As I strolled into the grocery store, my nose detected an unpleasant scent. My brain registered “spoiled fish.” My feet almost carried me out of the store, but I needed a few items for dinner.
I grabbed a basket and shopped quickly. People with carts were racing around the store.
Fish are among the most perishable foods. Warm temperatures and long storage times are the worst enemies of fish protein. Whether you buy it or catch it yourself, prepare fish or freeze it within two days.
Fishing is a popular activity. Some people prefer to “catch and release,” and others, “catch and cook.” While fresh fish naturally will have a slight aroma, it shouldn’t remind you of a fish-littered lakeshore on a warm day.
If you’re embarking on a fishing trip, be prepared. Keep your catch out of the sun and direct heat. Keep fish alive by using a metal link basket or live box. Stringers can damage the flesh and increase the chances of bacterial contamination. You can store fish on ice, too.
Inspect your catch for any signs of disease or parasites. Their eyes should be bright and clear. Look for firm flesh and red gills. If you note abnormal growths on the fish, report it to a game and fish representative.
Decide on the fate of the fish immediately. If you do not want them, release them right away instead of waiting to decide at the end of the day when they may have a reduced chance for survival.
Fish in safe waters. Mercury is a common contaminant in lake and river water. Check with the state health department and/or game and fish department for any advisories, which provide recommendations on safe amounts of fish to consume, depending on the lake or river.
Larger fish are more likely to contain mercury. Food safety experts recommend that we focus on eating smaller fish instead of the “whoppers.” Pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and caregivers of young children are advised to pay close attention to mercury advisories.
Eating too much mercury-contaminated fish can damage adults’ kidneys and the brains of developing fetuses or lead to learning problems among infants and children.
Contaminants are concentrated in the fatty parts of the fish. To reduce your risk of consuming contaminants, remove the skin and fat deposits when you clean fish or use fillets instead of whole fish.
Fish are high in protein, rich in vitamins and minerals, and low in saturated fat, depending on how you prepare them. A 3-ounce portion of fish provides nearly half of the daily adult protein requirement and has, depending on the species of fish, only 100 to 150 calories before adding fat or sauces.
Whether you’re fishing in North Dakota or another state, abide by the regulations. For information from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, visit http://gf.nd.gov/.
Add a little spice to the catch of the day. Here’s a recipe from the University of Massachusetts Extension Nutrition Education program.
Spicy Baked Fish
1 pound salmon or any white fish, fresh or frozen
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
Thaw the fish in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the fish into four pieces and place in a 9- by 13- by 2-inch baking pan. Combine paprika, garlic and onion powder, pepper, oregano and thyme in a small bowl. Sprinkle spice mixture and lemon juice over the fish. Drizzle melted butter or margarine on top. Bake until fish flakes easily with a fork, which takes about 25 to 30 minutes.
Makes four servings. Each serving has 250 calories, 16 grams (g) of fat, 1 g of carbohydrate and 105 milligrams of sodium.