Tips for Cooking Freshly-Caught Fish

There’s plenty of things to love about fishing. The peacefulness of the water and the nuance of timing, location and technique all come into play. Among all the reasons to fish for sport or relaxation, there’s also the chance that you’ll catch your next meal. While getting a bite on the line might feel straightforward, the cleaning and cooking a fish may seem a little more daunting. Here are some quick tips to bring your next fresh catch to the table.

Come Prepared

If you are planning on eating your catch, you’ll want to be set up to keep the fish fresh while you are out on the water. 

Bring a cooler with ice that you can store your caught fish in. You’ll also need a sharp fillet knife to slit the gills of your catch. A scraper, scaler or spoon may be needed to prep the fish as well as a durable fillet glove for handling your catch.

You can also keep your catch alive until you reach shore. Built-in live wells will be an option on some fishing boats, offering a convenient and secure chamber for your catch with circulating water. For boats unequipped with a live well, use a wire basket off the side of your boat that you can tow in with your catch.

Right After the Catch

If you aren’t keeping your fish alive on your boat, once you have caught a keeper, you’ll want to work quickly and efficiently to minimize excess suffering for the fish. For those keeping your fish live, you’ll want to undertake these same steps when you get back to shore.

Once you remove your hook, you’ll need to “bonk” the fish – strike it swiftly and forcefully between the eyes with a blunt object. You want your catch stunned and immobilized for the next step. 

To kill the fish, slice into the gills on each side of the fish’s head, from the bottom to top. This part of the process can get messy as the fish begins to bleed out. We recommend establishing a firm grip on the fish’s tail while dangling its body into the water as the blood drains out. The bleeding process can be assisted by massaging the flesh of the fish downwards from the tail into the water. 

Tipping the Scales

The skin of your catch will determine your next step. For fish with thin and smooth scales no extra prep is necessary. Fish with hard or rough scales will need them removed, which is easiest to do before you remove their innards. Descale a fish by scraping against the grain of the scales. Some fish, especially bottom feeders like catfish, have a thick skin that is best to remove with your knife after the catch has been gutted. 

Cleaning the Fish

You are now in the home stretch of cleaning your fish for cooking! Hold your fish down on a solid surface and make a slit with a sharp knife from the tail to the neck. The goal here is to access the inner organs of the fish without puncturing them. When the slit has been made, start at the neck and yank innards down and out, using a hook-like motion with your hand. Discard the innards. 

Wash out the inner cavity of the fish thoroughly and then rinse the entire fish. Keep the flesh on ice until you are ready to eat!

Fresh Supper

There are many, many ways to prepare fresh caught fish for eating, from traditional smoking methods to grilling them to pan-frying them over a campfire. For most applications, filleting the fish is a simple place to start, but fish with thick flesh can also be cut crosswise into steaks. Regardless of the cut, you’ll want to remove all bony fins from the flesh. 

Fish are delicious when prepared simply – merely brushed with oil and a dash of salt can yield fantastic results. You’ll need to watch your fish as it cooks however, as perfect timing is key to a great meal and fish flesh, in general, cooks much faster than other meats. Whether in a pan or on a grill, turn your fish when the underside has begun to brown slightly. Your fish is perfectly done when it begins to flake easily with a little prodding from a fork. 

Fishing is a beloved activity on Lake Carroll! Why not bring your fresh catch back to your house to grill in the backyard? Contact us at Fawnridge Realty for more information.