Grilled Whole Bluegill with Jalapeno and Lime

If I had to pick between eating crappie and bluegill, I’d choose bluegill every time. I think crappie tastes bland, whereas bluegill are sweet and firm. The downside, this sunfish family member tends to grow on the smaller side. Bluegill fillets resemble “chips,” and few anglers venture beyond frying them because there’s not much else you can do. Those thin, small pieces can’t hold up to too much handling, let alone any amount of marinating.

My solution, prepare and eat the fish whole on the bone. Serving fish on the bone generally yields more juicy and flavorful results. Try it with oilier fish such as catfish and trout, too. The results can be succulent and stunning.

Grilled Whole Bluegill

Servings: 4-6, Prep Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, Cooking Time: 10 minutes


  • 12 pan-sized bluegill, guts and scales removed
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp of chili powder
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • Lime wedges for serving
  • 2 tbs of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 4 green onions, white and light green parts minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing grill grates

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Roast the jalapeno peppers under the broiler or over a gas stove top until charred all over, turning occasionally. Once blackened, place the peppers in a zip-top bag or in a small bowl covered with a towel; this step allows the peppers to steam, thus releasing their skin. When cool enough to handle, scrape off charred skin and cut off stems. For a less spicy marinade, discard the ribs and seeds. Mince the peppers, and set aside in a medium-size bowl.
  2. Wash the bluegill under cold water and pat dry. Cut off the fins with kitchen shears. Score the fish three times on each side – do not cut through bone. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the fish and inside the cavities.
  3. Mix garlic, chili powder, juice of two limes, cilantro, olive oil and green onion in the bowl of minced jalapenos. Pour marinade into a gallon-size zip-top bag and add fish. Massage to evenly distribute the marinade, and then refrigerate for two hours.
  4. Prepare grill for direct, high-heat cooking. When grates become hot, scrub thoroughly if dirty; dirty grill grates promote sticking, especially with fish. Then lightly grease the grates with vegetable oil. Remove fish from marinade, allowing excess marinade to drip off. Grill the fish three to five minutes on each side or until cooked through. Serve immediately with lime wedges on the side.

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About Jenny Wheatley

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley is a hunter, writer and editor in Omaha, NE. In addition to her role as associate editor at Nebraskaland Magazine, she runs the blog Food for Hunters. See what she's cooking @foodforhunters on Instagram.

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