What are you going to do? Release this nice brown or keep him for dinner? The choice, of course, is yours, but don’t assume just because it’s a trout it isn’t very good tasting. Trout, taken care of and cleaned properly, make excellent eating. The author looks at what’s necessary to create a delicious meal of trout.

One morning after turkey hunting this spring, I actually still had enough ambition leftover to go trout fishing.

Since it was Friday, I’d be heading over to Jim Acker’s camp in the evening. I hit a local stream and found the rainbows were willing, though it was necessary to use a wide variety of baits and lures to finally catch the limit. It does give you a feeling of satisfaction when they’re harder to catch and you’re finally successful.

I always carry a small ice chest in the car with a 32-ounce bottle of ice in it and the trout were nice and cold for the ride home. Once at the sink I filleted the rainbows and skinned them, cutting each fillet in half. I then rinsed each piece carefully, filled the sink half full of water and sloshed them vigorously to make sure they were perfectly clean. I laid the fillets on paper towels to dry then shook the pieces in a bag of flour until evenly coated.

Next, I broke an egg in a small bowl and whipped it up with a fork, then filled it half full of milk, about a cup or a little more and mixed the egg and milk thoroughly. Following that I put two cups of Italian bread crumbs on a plate and sprinkled lemon-pepper seasoning over the top and mixed the two.

Taking each piece of flour-coated fillet, I dipped them in the egg and milk mixture and then in the crumbs, completely covering each piece, which in turn were placed on wax paper in a cake pan. When the 20 pieces were finished I covered the pan and placed it in the refrigerator.

THAT EVENING at camp I filled a frying pan with half an inch of oil, heated it to about 375 degrees and fried the trout to a golden brown. Jim and I filled our plates and were chowing down when Scott Shaw from Ridgway ambled into the kitchen and cast a critical eye on the plate of trout.

“I have to admit it smells good in here,” he commented.

“For crying out loud, Scott, try some. It’s delicious,” Jim said. “You won’t believe it’s trout.”

Scott grabbed a plate and placed a single piece on it, then hesitantly took a small bite. A funny expression came over his face and he took a bigger bite, then another.

“This is good, really good!” he said, finishing the first piece and placing three others on his plate. “I can’t believe it’s trout.”

It’s amazing how many times I’ve heard that in my life. Trout have a bad rap, people automatically assume they taste fishy or like liver. How the old wives tale of tasting like liver started I have no idea, but it’s false.

THE FIRST step to having tasty trout is keeping them good and cold.

When a trout becomes too warm the flesh becomes mushy. Not good, not good at all. If the weather’s warm I often carry a freezer bag and ice in my vest to keep the trout cold. As mentioned, when the trout hit the vehicle they should be on ice unless the temperature is quite cool.

The second step after the trout are cleaned and cut in pieces is making sure they are very clean — no fishy slime carelessly left on the pieces. Trout 10-11 inches or smaller can be cut in three pieces _ two rib sections and a tail section — and fried in very hot oil. The bones are thin enough at that size to fry up correctly. Make sure there are no coatings on the trout; the hot oil must contact the rib bones. This allows those bones to turn hard or brittle. When cooked properly those bones simply chew up and you never know they are there. People often ask me after eating trout cooked in this manner what I coat them in. When I say, “Nothing,” they seem surprised as the golden brown pieces look so appetizing.

AFTER vigorously cleaning the trout several times, lay them on a newspaper covered with paper towels, then place a covering of paper towels on top and roll it up. Place in a plastic bag and keep refrigerated until ready to cook. The paper towels will absorb any fish slime remaining.

Wear latex gloves and be sure to first place the pieces bones down in the oil to help ensure they crisp up nicely. When the pieces are golden brown they’re ready. Drain, salt and pepper and you’re in for a treat. If the bones don’t chew up they’re under done or the oil was too cool. The pieces must spit and sputter when they hit the oil or it’s too cool. If you have a deep fryer they work very well also.

If you prepare baked trout, first take a knife and thoroughly scrape all the slime off the body scraping from head to tail. Rinse vigorously, then completely dry inside and out with paper towels. As you have perhaps deducted, fish slime is your biggest enemy. At this point you should be able to sniff the trout and it shouldn’t smell fishy at all.

Place the trout in a foil lined pan on top of thick slices of orange and lemons. My favorite stuffing is canned crab meat mixed with Miracle Whip, diced onions and peppers. Add enough Miracle Whip to stick everything together moistly. Bake at 350 for an hour and be prepared to be amazed just how good it is. Any fish can be prepared with this recipe.

I hope you enjoy trout (or any fish) prepared with the above recipes. Fish should never taste fishy. If it does, the fish is old or wasn’t taken care of and cleaned properly 99 percent of the time. Fish is very delicate and must be treated as such.

Be open minded, trout are quite tasty.

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