When I was a young wild-man in training, I had several opportunities to practice my survival skills and I took every opportunity to do so. This was the case when it came to young love as well, and the girls with whom I shared a mutual affection were often reluctant to be exposed to the wonders of the outdoors, specifically in the form of wilderness survival. I found out very quickly that the most adventurous of women of the era were more prone to brave the wilds of the local malls than they were to try their hand at living off of the land, and it was therefore a special treat for me when a young woman of my affection finally agreed to a wilderness respite in the form of fish, (apparently the only wild game she could eat). I easily caught us a couple of panfish each and set about to scaling them with a rock, gutted them with the same piece of shale, (I couldn’t find any chert at the time), and cooked them to perfection on the green boughs of a willow grill, on a bow-drill fire I had quickly built myself. To her credit, she did pick through the bones rather courageously if a bit daintily, and she was great company for the rest of the day. It was, however, our last date and I’m not so sure that she really enjoyed herself though she had assured me that she had. In any event, these ruminations have brought me to the present topic, that of cooking fish over an open fire. This is one of my favorite wilderness meals because it is so quick and easily prepared, and here are the three ways I usually do it:
- On a simple willow grill. It is just a web of green willow boughs placed over a bed of hot coals. Probably the easiest way to cook them, however, I recommend that you don’t fillet them if you’re going to cook them this way as the fillets tend to get flaky and fall apart and will go into your coals and get ruined.
- On a spit over coals. This takes a bit more time, but the advantage is that it’s quicker because you can build a hotter fire. Be careful of singing on one side and getting it raw on the other. Spit cooking takes a lot of attention and care.
- On a rock next to the fire. This works best for fillets, especially if you don’t mind eating fish crumbles. The fillets cook more thoroughly and there is less attention needed but they will come apart as you go to turn them.