Midnight Bluegill Curry Chef

Midnight Bluegill Curry Chef

Dark out, slipping across the yard. Light dusting of snow on the porch. Four bluegills, quickly cleaned and scaled at the end of my yard, overlooking the Mississippi.

Half an hour later, a pungent aroma rises from the kitchen, just beyond the porch, where the bucket remains. (I'll wash that out tomorrow.)

This bluegill curry was designed for opakapaka — the pink snapper. It's a Thai dish and an acquired taste. Pretty darn hot. Works nicely with bluegills, which are rolled in tapioca starch and deep fried while you prepare the sauce in a skillet. Heat the skillet with three tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter, Indian style), and add 3 tablespoons of red curry paste. Red curry paste is readily available in grocery stores around here, so most people can probably find it. We make our own curries and curry pastes, and you can find many recipes for those on the net.

Stir fry the curry paste for about 3 minutes at medium high and add a cup of coconut milk. Mix thoroughly,  add a couple tablespoons of Vietnamese fish sauce, stir, and turn the heat down. Simmer the sauce gently for 3 minutes or so while chopping a bed of cabbage. Spread it on a serving platter and place the fried bluegills on top. Add 20 leaves of fresh Thai basil to the sauce. If you can't find one of the many varieties of Thai basil, sweet basil will do (but it's not as good!).


Stir the basil into the sauce for only a minute, and pour the sauce over the fish. Including the time it takes to clean the gills, this dish takes less than 20 minutes to prepare and cook — if you have some homemade ghee in the fridge and a can or jar of curry paste handy. Perfect for the slippery midnight bluegill chef who comes home late, smelling fishy. Just announce beforehand that dinner's on you and nobody should worry until 6 pm.


1 Clear Lake, California

The largest lake in California (43,000 acres near Lakeport) is known for lunker largemouths, but houses overlooked giant 'gills, yielding the 3¾-pound state record last year, along with others over 3. The bite by docks and at the edge of tules is strong from mid-April into September. Nearby Collins Lake, renowned for trophy trout, also produces massive sunnies — 2 to 3 pounds. The best bite starts in April and lasts into the spawn in May and early June. Contact: Clear Lake Information, lakecounty.com; Clear Lake State Park, 800/444-7275, parks.ca.gov; Collins Lake, ­collinslake.com.

6 Deep Creek Lake, Maryland

This impoundment in the northwestern corner of Maryland yielded the state record 3-pound 7-ounce 'gill, giving evidence of its productivity. With a deep basin, the Prespawn and Spawn periods are protracted, with prime action from mid-April into early June. Contact: Fish Deep Creek, 240/460-8839, fishdeepcreek.com; Guide Ken Penrod, 301/937-0010, penrodsguides.com.

7 Coastal Impoundments, Virginia

Four reservoirs near Norfolk and Suffolk, Virginia, are regular producers of big bluegills and shellcrackers. Fertile lakes Cahoon, Western Branch, Prince, and Burnt Mills have a history of trophy fish production. Western Branch (1,265 acres) reopened to public fishing in 2010 and is known for outsize redear, with certified specimens approaching 3 pounds. Boating permits required. Contact: Burnt Mills Reservoir Manager, 757/441-5678; Chesapeake Bay Office, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 757/465-6812, dgif.virginia.gov.

5 Kentucky & Barkley Lakes, Kentucky-Tennessee

These massive impoundments — Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee River and Barkley on the Cumberland — are joined by a canal and offer outstanding fishing for big redear sunfish, as well as bass and crappies. Contact: Jack Canady, Woods and Water Guide Service, 270/227-2443, woodsandwaterguideservice.com.

2 Lake Havasu, Arizona-California

Lake Havasu, impounding about 45 miles of the Colorado River, has become redear central after producing the all-tackle record 5-pound 7-ounce fish, along with many others over 2 pounds. The record was 16¾ inches long and boasted a 19-inch girth. Best action runs from April through June, when fish gather in coves to spawn. Locals fish livebait but small spinners and cranks catch some monsters. Contact: John Galbraith, ­basstacklemaster.com; Captain Jerry's Guide Service, 760/447-5846, havasufishingguide.com­; Havasu Fishing, havasufishing.com.

3 Pelican Lake, Nebraska

Nestled in the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge in the Sandhills region of Nebraska, Pelican Lake consistently produces the biggest 'gills in the region, many over a pound and occasional 2-pounders. Blessed with abundant and diverse large invertebrates, growth is fast in this shallow waterway. Abundant vegetation provides habitat for bugs and a sanctuary for big sunfish. Most giants are caught through the ice or in early spring. Contact: Valentine National Wildlife Refuge, http://www.fws.gov/valentine/.

4 Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee

Labeled 'Earthquake Lake, ' a mighty tremor of the New Madrid Fault in 1811 diverted the Mississippi River, backing up this highly productive 11,000-acre waterway in northwestern Tennessee. Big bluegills and shellcrackers roam the shallow lake's cypress forests and lily pad fields, yielding prime pole-fishing opportunities all spring and summer. Contact: Bluebank Resort, 877/258-3226, bluebankresort.com; Eagle Nest Resort, 731/538-2143, eaglenestresort.com.

9 Richmond Mill Lake, North Carolina

Located near Laurel Hill, North Carolina, Richmond Mill likely offers the best shot at a 2-pound bluegill, truly a rare animal. This pay-to-play waterway, owned by the Kingfisher Society, is managed to ensure balance between bluegills and largemouth bass and habitat quality. After refilling in 2000, it's approaching prime productivity. Giants sometimes require finesse presentations, such as tiny jigs tipped with a bit of 'crawler. Contact: Kingfisher Society, 910/462-2324, kingfishersociety.com.

10 Santee-Cooper, South Carolina

This lowland jewel produced the former world record shellcracker and continues to yield amazing numbers of platter-sized bluegills as well as redears, not to mention big catfish, bass, and crappies. Spring comes early and a fine bedding bite starts in late March, lasting into May, but recurring on a monthly basis until September. Anglers also take jumbos in the Diversion Canal between the paired impoundments in fall and winter. Contact: Santee-­Cooper Country, 803/854-2131, santeecoopercountry.org­.

8 Tidal Rivers, North Carolina

Flowing into Arbemarle Sound in the northeastern part of the state are a series of blackwater rivers that represent the northernmost range of the coppernose bluegill, the southern subspecies known to attain large size. Panfish expert Jim Gronaw picks the Pasquotank, Yeopim, Perqimens, and Chowan rivers, with loads of 9- to 11-inch fish and some over 1½ pounds. Local expert Jeffrey Abney scores with hair jigs tied in a grass shrimp pattern. Contact: bigbluegill.com; Pembroke Fishing Center, 252/482-5343; Bethel Fishing ­Center, 252/426-5155.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Minus System Crankbaits for Largemouths

Minus System Crankbaits for Largemouths

In-Fisherman Editor-In-Chief, Doug Stange demonstrates the use of DT Fat Minus crankbaits for largemouth bass.

What

What's New from Cummings Nets?

There's more than meets the eye with new Cummings Nets Red Line. Find out what. With Mike Powell of Cummings and Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

Bait Choices from Skeet Reese

Bait Choices from Skeet Reese

Pro angler Skeet Reese is a Major League Fishing champion and a winner of the Bassmaster Classic and BASS Angler of the Year titles. Throughout his years of bass catching success, as he tells World Fishing Network personality Chad LaChance, Berkley baits like the Deal and Straight Money have played a key role in what he has accomplished out on the water.

Largemouth Bass: Tricks of Our Trade

Largemouth Bass: Tricks of Our Trade

The In-Fisherman staff reveals insider swimming jig tips and tricks for big bass.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Check out this Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart, a simple and accurate explanation from the In-Fisherman biologists. Bass

Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 22, 2017

Check out this Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart, a simple and accurate...

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural baits and commercial options. Carp

10 Best Carp Baits Available Today

Dan Johnson

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north or south, will help you pinpoint their predictable locations year after year. Walleye

Understanding Spring Walleye Migrations

Gord Pyzer - June 02, 2018

Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north...

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

See More Trending Articles

More Panfish

During summer, panfish need to eat the most, as energy reserves burn faster in the warmest water of the year. Panfish

How to Find a Summertime Panfish Pattern

Matt Straw - August 07, 2018

During summer, panfish need to eat the most, as energy reserves burn faster in the warmest...

Once lakes turn and water temps descend into the 50s, big panfish assemble and hide in tight groups. Panfish

Power-Searching Big Panfish: Fall to First Ice

Cory Schmidt - November 26, 2019

Once lakes turn and water temps descend into the 50s, big panfish assemble and hide in tight...

Crappies are one of the most ubiquitous, easy-to-catch fish species in freshwater. Panfish

Springtime Crappies on the Upper Red

Cory Schmidt - March 24, 2020

Crappies are one of the most ubiquitous, easy-to-catch fish species in freshwater.

Panfish opportunities are boundless during the Summer Period. Fish are active, moving and feeding Panfish

7 Summer Panfish Hotspots

Steve Ryan - May 18, 2018

Panfish opportunities are boundless during the Summer Period. Fish are active, moving and...

See More Panfish

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now