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Brad Laabs: Lots of favorite lakes, many ways to prepare fish

This last few weeks, I have been asked two questions that stand out among all the questions I get asked. The first is: “What is your favorite lake?”

I am never sure how to answer that. I have many lakes I love to fish, mostly. I’ve never met more than a couple lakes I don’t like to fish. Our area is full of great lakes and they all have some unique characteristics. My favorite seems to rotate when it comes to lakes in our area. Usually it coincides with the lake or lakes that have the best bite going. Overall, I can name a few that are must fish lakes in our state that are on the list of my favorites. Mille Lacs, Winnibogosh, Lake of the Woods, and the Mississippi River pool 4 including Lake Pepin are must fish and experience lakes.

The next most asked question is: “How do you like your fish cooked?” That is another difficult question to answer directly, because I love to eat fish, and I love having it different ways. I usually give a couple suggestions, most of the time it is for people that don’t get to catch, prepare, and eat fresh fish very often. In past articles I have included some of our recipes, and some favorites of others that have contributed. This week I am just going to give some generalities. Be creative and try preparing fish a few different ways the rest of the summer. It is easy to stick to the one sure way you like your fish, but you may find you can have several different favorite ways to eat your fish.

Fish are versatile when it comes to the way they can be prepared. They can be baked, broiled, boiled, steamed, pan fried, deep fried, grilled, smoked, and even microwaved.

Fish can be cooked to be part of the main course, or become part of the meal like when prepared for fish tacos, pizza topping, soups, or in a stir fry.

For baking, most fish can be seasoned and baked at 350-375 for 20-30 minutes after being seasoned to taste. Broiled fish needs to be watched carefully as it doesn’t take too long in the broiler to cook fish. The key here is for time is the size and thickness of the fillets.

Boiled fish is a favorite for those that like to prepare the fish to be a part of a sandwich or a part of a healthy fat free diet. Firm fish fillets, like those of a northern pike, boils up better than white flaky fish like that of walleye or perch.

Pan frying and deep fried fish are probably the most common ways anglers or cooks prepare their fish. Usually a soak in milk or an egg wash (or both) before being coated with a wide variety of breading types is applied to hot oil. They can be pan fried in butter or many types of oil to preference. My favorite oil for a pan fried fish is olive oil (a light coating).  For those that like to deep fry, most will experiment with several oils. The key is maintaining a consistent heat. Shorelunch makes an oil that is made just for deep frying fish.

Shorelunch is also a very common pre-prepared breading or coating mix used to for fish and chicken. There are many pre-packaged mixes on the market that you can try until you find one that may suit your taste the best.

Grilled fish can be done with the fillets on the grill, seasoned to taste, and watched closely. Clean up can be more difficult than doing them on the grill in tinfoil. Coating the tinfoil with a non-stick cooking spray can help with serving and clean up. Most times fish are done in 5-6 minutes when done on the grill.

Oily fish, like salmon, trout, and rough fish like sucker and carp are better when smoked in a smoker. Most outdoor stores sell smaller and more affordable smokers if you’re not into building a smokehouse.

I got nothing for you on those that like to be microwave masters. You’re on your own here for preparing your fish in the microwave. Consult your microwave cookbook, a microwave master cook, or “YouTube” may have something for you.

Get out fishing, catch some fish, and try some different recipes to enjoy your fish.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)