By Larry Pape
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Keep your catch of fish as fresh as possible and you will be rewarded with a wonderful meal that is the finale to a fishing trip. In mid-October, trout will be stocked across Nebraska in small city park ponds and state park lakes.
These pan-sized fish offer a person the delicious main course of a meal. From the lake to the table, every step is critical in making the best of what nature has given you.
Fish are a perishable food product and the quality of the meal is only as good as the handling of the fish after the catch. If practical, fish can be kept alive until just before cleaning. The best method is to keep them as cold as possible, as soon as possible. If you know you are going to be keeping fish, take along a cooler with ice and place them in it immediately after catching.
A 10-inch rainbow trout is one of the easiest fish to prepare for the pan. It is not necessary, nor advisable to skin or filet a small trout, as they have delicate flesh that is best kept whole. The method is simply to remove the internal organs and gills, and then wash.
Do this by making an incision along the belly from the vent to the gills, and disposing of the entrails. The gills may take a little more cutting to release them from the head. The head can be left on or removed depending on the diner’s sensibility. Notice a dark area inside and along the spine of the fish. This is the fish’s kidney and can be removed by gently rubbing while washing. It does not change the cooked product if left in the fish.
There are two easy methods for cooking trout:
Pan fry – Dredge in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper and seasoning of choice. Fry about 3 to 5 minutes per side in a quarter inch of medium hot oil. Use spatula to turn the fish gently. When done, place on a platter to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Bake – Wrap in foil and cook on the grill or in the oven. This allows each fish to be seasoned to the particular desires of the diner. Oil is necessary to keep the fish moist; use butter, olive or vegetable oil; just a splash will do. Spices can be delicate such as rosemary and parsley, or bold such as Cajun and curry, but remember that a little goes a long way. To add flavor and edible ingredients, include sliced onions, garlic cloves, capers, or artichoke hearts.
Seal this foil packet and bake on the grill grates or in the oven on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes (350 degrees). Serve after resting for a few minutes and then placing each packet in front of the diner on a plate. Open carefully to release the steam and aroma.
A trout meal is best served with rice, vegetables and the stories of how they were caught.
If you are just getting into fishing and want more details, a helpful resource is Game and Parks’ Going Fishing Guide, available at OutdoorNEbraska.gov/howtofish. For information on Fish Stocking, including the dates pf upcoming trout stocking, OutdoorNebraska.gov/fishstockingreports.
Read more fishing tips:
Fishing with basics of hooks, bobbers and sinkers
Beginner angler’s guide to rod, reel and line
Whether releasing or keeping, handle fish with care
How to plan successful fishing trip
Simple setup all that’s needed to get started fishing
Well-tied knots important for any new angler