With meat prices at their current levels, there is less excuse than ever for an angler to behave like a fish hog, stacking his catch on the dock to be admired—and then stacking it in the garbage can. If fish are kept instead of being released in the interest of better sport for the future, then at least they should be consumed and enjoyed. Below are a few recipes that could help.
First catch the—oh, never mind.
Marinated fillets of a number of species are a delicacy. Soak them, the thinner the better, in a bowl of water and cracked ice. While they chill take another bowl and add a cup of vinegar; two teaspoons of raw sugar; a tablespoon of grated onion; a teaspoon of parsley flakes and three tablespoons of soy sauce for each pound of fish. Shift the fillets from the ice to the marinade, soak for four hours, serve and devour.
Pickled fillets make an excellent appetizer. Place them in a crock filled with salt water, a cup of salt for each quart of water, for two days, then remove and rinse. Place six whole peppercorns on the bottom of a quart Mason jar and add the juice of half a lemon plus lemon peelings; ‚⅛ of a teaspoon of Tabasco sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper; I teaspoon of fresh tarragon; 1 bay leaf; three sprigs of fresh parsley; three well-chopped celery stalks and a layer of sliced onion. Lay the fillets on top of all this, cover with sliced onions, add another layer of fillets and continue until the jar is full. Cover with a mixture of half wine vinegar, half water. Leave in the refrigerator for three days, a week or two weeks, depending on your particular pickle preferences. For some reason largemouth bass rank at the top when treated thus, although sunfish come close and so do striped bass.
Smoked fish are another delicacy, and the Swedish Abu Smoker is simple to use and does a fine job in a short time. Two 10-inch trout, gutted and degilled, are best, followed by sunnies, perch and filleted sturgeon, if you can get it. Finally, there are the roes of river herring for anyone lucky enough to live next to a coastal Atlantic stream—the roe from river herring (alewives or bluebacks) is finer grained and tastier than the better-known shad roe. Fresh run from the sea, river herring are easily caught on an ultralight spinning rig or fly rod. Take a size 10 trout fly hook, press a BB split shot on the head with a pair of needle-nose pliers, tie on maybe a dozen strands of white hackle plucked from a chicken feather, paint the split shot white and start casting. As for the roe, sauté it with a bit of oregano and garlic. Served hot on toast it makes a great sandwich. And you can always make a roe pizza.