Fishing is a popular pastime for tens of millions of people. However, this recreational activity — often seen as a great way to enjoy a laid-back day off work — derives from authentic food-gathering practices from generations ago. Catching fish to survive is a practice still in place today in some parts of the world, and on a grander scale to supply the needs of restaurants and seafood connoisseurs the world over.
Maybe you’ve had some experience fishing in the past but never caught and cooked your fish, or perhaps you’re entirely new to the concept of fishing for food. Either way, fishing is a discipline that offers many layers of advancement. You can begin your career with a simple spinning rod and work up to becoming an expert open-water fisherman or fly fisherwoman. And you can enjoy some excellent meals in the process!
Why You Should Eat Fish
In case you didn’t already know, fish is a delicious and nutritious source of food packed with protein and certain fatty acids you would have a hard time finding anywhere else. We encourage you to do your homework about the health of fisheries in your area, so you’re not negatively impacting local populations, and to understand which kinds of fish might get exposed to environmental contaminants like mercury. But as a general rule, fish are healthy to eat and provide an excellent source of calories in the wilderness.
Wild-Caught Fish Is Better
Did you know one-third of high-quality American-caught fish gets shipped to foreign markets? It’s true: We don’t eat enough fish in this part of the world to justify holding on to the delicious catch many commercial fishing operations bring in. That means by eating wild-caught fish, you are giving yourself a much better chance to enjoy some delightful fresh-caught salmon, trout or other native varieties of fish. And you’ll be saving a considerable amount compared to what you’d pay for it at the market or in a restaurant.
How to Begin When Learning to Fish
Even if you’re completely new to the practice of fishing, you’ve probably observed the fundamental equipment needed to fish — that is, a fishing rod with proper tackle and a place to fish. Though you could go all-in with more complicated or expensive gear, the bare-bones list of a rod, tackle and a fishing hole is the best place to start. From there, you can add more advanced tactics that will help you catch more or different types of fish. For instance, you could learn how to use live bait, how to fish with a fly or even get in a kayak and paddle to the fish. Since fishing adapts well to different levels of physical activity, you can decide how much effort you’re willing to make.
The first thing you’ll probably want to learn is how to rig your fishing rod and cast. You can find a basic spinning rod at any sporting goods store. Make sure you have an idea of what kind of fish you might catch in the area, so you don’t buy a pole that’s too weak and that might break while fighting a fish. There are thousands of different reels out there, and you can choose something more complex if you’d like. However, a simple spinning reel that is reliable and offers adjustable drag should do the trick for beginners.
A local fishing hole is a good idea if you need to practice rigging your rod and tackle. However, take note that a venue like this may not going to let you keep the fish you catch. You might not want to anyway, given the conditions you may observe at some of these locations. So, once you’ve learned how to tie some weight and a swivel to the end of your rod, do some looking online for good fishing locations nearby. You might need to investigate renting a boat, or even taking a guided fishing trip while you’re new, to get access to the best spots.
Catch and Cook
When you add the process of cleaning and cooking a fish to the equation, there are a few additional things you should have at the ready while fishing. The first is a vessel to store your catch in. On an ocean fishing boat, there will probably be a live well, which is a special water-filled compartment that allows fish to remain alive until you return to the land to process them. More than likely, if you’re fishing from shore or on a riverboat, you’ll have an ice chest and can store your fish there after you catch them. When fishing from a small boat, you can also use a stringer, a line that keeps most of the fish in the water.
Killing your catch might be the most unpleasant part of this process, but it’s necessary. Many fishermen keep a billy club for this task. Once your catch is dead, you can store it in your cooler and ready it for cleaning. A poorly processed catch is bad eating, so learn how to efficiently clean your fish using a fillet knife to open the fish from head to tail and remove the organs, making as few cuts as possible and cleaning your knife frequently.
With your cleaned and processed fish ready to cook, now you’ve arrived at the fun part. Fish recipes date back thousands of years, and even if you’re not so thrilled about the process of catching fresh fish, you can become an expert cook and enjoy some exquisite cuisine that will impress your friends. Some popular methods of making fish include baking it, cooking fish whole in foil on the grill and making fillets — or, with larger fish, dividing them lengthwise into steaks. Depending on your culinary skill, you can move into more advanced dishes like kebabs, ceviche or seafood pasta.
Don’t forget to share the catch with friends and family. It’s the law in many places. If you catch certain types of fish, it’s illegal to resell it without a business license. So don’t make that mistake and get busted — make everyone think you’re really generous and you wanted to give that 20 pounds of Alaskan salmon away!