Five Freshwater Fish Species for the Rural American

When fishing for freshwater fish species for the dinner table, you can't go wrong with walleye, crappie, bass, catfish and bluegill.

| May/June 2010

A Good Day on the Water

Some quiet companionship on the lake is good for the soul. These boys are hard after it on Homer Lake in Illinois.

Virginia Pinkston Photography

Back when I was a boy, you didn’t go spend an afternoon at the farm pond and come home empty-handed, talking about the crappie you’d caught. Catch and release was not an option when the crappie switch got flipped to On. Had “empty-handed” happened, there would have been a looming sense of disappointment starting, no doubt, with my mother.

Crappie fillets were a delicacy in our household, elevated almost to the same height as apple pie. Any time my brothers and I were fishing and one of us landed a crappie, he’d put it on the stringer and fish the rest of the day, hoping that switch I mentioned earlier would come on and we’d get fishy. If we didn’t fill the stringer with a skillet-full of fish, of course, we’d let the lone crappie back into the pond, but the intention was never to let it go. Heck, crappie were the main reason for always carrying along a stringer in the first place. It was the best-tasting fish we’d catch and clean.

Later in life, while painting houses during college summers, I was introduced to walleye. I’ll never forget an older gentleman on the crew, Brian, who’d bring walleye he’d caught over the weekend to eat for lunch, even during July heat waves. Everyone thought he was crazy, bringing fish and not even keeping it in a cooler; room-temperature fish during the heat of summer.

I gave him grief all the time for this, until one day, in a weary-minded haze, I agreed to try some. It was a wonderfully thick, white fillet, not fishy at all and admittedly better than any crappie I’d ever had – which especially impressed me, given the circumstances in which the walleye was being served.

Now, every year as winter begins to turn to spring and the deer meat supply in the freezer seems unending – which I’m perpetually thankful to consume – I eagerly anticipate that first early, cold-water stringer-full of fish that I’ll clean and eat.

There’s no better way to eat healthy and local than to head on down to a favorite fishing hole, bait a line and catch some tasty freshwater fish that you can’t find at the
local market. You’ll be well served to secure these five species for your dinner table. 

5/10/2010 12:07:52 PM

Wayne - Thanks for reading. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, with regard to fish caught and sold commercially, catfish is in the Least Mercury category while bass and freshwater perch are in the Moderate Mercury category. My best guess is that walleye, crappie and bluegill would be in that Moderate Mercury category too, just because they are closely related and in most cases would be eating the same things. For information about fish you catch yourself, make sure and check your local advisories in your state. See the "State Fish Advisories" box on the right side of this page: I hope this helps! Best regards, Caleb R.

wayne sinclair_2
5/5/2010 7:49:43 PM

Are the mercury levels high in these fish? thanks, wayne

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