Cook What You Keep!

Jake Haddock
Cook What You Keep!

The questions that always will arise when I start to get into a group of fish: "Are we keeping them?" "Do we need more fish in the freezer to eat in the near future?" The next thought that comes to my mind after that is, "Do we have sufficient amounts of ice on the boat?" Fish, plain and simple, taste better if it is iced down properly. A half a bag of ice won't cut the mustard either. The right amount of ice should be enough to completely submerge all the fish. This time of year it's easier than in the hot months to keep a well-stocked cooler of ice.

If the stars line up just right, you might be able to keep enough to feed all at the dinner table. As soon as I get done fishing, I clean and put away the boat, clean my reel, and finally, clean my fish. To me, there's nothing better at the dinner table than a plate of fresh fish. With a little preparation and planning you can create your very own fish dinner.

If I plan on frying my catch of the day, I like to go ahead and cut them up in small pieces. Then, once the fish is cut, immediately put the meat in a bag and back into the ice. Once you get where you're going to cook the fish, I like to wash the fillets off with water and go over them to look for bones. After you pull out any bones you missed the first time around, you can prepare your breading mixture. I like to start with a healthy amount of flour and only a little bit of cornmeal. I know these aren't exact measurements here, but that's how good cooks cook, right? Anyways, I like more flour because it sticks better to the fish. Next, I'll mix in some seasonings; I like to use paprika, and also some Tony's seasoning for more flavor. Now that you have your breading mixture, put oil in the pan. I use a fairly large cast iron skillet and blended canola oil, only putting about a half inch of oil in the pan. Set the heat to about medium-high. I prefer to use a pan rather than a frying pot. I think that the fish taste better when cooked in a small amount of oil. Both work great, but I like to use the pan.

There are two common choices of things to dip the fish in before you bread them. You can use either milk or eggs. After dipping the fish in the milk or eggs, coat them evenly with your breading. Once the oil reaches the right temperature, place them in the pan. You can test the temperature of the oil by rolling up a little breading and throwing it in the pan. If it doesn't immediately sizzle and bubble, it's not hot enough. While that round of fish are frying you can get another batch ready. After you have all of your fish cooked, you need to make a good cocktail sauce to dip the fish in. It can be very simple to do; just mix in a spoonful of horseradish with a cup of ketchup. This really adds to the flavor of the fish. Lastly, you need to prepare a few sides and you are ready to feed a table full of hungry fishermen.

Preparing the food I catch for dinner is very rewarding and enjoyable. We have a rule: Don't keep any fish, shoot any ducks, deer, etc. that you don't plan to eat. It's un-sportsmanlike and should not be practiced. On the plus side, for those young male sportsmen out there, every girl likes a guy that's a good cook!