Follow the fish from the net to the dinner table

There are many ways to prepare your catch to make a wonderful meal

A catch of red chinook salmon and a lingcod fillets well along in the transformation from recreationally caught fish to delicious seafood.

When most people look at a picture of a nice fish they tend to think all of the action is over and next is dining on fresh salmon, halibut, lingcod and so forth. When you consider what follows after the pictures and congratulations, it occurred to me that it would make interesting material for a column. Pictured with this column is a catch of nice red chinook salmon and a lingcod fillets caught last Saturday; well along in the transformation from recreationally caught fish to delicious seafood.

One of the first things to happen to the fish after it is netted is that they will be humanely killed with a sharp blow on the back of the head. Most boats have a plastic baby bath or similar plastic container into which a netted fish is placed after landing, they are also good places to bleed your fish to keep the boat clean.

The next step in the process of quality fish is to bleed the fish. I know this sounds a little gory, but it is important to bleed your fish. Immediately after the fish has been dispatched, just lift the gill cover and pull one of the red gills until it breaks loose. This will create a steady flow of blood that effectively bleeds the fish.

In the case of salmon it is easy, with lingcod it is the same process except that lingcod have sharp covering on the gills that make the task a little more challenging, but nonetheless just as effective.

Depending on how big your boat is and how well it is equipped you now have a couple of options. If you are fishing from a small boat with minimum gear you will probably put your fish in a cooler with ice.

During the past few months we have experienced a long hot dry spell, making it mandatory to have some type of cooler with ice or ice pack on your boat if you want quality fish when you come off the water.

If you are fishing from a well equipped recreational fishing boat you may have cleaning facilities on the boat. This allows you to gill and gut your salmon as soon as the bleeding process is finished.

With lingcod it may also be processed, but you must remember to keep the fillets so that they are suitable to establish the legal size of the fish prior to cleaning.

The fillets in the photograph are the epitome of fresh fish.

There are many ways to prepare fish. One of the problems of eating fish is dealing with the little bones that are scattered throughout body of most fish and making it a challenge to enjoy the cooked product when you spend much of your time spitting out offensive bones.

To avoid this you can fillet a fish in a way that gets rid of most of the bone. It is the work of sharp knives and some knowledge of the anatomy of your catch so you can cut out some of the small bothersome bones.

In many cases with salmon the fish will be barbecued and kept with the skin on. We fillet most of our fish and I also skin the fillet so that it is nothing but fresh  fish.

Lingcod are a bit of a challenge to fillet so that your fillets are bone free. After you have removed the fillet from the lingcod, skin it and then gently run your hand along the thick part of the fillet. You will feel the sharp ends of small bones. Take a line along them and cut the fillet so that they are half exposed, then follow the exposed line of bones and remove them with your knife.

Recreational fishers have an advantage over others who purchase their fresh fish from a commercial fisher or fish market. In the case of commercially sold fresh fish the quality of the fish is maintained by a constant contact with ice and refrigeration. As a result fresh fish in the commercial business can be several days old and still maintain its freshness. Recreationally caught fish are frequently hours old when they are brought home for the kitchen.

Fresh fish are always a seafood treat.

Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.


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