When you go out with your friends, on or in a boat, inevitably food is an essential part of the journey. Whether you are fishing or just having fun; what you eat is of consequence. The scenario could be this:
You grab a handful of flour, a half-eaten cracker and two thimbles of water, before venturing out on the high seas for a week – starving yourself because it “focuses the mind,” as it lets you become one with the fish. Or so you think.
Then, because your blood sugar drops extremely low from lack of food, you get lost, dizzy or just not sure what is going on.
Most of us like to eat good food. However, it doesn’t mean it has to be fancy or gourmet. There’s a balance between punishing yourself and pretending you’re at the Ritz Carlton in waders. It starts with picking one thing; YOUR one thing.
Everyone has a thing. It’s a little taste of something always bringing us comfort. For field editor Craig, his is dry salami. You won’t find him on a trip, be it a few hours or a few days, without a hunk or two of those logs, traditionally seen in Christmas gift-boxes, in his pocket or tackle box.
Assistant Sarah needs Tang. She knows she will never stay hydrated enough unless she drinks as did the infamous astronauts. She gets caught frequently shoving a spoonful into her water bottle before and during any outdoor adventure.
Photo Editor John, who probably spends more time on the water than any of us is a Moon Pie lover. John eats healthier than most on your average day, but the minute his hook drops, he gives in to the craving for marshmallow mayhem.
You probably already know what your one thing is. It’s the snack that always ends up in your car. Maybe it’s the nostalgic memory of childhood. Always bring it!
Creating A Snack Routine
You don’t want to have to think about food while you’re fishing. At least not too much. However, you don’t want to eat only junk food either.
That’s why we have most of the items listed below on constant rotation. Doing This helps prevent boredom from eating the same thing and also ensures you have something ready to eat if the fish are biting and you need a quick nibble yourself.
- Traditional trail mix (or as my son calls it, “M&Ms with Obstacles”)
- Goldfish crackers
- Sunflower seeds
- Peanut butter cookies (Nutter Butters!!!)
- Beef jerky
- Block of cheese
- Mini sausages
- Dried fruit
- Tuna packets (in the bag, not can)
- Fruit leather (rollups work too but harder to open and more trash)
- Pork rinds (the holiest of “chips.” Pringles are also acceptable as long as they are the original)
- Powdered drink of choice (Crystal Light packets live in my bait box, which is hilarious because Crystal Light tastes like melted pennies in a vat of pond scum when I drink it at home)
- Dark chocolate
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Dry salami
- Bubble gum (the sweet burst and methodical chewing helps you focus if the fish are extra squirrelly)
- Pop tarts or good ol’ PB&J on the worst Wonder-type bread you can find
- Instant iced coffee (it is magic for the caffeinated crowd)
- Your one thing – whatever it is.
Fill in The Holes with More Substantial Fare
Don’t listen to your mother; you absolutely CAN live on the first list by itself. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Fact is, you don’t have to pack a picnic basket and your portable grill to eat well on the water (although you absolutely can, BBQ Man, we believe in you!). Aim for prepared foods that will last and ideally don’t need a lot of care. Save the Michelin-rated meals for the fancy charter trips.
- One word: Pizza (Don’t forget, cold pizza is ok)
- Pre-cooked chicken (grab a rotisserie chicken at the market on the way, or even a family bucket from KFC)
- Burrito – scrambled eggs and cheese, sausage or bacon
- Hot soup (invest in a good thermos, you’ll have warm, creamy goodness all day)
- Good Ol’ Sandwich- Your Choice (pro tip: don’t prepare the sandwich ahead of time. Keep the bread and the fixings separate, so you don’t end up with a soggy bread when it is lunch time)
- Pasta salad (aim for more flavorful concoctions. An easy cheat is to make a more traditionally healthy pasta dish and then mix in a big heap of mac & cheese, preferably of the boxed and powdered variety for those extra chemicals!)
- The tomato, baguette, cheese combo: One big fresh tomato, one quality piece of thick bread and your favorite cheese.
- Sautéed mushrooms (pan fried with lots of butter – sautéed mushrooms are great by themselves but can also add to other meals – from a sautéed mushroom & Pringles sandwich to the perfect soup. Some folks have issues with the consistency once they get cold, however, so try them out beforehand)
- Pork loin (you can pick up a large pork loin quite inexpensively these days, especially at places like Costco. Any number of easy recipes online ensure a moist piece of meat throughout the day)
- Your one thing (if you skipped the first list and just came here)
Don’t Sacrifice Fun For Your Palette
The food you bring fishing can be significantly impacted by where you are going and how you are getting there. By all means, bring the 12-pack if you are only traveling from the car to the dock. Don’t be the person who weighed himself down on a 3-mile river hike, over rocky terrain and just had to have a baked potato and ribs on the banks.
The key to preparing food to eat while you are fishing is to find the balance between a happy stomach and an actual fishing trip. Sometimes that line is murky – like a river bank full of catfish, like on those annual jaunts with your closest friends that always seem to end in hangovers, not halibut (FYI, we’ve had a ton of meal ideas for those of you willing and able to lug the kitchen with you).
Bring your snacks, those that always accompany you to the water? Drop us a line; we’d love to hear from you. If you have a second, take a picture of your “stash.”
Chef Bobby is a Chef and Cookbook Author. He loves to share his knowledge of cooking and handling of fish with our community.