How to Fillet a Bluegill, Crappie or Perch

How To Easily Fillet your Bluegill, Crappie, Rock Bass or other Panfish


An Easy method to Cleaning and Filleting bluegill and other panfish. Filleting a bluegill is easy to do if you have a good technique. Here I will show you how to do it properly so you don’t have bones to deal with. A lot of people clean them quickly leaving bone pieces etc. There is nothing quite like a big bluegill dinner and munching on fillets with no bones in them whatsoever. Its easy for people who don’t eat fish often to get turned off, or even create a dislike for these fish if they get a big rib bone stuck in their throat.


You should set up a few newspapers on a table outside, or maybe on your kitchen counter. These newspapers will serve 2 functions

  1. To keep your work area clean and make for easy cleanup after the bluegill and crappie are cleaned.
  2. The newspaper helps to keep the bluegill in place. The fish’s natural slime seems to absorb into the newspaper making your fish stick to the paper. This will allow for easy cleaning and skinning without the fish sliding all over the place.
  • Find a sharp fillet style knife with preferably a flexible blade. The flexible blade will help you make accurate incisions and allow for you to navigate the blade around bones without cutting through them.
  • Most Important!  Ensure the Bluegill is dead before proceeding with any part of the cleaning process! You do not want to cause them to suffer unneccesarily. It only takes a second to make sure the blugill doesn’t suffer an excruciating painful death.

Step One, Scaling or Skinning Your Bluegill

Decide if you are going to scale the bluegill or just skin it after you fillet it. You will need to get the scales off of the fish.

  • By Scraping off the scales you will possibly save more of the meat. In order to scrape off the scales you will need to secure the bluegill by the tail. With scraping motions from the back of the bluegill towards the front. Try to get all of the scales, because they are no fun to eat. They should come off pretty effortlessly if you are doing it properly. This method will leave the skin on the bluegill. All you need to do now is remove the fillet from the fish. 


  • The Skinning method is done after the filleting process. If you are using this method you will already have the fish filleted and this will be the final step before completion of the cleaning process.
  1. Lay your bluegill fillet down (skin side down on the newspaper) on a piece of dry clean newspaper.
  2. Carefully sliding the knife between the skin of the bluegill and the meat.
  3. With your blade slightly angled downward toward the skin use a slow and steady sawing motion to slide your knife between the skin and flesh. With the proper amount of pressure, your flexible bladed knife should easily slide right along the skin without leaving any of the valuable meat on it.

The Filleting Process

The process of filleting a bluegill step 1

The First Cut on the Bluegill in the Filleting process. This incision takes place along the gill from the top of the fish all the way down to the bottom.


Step 2 Of how to Fillet a bluegill.

The Second cut is along the spine of the bluegill. Carefully feeling for bones as you move your knife slowly down the length of the fish. Once you get to the point where the knife is in this image, the knife should slide all the way through without hitting any bones.  (See Video)

Trimming around the bones to make the perfect bluegill fillet.

Light knife work is all that is needed to finish the fillet. Carefully move your knife around the remaining rib bones and trim off the fillet. If you have not seen the video above I strongly recommend you do so. I can give much greater detail about filleting the bluegill in video format.

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