eating bluegills from Lady Bird Lake

bluegill on Lady Bird Lake near Holly St Power plant
I caught a decent sized bluegill on Lady Bird Lake recently, pictured here against the backdrop of the Holly Street power plant. I caught it about an hour or two before sunset, coaxing it into rising to a hand-tied foam spider.

That success led me to promise a friend that the next time we met, I would catch fish for our dinner. Now the great thing about this friend (the Peter Gabriel of previous posts) is that he’s willing to pick fish straight off the bone, head and all, and he doesn’t complain about the size. So yesterday I took my selection of hand-tied flies and went about the grim business of catching fish not for the sport but for the meat.

The bluegills weren’t as enthusiastic about the top water flies on Monday. Maybe it’s because I was using patterns that were too experimental, or maybe there was too much of a wind so they couldn’t cue in on the ripples as well, or maybe the cold front put them off. Whatever the reason, I eventually switched to sinking flies and did much better. In particular, the glow in the dark gummy San Juan worms got a solid hit on every cast. The fish actually chewed the worms apart. If I had more time to dial in the pattern and had more flies on hand, I could have caught a bigger meal, but I was able to bring in four fish with enough flesh on their bones to make the time spent scaling and gutting them worthwhile.

eating bluegills from Lady Bird Lake
I’m not going to include a sense of scale to the frying pan photo because I don’t want you to think worse of me for being a baby killer.

We fried up the Texas perch with salt and cornmeal, taking them out of the pan when they were on the edge of falling apart into meat flakes and ribs. Bulked up as they were with the cornmeal, they provided as much food as you might reasonably expect for the entrees for two people. The taste was even more fishy than I remember it, but tasty all the same. My friend agreed that they were delicious.

Then when I came in that evening, I found this pamphlet in my mailbox:
Lady Bird Lake toxin advisory
What are the odds that on the very day that I ate a couple of bluegills that the city watershed department would send me a picture of a bluegill on a plate with arrows pointing to it with deliberately unappetizing captions? I mean, it’s not even a prestige fish. Hardly anyone bothers to eat them. And Lady Bird Lake has about six different varieties of sunfish, several of which are typically larger than bluegills (and several of the other species are prettier too).

I bet some contract graphic designer chose a bluegill image for the pamphlet just because it was the fish that fit the plate graphic the best.