Warsaw, Mo. – The so-called “rough fish” may have more bones than Missouri’s most popular sport fish. But they make fine table fare if given a little extra preparation during cleaning and the right recipes. Fish such as gar and drum can put up a rough fight for anglers using a rod and reel, too. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will offer a free class in how to catch and prepare rough fish from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Berry Bend South Park at Truman Lake, west of Warsaw.
MDC will have fish on hand for cleaning demonstrations. John Rittel, MDC community education assistant, will also cook the cleaned fish for taste testing.
“I filet the fish and remove any red meat,” Rittel said. “Gar, buffalo and drum don’t have much red meat though. Common and grass carp do. Most of these fish, particularly our native rough fish, actually taste really good. However, most of them get a bad rap because their meat has some intricate Y bones that need to be removed. People don’t know how to do that, so their filets end up being bony. I will show participants how to remove those bones so that they are left with excellent quality, large, boneless filets.”
Rough fish can also grow large, which means more meat. Participants will be cleaning buffalo in the 15- to 20-pound range and gar that are 3- to 4-feet long. Rough fish are also caught in smaller sizes. Drum can grow large, but crappie and walleye anglers frequently catch pan-sized drum. Gar are a long, narrow-bodied, toothy fish that can be intimidating for an unfamiliar angler who catches one accidentally. But they make good table fare.
“Gar have excellent flakey white meat with a mild flavor and firm texture,” Rittel said. “Their drawback is their tough, armored skin. Most people don’t know how to remove that skin, so they can’t get through it to filet the fish. We’ll show the participants a couple good methods for getting through and removing that tough hide. Then filleting the gar is just about like filleting any other fish.”
Once the cleaning is done, the cooking will begin followed by the taste testing.
“We’ll fry some of all of the fish types that we prepare,” Rittel said, “and we’ll also grill some of the gar. Gar grilled in a foil pan of butter is hard to beat. It’s also good deep fried, too. Some people prefer to filet their gar and leave the tough skin on the filet. Then they grill it skin side down topped with butter and seasoning. The skin forms a bit of a dish that keeps the meat basting in the butter. The skin easily peels off though once the fish is done cooking. Buffalo filets and ribs are both very good fried, but we’ll also grill some buffalo ribs. Buffalo have extremely large rib bones, much heavier than any other fish.”
Rough fish can be spiced hot or mild.
“I like to season most all of my fish with a Cajun type seasoning, however, these fish don’t have a flavor that needs to be hidden,” he said. “Salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic powder will do just fine.”
This class is open to participants ages 9 and older. COVID-19 precautions will be observed. Registration is required. To register, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4TE.