Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Fresh-caught fish are a delicacy, if you handle them right
By DICK PINNEY | May 13. 2017 8:49PM
This seems like a rarity in the current catch-and- release acceptance, and we'll still do a bit of that, but for all our adult lives my family has eaten a large percentage of the edible fish that come aboard.
Along with the salmon and trout, pan-sized perch both yellow and white are added to our stringer, and we've found that when presenting a plate of mixed species to unknowing guests, we get as many or possibly more compliments on the so-called rough fish than we get on the game fish.
Jane and I delight in fresh-caught fish, whether freshwater or saltwater, but we'll have to give a tip of our spatula to the saltwater species as they are very flavorful and often much larger fillets will come from them.
If you are a fish eater you probably wouldn't complain about a meal of any of the rolled in-crumbs and fried or broiled fillets, but we seem to get more positive feedback from the saltwater fillets and we suspect their size has something to do with it.
When fishing saltwater, we are always on the hunt for our table food. Pollock are often the most available and to get the best out of them they should be kept on ice and out of the sun. It's OK to fillet them first but if you're busy catching them it's hard to put down your rod to swap to a fillet knife. The answer is to have a cooler lined with crushed ice, and kill your fish with a blow on the neck just behind the fish's gill plates. Hold it to let it shake and gently slide onto the ice, scooping a couple of inches of the crushed ice on top of the fish. My advice when putting fillets on ice is not to wash them down first, as this seems to have an adverse effect on the end product. A swipe with a towel before you remove the fillets or putting the whole fish on ice will solve some of the problems with bloody messes.
Haddock and flounder also should be iced immediately but we think that filleting the flounder before icing does nothing to improve the flavor. In fact, it's our opinion that it does the opposite. So we wait until we get home to our filleting board to do much if not all of our filleting of all species.
Scaly fish such as the perches and bass we also like to wait until we're home to process. It's our estimation that if skinning the fish or filleting them withthe skin on never has improved their flavor, and dries the fillets.
Pollock in particular will lose their edibility when not handled properly. When they are left to the mercy of the sun or hanging on a stringer in warm water, their quality will quickly diminish.
When properly taken care of and cooked along the more sought-after fish such as cod or haddock, it will be hard to tell the difference when pollock is also in the mix. Only the trained eye and not the tongue will be able to identify it as any different.
Some people frown on taking the time to fillet freshwater yellow perch. That's entirely a mistake in our estimation. It takes more work to fillet a bunch of smallish yellow perch, and the average size of the fillets is usually smaller than the other larger fish but well worth the effort. In my humble opinion, they are the tastiest of all the freshwater fish. (Yup, you read that right!)
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get you some and drop us an email if you agree with our taste buds. If you don't agree, save your time for something more important, such as picking fleas off your dog's back.
That leaves more for the Dickster to gorge on!
Dick Pinney 's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com