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What's the Best Iowa Fish for the Dinner Plate?

  • 12/18/2014 10:53:00 AM
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Top fish for the table - with recipes - from the Iowa DNRFor many anglers, there’s nothing better than a shore lunch or a good old-fashioned fish fry. But as to which fish are the best to eat, as opposed to the most fun to catch, is another debate altogether. Here are some facts and recipes for three of Iowa’s favorite fish to grace the dining table.

Bluegill – found throughout Iowa – are easy and fun to catch for beginning and seasoned anglers alike, providing plenty of fight pound-for-pound. They’re also a healthy choice, as they’re not as fatty as some other fish, low in calories and carbohydrates, and offer a lean source of protein, vitamins and minerals. There’s always room for seconds, as bluegill populations are difficult to over-fish.

Bluegill Parmesan
¼ cup butter, melted
½ cup dry bread crumbs or croutons
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
1 pound bluegill

In a shallow pan, melt butter. In a plastic storage bag, mix breadcrumbs (or croutons) and dry ingredients. Then crush the mixture. Dip fish filets in butter, then place in the bag and shake until evenly coated in the breadcrumb mixture. Bake on a greased baking pan for 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until fish flakes easily.

One of Iowa’s most popular panfish, crappies are found in most of Iowa’s lakes and larger rivers. They’re easy to catch with a light line and a small jig tipped with or without a minnow, and since they tend to school up, that means if you catch one, there are more nearby. Crappie taste great whether fried, baked or grilled, and like bluegill, are hard to over-fish.

Fried Crappie Filets
2/3 cup dry fish batter
1/3 cup crushed corn flake crumbs
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning or 2 teaspoons garlic salt
Crappie filets
Cooking oil

Mix together dry ingredients. Rinse filets in water so that batter will stick. Coat the filets in the batter by placing in a gallon-sized plastic storage bag and shaking with the batter until covered. In oil heated to 350 degrees, cook battered filets until browned (about 3 to 4 minutes, but time will vary on the size of the filet).

With a sweet, mild flavor without much “fishy” taste, walleyes are easy to clean and give a decent portion of meat in a filet. Walleye are best eaten fresh and not frozen, but it’s equally delicious whether pan-fried, oven-baked or grilled.

Walleye with Prosciutto
4 walleye filets
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh rosemary sprigs
4 thin slices Italian prosciutto
Fine bread crumbs

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary sprigs, and marinate fish for several hours in the mixture. Drain marinade and reserve it. In the center of each filet, place a slice of prosciutto and roll in bread crumbs.  Place in a buttered baking dish and cover with marinade. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until fish are cooked and lightly browned.
Recipe from Iowa Game Wardens’ Cookbook; State Fair Wardens’ Cook-off Entry

For more ideas, visit our Outdoor and Wild Recipes and Iowa Fishing boards on Pinterest, as well as info on how to catch and prepare different fish on our website.

The vast majority of Iowa’s streams, rivers and lakes offer safe and high-quality fish that pose little or no threat to human health if consumed. Some limitations may apply for young children and pregnant women. Current fish consumption advisories.