Bluegill are the first fish.

Literally in Illinois, they are the state fish.

“The kids don’t care how big the fish is but they are excited just to catch a fish,’’ emailed Brenda McKinney, who heads the Illinois Urban Fishing Program in Chicago. “We also explain that this is the state fish so that makes the catch even more important for the kids.’’

Let’s celebrate bluegill, here’s to something done right in Illinois.

Catchability, fight and, well, beauty, it’s all there in bluegill.

Bluegill and their hybrids are the backbone of most kids fishing. McKinney noted that not only are bluegill the most caught, but that, “A lot of the girls will also comment on how pretty the fish is and they don’t mind touching the fish before we put them back.’’

Of Illinois’ common natives, the pumpkinseed, bluegill’s cousin, is the only fish I would call prettier.

“I would say overall that anywhere that I’ve worked with youth over the years, bluegill have always been number one,’’ emailed Carl Vizzone, program & event facilitator–fishing for the Chicago Park District, whose programs help more than 10,000 kids fish. “Nine times out of ten when you ask people what their first fish caught is, it’s bluegill.

“I personally enjoy catching bluegills over most species due to the fact that pound for pound, they are the best fighters. In the program itself, bluegills are one of two species that are stocked in CPD Lagoons. Without those stockings, there is no programs in the lagoons.’’

I second Vizzone’s “best fighters’’ comment.

In the past few weeks, I had a crush of submissions of bluegills and their hybrids for Fish of the Week. They deserve their due.

Daniel Filipek sent a photo (at the top) of his grandson Eddie Filipek, of Arlington Heights, 5, for his first bluegill, a typical bluegill many of us can identify with. He caught it on a trout worm under a slip bobber, a rig set up by his uncle Doug Filipek, in a channel off Stanton Bay on the Chain O’Lakes.

Eddie was using fairly typical gear: 6-pound monofilament on a spinning reel on an Ugly Stik.

fotw06-15-16evertBluegill are not noted for their size, though Darren May’s Illinois record (3 pounds, 8 ounces) is huge. He caught it May 10, 1987 from a farm pond in Jasper County.

So a 10-inch bluegill or hybrid is notable, especially in northern Illinois.

Steve McMahan messaged a photo (to the left) of Angelina Evert, with a 10-incher she caught at a fishing derby in early June at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville.

“Needless to say she won her division,’’ he said.fotw06-15-16arato

That 10-inch mark is what makes Elinor Arato’s 10.5-inch fish so special. She caught it (photo to the right) on a worm under a bobber from a little farm pond in Frankfort on the last day of school.

“[She] actually lost it three times since it kept spitting out the worm and then finally she hooked it and reeled it in all by herself,’’ her father Giuseppe Arato emailed.

To the bluegill.

REMINDER: The IDNR holds an informational meeting, related to Chinook issues, at 7 p.m. Thursday at 9511 W. Harrison, Des Plaines.

WILD THINGS: I picked and ate my first wild raspberry Sunday.

STRAY CAST: “Not on the back of the baseball card’’ is the same as `it’s not about catching fish.’’