Updated on April 20, 2022
Fishing is one of the most popular activities in the U.S. and is a great way to get some of the best meat in the world. Here are five of the best fish to eat that you can catch on your next trip to the nearest river or lake.
Walleye are a unique but popular gamefish sought after by every angler that has access to the cool waters they live in. These fish can often be caught by trolling or drifting baits in cool lakes, but once you hook one they don’t fight like you'd expect. Despite their confusing and weaker than expected attempts to stay away from the boat, catching walleye is a great time and anglers get obsessed. The meat from a walleye is tender, flaky, and almost sweet and is often fried, helping to hold it together. Few other fish can compare to walleye when it comes to flavor, which is why they are widely thought of as the best freshwater fish to eat.
Chances are if you grew up fishing in the southern half of the U.S., crappie were one of the fish you routinely pursued for their meat. The fish are similar in shape to sunfish, only much larger and with a monotone color scheme. While at first glance these fish might not look like much of a prize, crappie have sweet, mild, white meat that flakes easily once cooked. Common preparations include frying, steaming, or grilling and are served with vegetables. Crappie are an ambush predator that hold up in brush piles in moderately shallow water. Using small jigs or live bait is the best ways to get a bite and enjoy the fiery fight and a delicious meal.
Depending on where you live, catfish might be the most widely eaten freshwater fish. Although they are not very appealing or appetizing to look at, catfish have mild white meat that holds up well when cooked with one of the most popular preparations—the po boy.
Po boys are made with fried fish placed in a bun with lettuce and tomato, then smeared with tartar sauce. This has become a staple of southern cuisine, largely due to the prevalence of catfish and fishing for them. Fishing for catfish involves bottoming fishing with a weighted line and smelly bait. Most of the time, you can simultaneously enjoy the company of your friends and family and the chance to catch a fish that can weigh over 80 pounds.
It’s no surprise that trout make the top 5 with their lean, clean, and light meat. Trout fishing has become so popular that it borders on cult status, but for good reason. These fish are absolutely stunning, with intricate patterns and vivid colors, while also being finicky eaters—making them tough to catch. The challenge of catching them, combined with the admiration of their beauty is great, but their delicate and clean meat makes them even more desirable. While many trout anglers participate in the sport for the challenge and out of appreciation for the fish, if you have the chance to taste fresh trout following your next trip, it really is hard to beat.
Striped bass, or “stripers” as they are called on the lakes, are open water predators similar to the stripers found on the east coast. While freshwater striped bass tend to be much smaller than their salty relatives, these fish are still capable of reaching comparable sizes of over four feet long and 50 pounds. Striped bass have been stocked in lakes throughout the U.S., making them easily accessible to most anglers. When the fish are filleted, their meat is pale white, except for a dark red stripe which is the bloodline. This should be removed before cooking. Their mild meat and moderate texture is clean and versatile, making it easily adaptable to most preparations. If you’re looking for an action packed trip lake trip and would love to take home some filets, striper are a great option.