Catching a fish yourself makes cooking it more enjoyable and rewarding. Nothing feels better than taking the first bite of a fish you caught, cleaned, and cooked yourself! But there are very important steps to follow to maintain a delicate flavor of a newly caught freshwater or saltwater fish. Not to mention preserving it with a pleasing odor!
This comprehensive guide shows you how to prep and cook your freshly caught fish!
Bonk and Bleed Out Fish
Bonk and bleed out the fish immediately to minimize their suffering and prevent spoilage. This will immobilize the fish and render it unconscious. Then, use a sharp knife to cut into both the gills from the bottom up. To help the blood flow out of their body, dip the fish back into the water headfirst and massage along the spine. Once the flow of blood slows, put the fish in a cooler to chill while finishing out the day.
Wash with Clean Water
The next step is to wash it by hosing or bucket rinsing to remove the slime and bacteria that can cause spoilage. Don’t use water that is close to marinas, municipal, or industrial discharges. Potable water is always the best way to go.
Remove the Scales and Innards
It is important to remove the scales or skin to prep for cooking depending on what kind of fish you caught. Fish with thin skin and smooth scales, like trout, can have their skin and scales left intact. Those with thick skin and no scales, like catfish, often need their skin removed completely to make them fit for eating. Tough-scaled fish like salmon are best descaled as well.
To descale, simply run the back of a fillet knife along with the scales, working from the tail to the head. Put them in a bag to keep the scales from flying, Then, remove the skin by running the fillet knife between the skin and meat.
To remove the innards, run a knife through the belly from the anus to the neck without cutting too deeply. Reach inside and grab the innards with two fingers, starting from the neck. Pull down and out, removing all of the innards and discard them in the trash. Rinse out the fish’s belly cavity thoroughly and run the rest of it under the water as well.
Cut and Flavor According to Preference
Then, it’s time to prepare your fish. Some like to cut int into fillets, while others like steaks instead. You can simply leave your fish whole, depending on how you want it.
Once you have secured your fish, you can start spreading some seasonings on it, like virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon, tomatoes, and more. This is where you can get creative! Lemongrass, fresh ginger, quartered limes, and other flavorings are also good ideas. The cavity is your opportunity to stuff your fish full of whatever aromatics make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, so have fun with it.
Cook the Fish
The eating quality and nutritional value of fish can be maintained up to 5 days if properly cleaned. Washing of the hands before touching the fish is also important.
Usually, fish is cooked at the campgrounds or a cabin unless the boat you’re on has specialty cooking equipment on-board. The cooking equipment you have on hand will also influence your methods. You can cook them up in a frying pan, in the oven, or on a grill. The campfire is a great way to give your fish a smoky and delicious flavor.
Try cutting four deep and vertical slits in the skin across the upward-facing side of the fish to promote even cooking.