Cook Your Catch…Right Now!
Hi readers! Meg here. I am new to the boating and fishing world, so I have a ton of questions I look forward to finding answers to. Part of my job here at Lake Union Sea Ray is photographing our inventory for the website. After being on a few yachts that have galleys and/or grills, I was curious about the idea of catching a fish and cooking it right there on the boat. To me, nothing sounds better than biting into a filet that was caught an hour ago.
I started scouring boating websites and blogs and anything Google wanted to show me, but I wasn’t finding much. Do people not catch and cook fish on their boats? Admittedly, I’ve never caught and cooked a fish before. I used to fish with my dad…from the shore of a lake…where the fish we caught weren’t large, tasty, or worth cooking (so we’d always throw them back). And I’ve definitely never cooked anything that started out alive while in my possession. But I still thought it was strange that I couldn’t find much information on catching and cooking fish on a boat. It took some sleuthing, but I finally found a few good bits of information from people who have actually caught and cooked fish while boating. As it turns out, it is more involved than I anticipated.
Before going out to fish, please make sure you get the proper license and read the rules and regulations for fishing in the appropriate area/zone. Learn more here.
The first, and, depending on your location and situation, possibly the most difficult part of the process is actually catching a fish. If you aren’t on an actual fishing boat, you may not have all of the fancy equipment like a downrigger and sonar and whatnot. But that’s okay! You can do the old-fashioned thing and manually cast your line, hold the rod, and use some muscle to reel in your catch. Unfortunately, without a downrigger or a rod holder on your boat, trolling (letting the line trail behind the boat as you drive) won’t be quite as easy as you’ll have to keep hold of the rod instead of just putting it in the holder, but, don’t worry, an old fashioned cast and reel works, too!
If you aren’t in possession of much fishing gear, you don’t need to go out and spend a lot of money. A simple rod or two, a handful of different lures, and a decently-stocked tackle box are all you really need (seasoned fishermen recommend having jigs, spoons, sinkers, plugs, extra line, a knife, and pliers). You can keep this gear as simple or as high end as you want—it is all up to you!
Once you reel in your fish (congratulations!), you have to do the unpleasant part—killing it. Throughout my research, one method has come up more than any other: vodka. Sounds strange, I know. But it is humane and avoids the mess of bludgeoning. Have a spray bottle filled with vodka at the ready, then simply spray some into the gills of the fish and voilà. The fish will fall into eternal sleep with no idea what happened and no suffering.
While you avoided the mess with the initial kill, there isn’t a way to avoid the mess of cleaning your catch. Many folks recommend having a bucket ready (for the mess) and cleaning the fish on the back of the boat away from anything you don’t want to get dirty. You can also come prepared with a tarp or towels or anything to keep the mess as contained and off your boat as possible. That being said, you’ll have to gut the fish and cut off the head. You can throw all of the innards back into the drink (that’s a fun phrase I just learned) and keep the head to use as bait later.
After the fish is cleaned, you can take the skin off and filet it in whatever manner you desire for eating, but I recommend leaving the skin on, seasoning the flesh, and grilling it skin-side-down (on a piece of tin foil) for 8-10 minutes. The skin will stick to the foil, leaving a perfectly-cooked filet for you to enjoy! If your boat doesn’t have a grill but has a galley, you can pan-fry your dinner and make it just as tasty.
Luckily, fish is one of the foods that can be seasoned with only a few spices and be delicious. For a simple, fresh taste, go with a few shakes of a pepper grinder and a squeeze or two from a fresh lemon. If you’re looking for something a bit spicier, throw on some garlic salt, chili powder, and cayenne pepper (that’s my all-time favorite way to season fish). The beauty of fish is that you can mix so many different spices on any kind of fish, and you’ll have something satisfying and impressive. And remember—a little seasoning goes a long way!
This entire process may seem intimidating for a novice fisherman, but just imagine the bonding experience you can have with your children, significant other, or friends and the stories you’ll end up with. And don’t forget about the pleasure of eating the freshest fish you’ll ever encounter after working hard for it. The rewards are well worth the work in this case.
I hope you have found this little tutorial helpful. I know I learned a lot while researching, and writing this has fueled my desire to go fishing and cook myself a fresh dinner right on the water. Happy fishing!