Part of the joy of fishing includes being by a body of water surrounded by nature and a peaceful quiet, but another benefit to fishing is being able to catch a few fish that you can have for a nice, healthy meal. Just as catching a fish requires patience and timing, so does cooking any fish you catch. It should be noted that this process is not for those who are squeamish with handling internal organs.
Step 1: Kill the fish quickly and humanely
If you are going to eat the fish you catch, be sure to end its life quickly and humanely. Hit the fish against a rock to stun it and keep it from flailing, then make a clean cut with a sharp knife on the back of its head to sever the head from its spine. This will kill the fish quickly and you will have already removed the head.
Step 2: Keep the fish on ice until ready for preparation
If you want to fish some more or need to transport the fish back home, be sure to keep the fish on ice in a cooler. Fish can begin to go bad quickly, so be sure to start cooking your meal at least an hour or two after catching it.
Step 3: Clean the fish
This process may take a while for first timers, so be patient. You will need the following in order to properly prepare a fish for cooking:
• A clean, flat surface
• Access to running water
• Sharp knife
Before you begin cutting into the fish, try not to puncture any internal organs because this will release bacteria into the fish that you don’t want to ingest. Once you have all your tools and equipment, follow the next steps.
• Rinse the fish – this is important because it will help get rid of the pond or ocean smell that comes with fishing and will make the cooking experience a little easier on your nose. This also helps clean off grime and muck that may be on or in the fish.
• Scale the fish – use the sharp knife and run the blade from the tail to the head. The blade will catch the scales of the fish and remove them from the skin. This part usually takes the longest in the preparation process. This is also the time to cut spines off of fish if you caught fish that has them to make the process safer.
• Skin the fish – once you have gotten rid of the scales, make a cut where the head was removed and pull the skin off gently and carefully. With time and practice, this part will become much easier.
• Gut the fish – make a clean cut from the anus to the gills (again, be careful not to puncture any organs). Grab the insides of the fish and pull them out. This may take some digging, but once all of the organs are removed, you can begin to cook the fish
Step 4: Cook the Fish
There are a wide variety of ways to prepare to cook a fish, though the most common method is to fillet the fish. Filleting a fish means putting it on a skillet or pan and cooking it from the outside, letting the heat from the fire or oven cook it. You may also choose to steak the fish. This technique is better if you have a larger fish that may not be easy to cook all the way through. For this method, you would cut up the fish into more manageable cubes.
A fish can be fried, baked broiled, made over a fire, or made in a oven. Though there are many cooking options to choose from, baking it would be best recommended for beginners. A common method for baking fish is to use flour or bread crumbs on the outside of the fish to keep it crisp on the outside, but it also helps prevent the fish from burning. Common fish seasonings include garlic and lemon butter, salt and pepper, or any other common seasoning mix.
Each method of cooking has a designated time to cook the fish, so be sure to research the proper amount of time to properly cook a fish. As a note of caution, it is always better to have an overcooked fish than an undercooked fish.
Step 5: Store the fish
If you happen to have leftovers from your meal, they can be a great leftovers option. Extra fish can be stored in the refrigerator if you intend to eat it again in the next few days. If you think it won’t be for another five days or more, then it is safest to store leftover fish in the freezer to keep it safer to eat for longer.
When reheating fish, be careful not to microwave fish because it brings out that “fishy” smell. It is recommended that you either. This also gives the fish a more rubbery texture and can make it less pleasant to eat. Consider taking some extra time to bake the fish again for a short time in an oven.
Catching your meal can be an empowering way to live, just as it is empowering to make a tasty meal of your catch. Preparing and cooking fish can be a long and sometimes arduous process, but the difference you can taste in freshly-caught fish over store-bought is amazing. Fish are certainly a healthy option for meals and with practice, you can cook your own fish like a pro.