Southern Traditions: The Fish Fry

D.J., my son-in-law, playing guitar. My three daughters are enjoying the music.
D.J., my son-in-law, playing guitar. My three daughters are enjoying the music.
Bobby playing guitar at a fish fry.
Bobby playing guitar at a fish fry.
Keith playing bagpipes at a fish fry.
Keith playing bagpipes at a fish fry.
Husband Johnny enjoying a brew while waiting for the fish to get done.
Husband Johnny enjoying a brew while waiting for the fish to get done.

Southern food traditions

The fish fry is another one of those wonderful traditions that we Southerners enjoy frequently. It gives us just one more excuse to enjoy some great Southern food!The fish are rarely purchased – we catch them ourselves. South Georgia is dotted with farm ponds, irrigation pits, lakes, creeks, and rivers that are home to some delicious inhabitants. These include largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, crappie, warmouth perch, shellcracker, flathead catfish, and striped bass.

We’re also within a couple of hours of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, so fishing trips to the coast are made often. These hauls might include sharks, reds, bluefish, trout, whiting, croaker, drum, spadefish, sheepshead, and flouder. If someone goes out deep sea fishing or offshore trolling, they might come home with grouper, red snapper, amberjack, or a number of other fish species. I have lots of saltwater fishing tips for catching these critters!

Fish fries aren’t usually planned very far in advance. If a farmer seines one of his ponds, he’ll host a fish fry. If someone makes a trip to the coast and returns with a big haul of fish, there’s a fish fry. Typically, it goes something like this:

The phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Larry. It’s me, Scooter. Me and Bubba just got back from the flats and we got us a big mess of flounder and trout. We gonna fry ‘em up Friday evenin’. Wanna come?”

“Shoot, yeah! Whatcha want me to bring?”

“Well, everbody loves yore hushpuppies, so why don’t you bring the batter and we’ll toss the puppies in with the fish.”

“Will do, Scooter! What time?”

“We gonna start cookin’ around six, but just come on whenever you want to.”

Actually, this is a pretty formal invitation for a fish fry. Sometimes, just firing up the gas cooker is enough to bring folks in. Uninvited guests are par for the course, and they’re always welcomed. Southerners rarely run short on food, but in the off chance it looks like there won’t be enough fish, a neighbor is sure to offer a helping hand:

“Hey, Scooter, I got some dove and quail in the freezer. Want me to go get ‘em?”

Or

“Want me to go get that bag of shrimp I got last week at Amelia Island? We can thaw ‘em out quick and fry ‘em up!”

We Southerners always over-figure on the amount of food we’ll need. For example, if two fish fillets per person are adequate, we’ll figure five or six or ten. It’s a good thing, too! Several years ago I took a Florida Yankee friend of mine to her first South Georgia fish fry, and she ate nineteen pieces of fried crappie. Nineteen! And she’s just an average size woman.

All the cooking and eating is done outside. The men cook the fish, the hushpuppies, and the French fries in the deep fat fish cooker, and the women bring all sorts of Southern food side dishes. There’s always a huge pot of cheese grits and another pot of plain grits. Think this sounds like an unusual combination? My husband is from North Carolina, and he had never heard of eating fish and grits together until he came to South GA. Now he loves the combination!

In addition to the aforementioned dishes, there’s always lots of coleslaw, too, in several different varieties. Corn-on-the-cob, potato salad, and rolls usually show up, too, along with several different kinds of casseroles. And don’t forget the desserts! If the fish fry is in the summer, sometimes there’ll be churns of homemade peach ice cream and peach pies. Other frequent guests include key lime pies, lemon pies, brownies, coconut pies, and chocolate cakes. There will also be an ocean of sweet iced tea and cold beer.

Just about everyone will bring their camp chair to the get-together, and sometimes there will be picnic tables set up. We’re good at eating, though, so we don’t need no steenkin’ tables to enjoy a good meal! We can balance two plates, a couple of napkins, and a glass of tea on our lap and knees with remarkable ease. As Hank Williams, Jr. says, country folk can survive.

A fish fry is never an eat-and-run affair. Folks hang around. A lot of times, we'll build a campfire, and Randy Godwin and others usually break out their guitars and pick tunes that everyone knows. We even have a pal who plays the bagpipes, and he sometimes performs for us. Often, the guys will pitch horseshoes and toss around a football. The women chat or join in the games with the guys.

If the fish fry takes place on the banks of a lake or irrigation pit, and if it’s in the summer, a lot of the guests will go swimming. The pits are often fed by deep wells, and the water is often cold and crystal clear. There’s nothing like a quick dip to recharge your battery and shake off the heat and humidity of the South Georgia sauna-like summer!

All in all, fish fries are great fun. They provide a chance to catch up on the latest news, make a few new friends, and to fill your belly with good ol’ country cooking. Wanna come to our next one?

Read related articles and get great Southern recipes by clicking the links below the fish cooker ads! If you click on the "Holle's Kickin' Chicken" recipe, you'll find numerous links to homemade and heirloom Southern recipes, including my awesome hushpuppies. By clicking on the article about free bait, you'll find a host of fishing tips, fishing photos, and fishing videos.

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Comments 40 comments

The Rope profile image

The Rope 6 years ago from SE US

You relate it so well! 'Course that was to be expect'd, with your roots bein' what they are an' all". Seriously, this is another great one, Habee!


maven101 profile image

maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

Sounds lovely...and delicious...and ...what are grits...? Sounds like something that may wear my teeth down...

Bagpipes in Georgia..! Well, I never.....

Thanks for this look at Georgia couture'...Larry


Putz Ballard profile image

Putz Ballard 6 years ago

We haven't had one i a long time but the fish fry is a great event in anybodies book. I just learned to love hush puppies even more by breaking them in two and splashing some Texas Pete on them, yum yum!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Sounds like fun, habee. You have a great family and clearly you all know how to enjoy yourselves.


nancy_30 profile image

nancy_30 6 years ago from Georgia

Great hub habee. I've never tried fish and grits together before. I'll make sure to do that the next time I have fish. I just got done eating but after reading this you've made me hungry again. I wouldn't mind having some home made peach ice cream right about now.


Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

Habee I'm really enjoying you expounding on your southern traditions! And as for cooking the only southern reference I have is Paula Deen...Great story, great hub, and makes me hungry!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

It sounds a lovely way of life. You are lucky. Thank you for sharing.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

There aint nuthin like a fish fry for fun!!!!


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

I love it. Nothing better than a fish fry. Friends, fun, food, laughs. Nothing better than a cold drink and the company of family and friends on a hot summer night. I love to hear the bagpipes!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Why, I declare, Rope! You all shore is nice to say so! lol


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Larry, you really don't know what grits are??? How do you survive?? You poor, poor man!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Robert, sometimes I add red pepper and/or jalapenos to the batter. Good to see ya!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Bpop. I am so thankful for my wonderful family!


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Is it too far for me and Hubby to pop along? lol


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Nancy, you gotta try the combination - it's really good!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Ann. Paula is my hero!!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Yes, HH. I am very fortunate! I think God every night for my family.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

I agree, Chris! It doesn't get much better!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

I agree, Chris! It doesn't get much better!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Tammikins, I love the bagpipes, too. There's just something hauntingly beautiful about the sound to me. Thanks for reading!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

come on over, Eth! You're always welcome!


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

I think grits are the floor sweepings from the corn processing plant. But they sure are good! I like them with butter and sugar, Texas style.

Bagpipes in Georgia! What next? Flying cars?


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Austin, grits are actually made from hominy - corn that has been boiled with lye to remove the hard outer husk.

GA has many folks with Scottish anscestry, hence the bagpipes! Thanks for reading!


quildon profile image

quildon 6 years ago from Florida

Habee,

This post made my mouth water. I don't eat meat, so anything that has to do with fish is right up my street. And the mention of the peach ice-cream, yum yum.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 6 years ago from Southern Georgia

You forgot red horse suckers! Or is it you don't like their looks? Bout ready for some mullet roe and cane syrup though!


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Wow sounds just like one of our great Aussie barbecues! We cook anything from fish, prawns (shrimp) and crab to large slabs of meat (nothing beats Aussie beef or lamb). The whole gang turns up once the barbie smells reach them. Thanks for sharing but 'scuse my ignorance but what are 'hushpuppies'?


charanjeet kaur profile image

charanjeet kaur 6 years ago from Delhi

Wow Habee, could not resist dropping by to read this hub. Have tried some delicious fish and chips in course of my travel. Yummy and delicious now i am left craving for more.. The snaps are really so full of life, I am glad you had a nice time. Friends and family time is always the best ever.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

I wish I was there so I could come....boo hoo - and here I am stuck in a 1-horse town in Central Oregon! Looks great - love the bagpipes! And I'd love to cook fish that way. I saw your hub on the snakes and unfortunately, I cannot even LOOK at the icon without going into spasms so great job over there - I'm sure it is spectacular as always but if I look, I'll have nightmares for a week! I was literally almost bitten by a rattlesnake and unfortunately, it is now one of my phobias! It probably did not help that my daughter when she was married first had a husband who had TEN snakes in their apartment in different aquariums...anyhow - fish wonderful - snakes - kudos but can't literally 'go there'!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Quildon, I've cut down on my meat consumption, also. Thanks for reading!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Randy, I was hoping you'd read this since I mentioned you - wish I could have used a pic of your playing guitar. I don't like suckers or mullet roe, but pass the flounder and the crappie fillets!!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

MPG, hushpuppies are wonderful concoctions of diced onion, corn meal,flour, and buttermilk that are dropped by spoonfuls into hot oil. I have a recipe on Hubpabes for them.

Your BBQs sound great!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Chara! You're right - friends and family are great gifts!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Audrey, I wish you could come, too! With the two of us in attendance, I know there would never be a dull moment!


Duchess OBlunt 6 years ago

Reminds me of home when I was a kid. Dad used to complain that our house had a revolving door, but most people just didn't leave!

A fish fry sounds like a wonderful reason to just "pop on over". Never been to one myself unless you count a shore lunch with a fresh catch?


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Yeah, Duchess - I think that qualifies! Thanks for reading!


Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 6 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

Dang! you got bagpipes at your fish frys? I wanna go to that...


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Michael, you're welcome any time!


rui paiva profile image

rui paiva 6 years ago from Somewhere in the world

Great fun. All seem very funny. Must be super delicious this tradition of fish frys. Excellent share. Thanks. :)


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

rui, thanks for visiting!


ramaquwer profile image

ramaquwer 4 years ago

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