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Grilled: Another Way to Cook Fish

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Most people in the South, where I grew up, seem to prefer fried fish. I like fried fish, but I like some fish even better when grilled, baked, broiled or sautéed.

Grilling fish with the approach described in this article seems to work best when either fillets or fish flesh attached to the spine are 0.5 to 1.5 inches thick. For grilling, fillets of many fish species can have the skin and scales attached (sometimes described as “on the half shell”) or have the skin removed. Fresh fish is better than frozen fish, but both are good when cooked properly.

Grilling works well with many fish species. I have successfully grilled freshwater species, such as largemouth bass, and channel and blue catfish. Channel and blue catfish smaller than 1.5 pounds grill best when attached to the spine without the skin. Larger channel and blue catfish grill best as fillets without the skin, but the fillets tend to draw up and curl. Fillets of crappies, bluegill, redear sunfish and green sunfish do not grill well because they are relatively delicate and crumble during grilling; if grilled, their flesh should be attached to the spine.

I have successfully grilled at least 18 saltwater fish species. Examples include red snapper, red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout and blacktip shark. Red drum should be smaller than 33 inches, and black drum should be smaller than 28 inches, because fillets from larger fish can be course and chewy. Skin of spotted seatrout is too thin for the half-shell approach.

I generally serve grilled fish with baked sweet or white potato; a broiled green vegetable such as asparagus or green beans; and often with stuffed crab, stuffed shrimp or stuffed jalapeno.


Mike Porter serves as a senior wildlife and fisheries consultant with Noble Research Institute, where he has worked since 1980. He previously worked as an independent wildlife management consultant in South Texas. Mike has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries science and a master’s degree in wildlife science, both from Texas A&M University. He is a Certified Wildlife Biologist and Certified Professional in Range Management. He has strong interest and management experience in rangeland ecology, the Cross Timbers and Prairies Ecoregion, prescribed fire, soil erosion stabilization, recreational leasing, small impoundments, aquatic plants, white-tailed deer, beaver damage prevention, northern bobwhite, eastern bluebird, ducks, snakes, largemouth bass and grass carp.