We all know the old saying about teaching a person to fish. With miles and miles of shorelines and one of the best fishing lakes in the country right here in Trigg County that saying is more a way of life for those who live here.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults eat at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood each week, which includes fish. Fish is a lean protein with white-fleshed fish lower in fat than any other animal protein. Oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help maintain heart health and help the nervous system to develop properly. They may also reduce depression and prevent mental decline with aging. Salmon, albacore tuna, trout, anchovies and sardines are examples of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Adding fish, or any food, to the menu at home can be tricky. Family members of all ages may not be comfortable with new foods, such as fish. One way to introduce fish to your meals is to stick with it stick with it for the long haul. The more they see the fish, the more likely they are to try it (and like it). It may take weeks, months or years, but they will eventually try it. Try serving it with other things they like. Favorite side dishes can make a new food more appealing.

Fresh fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or like ammonia. Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from slime. Dull flesh could mean the fish is old. The flesh should spring back when pressed. The fish should be displayed on ice in a refrigerated case or on a thick bed of fresh ice that is not melting. Fish fillets should not have any darkening and should not be dry around the edges. Fish has a limited shelf life of less than four days. If you will not be using the fish immediately it should be frozen for safe storage.

Fish cooks more evenly if thawed before cooking. If the fish is in a vacuum package, open the package before thawing. By opening the package, while thawing in the refrigerator, you prevent risks associated with Clostridium botulinum and Listeria monocytogenes. For best quality, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. If you need to thaw fish quickly, place in a tightly closed plastic bag and put in cold water for about an hour. If you are using a microwave to thaw, put on “defrost” setting. Remove the fish from the microwave while the fish is still icy but pliable. Cook immediately.

Do not process fish in the same area and time with other foods. Keep juices from raw fish from coming in contact with other foods. Always wash your hands and work surfaces before and after handling raw fish.

Fish should be cooked to 145 F. When done, fish should be opaque and separate easily when with a fork.

Kentucky has 62,000 miles of fishable streams and 40 public lakes full of bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, sunfish, trout and other types of fish, with many of those right here in our backyard. Visit the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife website, https://fw.ky.gov/Fish/Pages/default.aspx, for everything you need to know about finding a good fishing hole, and then try angling for your next meal. Nothing beats the flavor of fresh, local fish, and you can enjoy some quality time outdoors while you catch your dinner.

Be aware because mercury is found in all Kentucky waters, women of childbearing age and children 6 years of age or younger should eat no more than six meals per year of locally caught bass, walleye and catfish. See the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife website for more on this topic.

The recipe at the end of this article is from the Cook Wild Kentucky collection. Cook Wild Kentucky is a program developed by the University of Kentucky Extension Nutrition Education Program after conversations with Feeding America about the need for more education in preparing game meats including fish, venison and rabbit as well as other game meats. Food banks were receiving donations of wild meats and had no way of informing clientele about preparing the meats. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife is also a partner in this project. Cook Wild Kentucky recipe cards are available at all 120 UK Cooperative Extension Services offices throughout Kentucky.


1 pound freshwater fish fillets

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

½ teaspoon pepper

1 small diced onion

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place the fish in a single layer in the baking dish. Sprinkle the fish with lemon juice, water, pepper, and onion. Cover tightly with foil. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F.

Dill Sauce

¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise

¼ cup fat-free milk

1 tablespoon dried dill weed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Place mayonnaise in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Whisk over medium-low heat for 2 minutes or until smooth and heated through but not bubbly. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in dill weed, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Remove fish to a serving platter. Spoon dill sauce over fish and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 170 calories; 5 g total fat; 1 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 80 mg cholesterol; 280 mg sodium; 6 g total carbohydrate; 1 g dietary fiber; 3 g total sugars; 0 g added sugars; 23 g protein; 0% Daily Value vitamin D; 10% Daily Value calcium; 10% Daily Value iron; 10% Daily Value potassium.

Editor’s Note: Sources of information for this article are Jackie Walters, MBA, RDN, Extension specialist senior for the Nutrition Education Program, Suzanne Driessen, Extension food safety educator for University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension, and Justine Hoover, registered dietitian with Iowa State University Cooperative Extension.

Cecelia Hostilo is the Trigg County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at P. O. Box 271 (2657 Old Hopkinsville Road), Cadiz, KY 42211, by phone at 270-522-3269, fax at 270-522-9192 or email cecelia.hostilo@uky.edu.

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