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How to Prepare Mouth Watering Walleye and Pike Fillets
It astonishes me the answers I get when I ask people why they enjoy fishing so much. "I do it for fun," "it gives me an excuse to be outdoors," "the thrill of the catch," even, "it gets me away from the wife for a while." When I follow-up by inquiring what they tend to do with the fish they catch, "I throw them back," is typically, and oftentimes not surprisingly, the answer I get in response.
It's just ghastly to me when I think about what these folks are missing out on. While a large reason the DNR issues fishing licenses each year is to help control the various fish populations, performing an environmental good deed is far from the primary reason I hereby insist more fish caught should be kept rather than released. The primary reason, of course, is the same reason our ancestors began tossing baited hooks connected to line into lakes and rivers many centuries ago: FOR FOOD. When prepared right, many of the fish so many people are out there catching and releasing just for fun can be an absolute delicacy. With regards to my two personal favorite fish to catch, pike and walleye, follow the preparation instructions I've provided below and you'll likely never release a catch again, unless it's to conform with fishing rules and regulations, (note: I typically fry the fish I catch: I never "poach" them).
Filleting the Fish
The first thing you have to know how to do is fillet a fish. Filleting a fish is an art that requires practice, but once mastered, it's about as easy as slicing a pizza. It starts with a good fillet knife, along with a knife sharpener, (two very inexpensive items to purchase). Make sure your knife is sharp, place it perpendicular with the fish and make a straight cut below the fish's neck, directly underneath it's front fin, right down to the backbone. Next, turn your fish 90 degrees and cut a slit directly along the fish's back, just beneath the dorsal fin. Start by only cutting about a half-inch into the fish, but once you're below the dorsal fin, cut all the way through the fish's torso. Stop cutting when you reach the fish's tail. Repeat this process on the other side of the fish.
The next step is to remove the two fillets from the bone. You can perform this by lifting the meat along the fish's back where the slit was made, and gently gliding your knife between the meat and ribcage. Never press too hard, or you could end up with a piece of rib in your fillet. So long as your knife is sharp, it should guide the meat from the bone through a series of gentle strokes. Once there's nothing left connecting the fillet to the fish, except a sliver of skin along the tail, simply cut the fillet from the carcass, and repeat this process on the other side.
After you've removed both fillets from the carcass, the carcass can be disposed of, and all you have left to do is skin the meat. This is accomplished by simply pressing your middle and index fingers down on the end of one of the fillet's narrow edges, cutting your knife through the meat directly above your fingers, and down to the fish's skin, (cautiously, to prevent contact with your own skin), and then cutting through the length of the fillet between the skin and the meat. Again, always make sure your knife is sharp. Once the skin is removed from both fillets, after a little rinsing, your fillets should be virtually boneless, and ready for the frying pan.
Cooking the Fish
And now the part you've been waiting for: preparing your fillets for that mouth watering meal. Whether you're making shore lunch over your propane stove, or dinner at home, if prepared right your fillets are certain to compete in flavor and satisfaction with the fish served at even the finest of seafood restaurants.
Preparing your fillets starts with the breading. While there are plenty of different kinds of fish breading you can use, I strongly recommend Shore Lunch batter mix for your fillets. This is an inexpensive batter mix you can find at almost any grocery store. While, as a spicy food lover, Cajun Style has always been my preference, there's a variety of different flavors of Shore Lunch you can experiment with. Whichever flavor you choose, this batter is specifically manufactured for preparing fish, and it ads a flavor and seasoning I can pretty much guarantee you'll enjoy.
With a box of batter on the table ready for use, start by heating up several ounces of oil in a frying pan. I prefer olive oil for fillets, but any vegetable oil will work. Make sure the entire bottom of the pan is moist before turning on the oven. Next, pour some Shore Lunch into a bowl, cut your fillets into four inch pieces, soak them in milk, and ad them to the dry batter mix. Once they're entirely breaded, place them into the heated frying pan. Flip them occasionally while frying. Once brown, they should be ready for your plate. I season mine with a touch of lemon pepper, and some tarter sauce before eating or serving.
I like fish fillets best served with mashed potatoes and baked beans, but chips make a great side dish as well. Whatever you choose to serve on the side, your fillets will most certainly be your main course. They can also make fantastic sandwich meat. Even leftover refrigerated fillets served cold with tarter sauce on sandwich bread can be absolutely delicious, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Any uncooked fillets should always be frozen. Just make sure you have plenty of freezer space, because if you enjoy walleye and pike fillets prepared this way as much as I do, you're gonna enjoy eating them, ALMOST more than you enjoy catching them.