Preparing Fresh Catch Lakeside

Catching a few panfish or small trout usually makes a child happy, but the question parents face a lot from kids is, “Can we eat it?” Here’s how to prepare your fresh catch lakeside.

Cook
By Justin Brouillard
Cook Ambassador

There is nothing better than spending some time lakeside with family and the smile on a young kid’s face when they catch a fish. Catching a few panfish or small trout usually makes a child happy, but the question parents face a lot from kids is, “Can we eat it?” For several reasons, some parents are reluctant to keep fish. Many people are not familiar with the process of cleaning and prepping a fresh fillet. It’s possible they don’t have enough fish for an actual meal. Or maybe there is just not enough time to make it happen on that given day. If your kids want to try eating fish, use the opportunity to teach them to properly prepare a catch and involve them in the process of preparing and cooking the fish. It is possible they may not like it and will continue to catch and release, or maybe they will like it and you can continue to savor those moments with the family doing what they enjoy.

Filleting

If the kids are lucky enough to catch a fish, there is a bit of work to prepare the fish to be cooked. Cleaning or filleting the fish is one thing, but you need to ensure you have the proper items to cook the fish lakeside. You could save the fish until you get home, but kids enjoy eating their fresh catch by the lake, and it adds something special to the trip. To process the catch, a simple cutting board, fillet knife and bottle of water to clean the fillet are all that is needed. It is a good idea to bring a trash bag to carry items away with you as well. Read more about how to clean and fillet a fish here.

What you need:

  • Fillet knife: to clean and fillet the fish
  • Cutting board: to lay the fish on a clean surface
  • Bottle of water: to rinse the fillets
  • Fillet glove: to help grip the fish while cleaning
  • Trash bag: to store fish remains and trash/scraps from cooking

Now that you have your fish filleted, the part the kids have been waiting for has arrived. It’s time to put the fishing rods down and cook your catch. There are several options for cooking the fish, and your choice mostly depends on where you are.

Campfire

The most fun, although it does require some work, is a campfire. Check your local regulations to see where a campfire is allowed, but parks and campgrounds often have firepits available for use. It doesn’t take much as far as wood, and usually you can walk around and collect some dead sticks — a good activity for the kids. If you can get a small fire going, most of the work is done. The options for cooking over an open fire are pretty simple. You can put a few big rocks together and place a cast-iron pan over it. You can use a grate of some sort, where available, especially at state parks. You can thread the fillet onto a small stick and hold it over the flames. Use your imagination and the resources you have available.

What you need:

  • Firewood: to get a heat source to cook the fish
  • Lighter/matches: to light the fire
  • Rocks: to hold the cast-iron pan if you don’t have a grate
  • Grate: to hold the aluminum foil or pan
  • Cast-iron pan: to cook the fish
  • Aluminum foil: to cook the fish if you have a grate
  • Oil/butter: to keep the fish from sticking to the pan or foil
  • Spices: to add some flavor to the fish
  • Utensils: to cook and eat the fish

Grill

Another option is a grill or a portable grill. Maybe you are at a camp or you live on a body of water. Clean those fish and fire up the grill. Since grills already have a grate, all you need is a small cast-iron pan or a piece of aluminum foil. A grill is a lot easier to use than a campfire as it requires a lot less work and is easier to clean up. You can use a gas grill, an electric grill or a portable propane grill. Use what is most convenient and easiest for your situation. If you are in a more rural area or not at home or in a park, a portable grill is probably what you will need. For some great options check out this article.

What you need:

  • Grill: to cook the fish
  • Lighter/matches: to light the grill if needed
  • Cast-iron pan: to cook the fish on a portable grill or on the gas grill
  • Aluminum foil: to cook the fish if you have a grate and no pan
  • Oil/butter: to keep the fish from sticking to the pan or foil
  • Spices: to add some flavor to the fish
  • Utensils: to cook and eat the fish

Regardless of your situation, when the kids have an interest in eating the fish they catch, use it as a learning experience and let them try new things. They may not enjoy it after all, but they may find a new thing they like to eat. Teach them about the limits on the fish they catch and make sure they know the amount of fish that can be kept and the length of a legal fish. Check your local fish and wildlife agency website for more information.

(Justin Broulliard)

*Be sure to look up any fish consumption advisories in your area.

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