Why do you go fishing? Is it for the thrill of the hunt, the relaxation of the outdoors, or the excitement of feeling that telltale bump on the end of your line?
All are perfectly acceptable reasons, and there are dozens more you could choose from, including this one:
Fish are delicious.
Now, I’m all for catch-and-release most of the time. But there’s nothing better than a fresh fish fry, so on certain occasions and with certain species, I’ll happily bring home a stringer of fish for the frying pan.
So what’s the key to turning your hard-earned catch into a tasty treat? Here are a few fish preparation tips and tricks I’ve learned:
▪ Boneless is best: For anyone questioning whether they should learn how to fillet their catch, DO IT. Yes, it’s tricky at first. No, your fillets won’t look restaurant quality right away. But practice makes perfect, and once you have clean, boneless fillets, your cooking options increase exponentially.
A starter fillet set is fairly inexpensive, or you can splurge on a dedicated fillet table for the garage, which keeps the mess out of the kitchen.
▪ Batter up: Once you have your fillets, it’s time to prep them for cooking. There are dozens of batter mixes out there, so experiment with a few until you find a favorite.
My go-to is Louisiana Fish Fry, which is sold at most grocery stores. It’s a light, cornmeal-based breading that comes in several flavors (my personal favorite is the spicy Cajun).
Simply roll your fillets in the batter until they are coated, then flash-fry them in oil for a few minutes on each side. Once they are golden brown, let them cool on some newspaper, and you are ready to feast. My favorite fish to fry are smaller species like perch, crappie, bluegill and tilapia.
▪ Searing success: Another great option for cooking fish is to pan-sear them in butter. I reserve this method for the best fillets, which in my book are kokanee or Chinook salmon.
I season the meat only lightly with black pepper and a little lemon juice. It brings out the great natural flavor of the meat, and beats anything I’ve ever had in a restaurant.
Fresh fish is best, but if you need to freeze your catch, put it in a ziplock bag half-full with water. This guards against freezer burn and makes for easier thawing.
▪ Good grillin’: The easiest way to cook fish is on the grill (or in the fire pit). Simply clean your fish the traditional way, fill the body cavity with butter and spices, wrap it in tin foil and, boom. Fifteen minutes later, dinner is on.
I usually reserve this method for camping trips. It works best with mid-sized fish like trout and bass. Please remember to kill your fish before beginning the filleting/cleaning process. It’s the humane thing to do.
What are your secret recipes and fish fry techniques? Share them with us on social media, or by emailing email@example.com.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.