One of my favorite things about fishing Idaho’s clean waters is the chance to enjoy a fresh-caught meal. I’m a proponent of catch-and-release — especially with wild trout and large bass — but there’s nothing more rewarding than enjoying healthy, delicious, freshly caught fish with your loved ones. Perch, crappie and salmon, in particular, are popular on my dinner table.
So how do you get the most out of your catch-and-cook experience? Here are a few of my favorite recipes —give them a try or adapt them to your own tastes!
Seared on the stovetop
Some fish have so much natural flavor, it seems a shame to complicate it. For species like Chinook salmon, Kokanee salmon and cold-water trout, my go-to recipe only calls for butter, cracked pepper and seasoned salt. I start with boneless, skinless fillets (although you can leave the skin on if you prefer). Melt and slightly brown the butter in the pan, then cook the fish for a few minutes on each side, sprinkling lightly with salt and pepper. For a perfect, slightly crispy finish, I like to broil the fillets in the oven for a minute or two. Roasted vegetables and rice pilaf make perfect sidekicks. You can also experiment with additional flavor combos —two of my favorites are lemon-pepper and coconut-lime.
Fried fish is awesome, especially the white, flaky variety that can be harvested from panfish, bass and walleye. Start by cutting boneless, skinless fillets and rolling them in a cornmeal batter. Louisiana Fish Fry’s Cajun recipe and Slap Ya Mama Cajun breading are two of my favorites. Prep is quick and easy, as cornmeal batter sticks directly to moistened fillets — no flour or egg mix needed. For cooking, cover the bottom of a large skillet with oil and fry the fillets on each side until they are a crunchy golden-brown. Once the fish is cooked, drain the fillets on a paper towel-covered plate and serve with roasted potatoes or fries. If spicy isn’t your thing, there are tamer batters available, too.
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Nothing beats fresh fish on a campout — but with tools and prep space limited, I like to keep it simple. Trout— especially brookies or cutthroats from an alpine stream or lake — are my go-to species around the campfire. Rather than fillet my catch, I simply remove the insides and clean out the body cavity. Place a pat of butter and your choice of seasoning inside the rib cage, then wrap the fish in tinfoil. Cook time depends on the heat of your fire, but about seven minutes on each side should do the trick. If the fish is cooked through, the skin and bones will easily peel away from the flesh. Add a vegetable kabob and a mountain pie to finish off a perfect primitive feast!
Do it yourself!
Filleting fish is the key to turning your catches into awesome home-cooked meals. If you’re willing to travel to Boise, I’m teaching a special Fillet and Fry class from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the downtown JUMP Share Studio. All supplies are provided, including a take-home fillet knife. For more info or to sign up, visit www.tightlines208.com.
Happy cooking, and tight lines!