I didn't understand all that trouble and the suffering in the cold to catch nothing, so I hadn't been on the ice until last January.
The weather was fair, as I am a fair-weather hunter and fisherman -- unlike Rick -- so I decided to give it another shot. I sat with my good friend Scott Wessel (also my co-worker, a wildlife biologist), whom I fished with the last time I was out. That was also the first day I met Scott, and actually, one interesting thing did happen two years ago. Scott caught a bluegill, I think it was, and I asked him to show it to me for a picture. He moved too close to the heater in the ice shack and his elbow caught on fire. Scott panicked and quickly put the flame out, but it had burned clear through his sweater. Not knowing Scott too well, I sat there in silence, wide-eyed, not knowing how to react. You can imagine the awkwardness I felt. I hadn't even started my duties as Regional Editor in northeastern Nebraska yet; I didn't know any of these people; I was was sitting in the middle of a frozen lake for the first time and listening to the terrifying "thwong" of cracking ice; I had never ice fished before, an activity that is still odd to me; and then I watch this stranger catch on fire. News traveled fast and poor Wessel became the butt of jokes for months. We are good friends now, but he knows to stay away from heat when I'm around. Anyway, Scott and I did really well last winter. It wasn't an exceptionally fast-action day, but we caught a good number of bluegills, enough for a couple meals. I also tasted Kipper for the first time that afternoon, which looked a lot like cat food, but it didn't taste so bad with crackers.
As small as bluegill are, I think they are a good-tasting fish-- sweet and firm. They cook up quickly and are especially delicious marinated and grilled, which gives the meat a smoky flavor. And because they are small, they are great whole.
Book Update: Good news! Our book is now available for pre-sale at Shop Deer Hunting: http://www.shopdeerhunting.com/hunting-for-food , and will be officially released July 15. According to the website, it should ship on 7/13. You can order there, or you can also order the book from us. Once we figure out when we can get our shipment in, we'll have a Paypal shopping cart on our website. The book includes 176 pages of instruction of how to hunt, field dress and cook 13 different species. Step-by-step photos are included, much like how we have run our blog, and they are full color. We hope you all get a chance to see the book. Thank you all for supporting us over the years! We'll post more updates as the release date gets closer.
Prep Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
- 6 pan-size bluegills, gutted and scaled
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder
- 1 lime, juiced
- lime wedges for serving
- 1 tablespoon of cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 2 green onions, minced
- salt and pepper, to taste
1. Roast jalapeno pepper under broiler or stove top until charred all over. Once blackened, place in a zipper lock bag or in a small bowl covered with a towel. Until cool enough to handle, scrape off charred skin and cut off stem. Mince pepper and set aside.
2. Wash bluegills under cold water and pat dry. Score fish three times on each side
Sprinkle well with salt and pepper all over and inside the cavity.
3. In a small bowl, combine minced jalapeno pepper, garlic, chili powder, lime juice, cilantro, olive oil and green onion. Pour marinade into a gallon zipper bag and add fish. Massage to evenly distribute the marinade, then refrigerate for 2 hours.
4. Prepare grill to high heat. Clean grill grates thoroughly to avoid sticking, then brush with oil. Remove fish from marinade and then grill for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
Serve immediately with lime wedges.