On a beautiful fall day in early October a couple of friends and I went fly fishing in a favorite run on the Trinity River near Hawkins Bar of Northern California. The water had just cooled a few degrees. The buzzards had left. The riverside blackberry brambles had begun dropping their leaves, and most importantly, the half pounder steelheadhad begun to show up.
Half pounder steelhead are rainbow trout that are anadromous, which simply means the fish are spawned in fresh water then leave for salt water, and then come back to spawn after feeding and growing in the ocean. The half pounder steelie just doesn’t spend as much time in the ocean, and comes back as a juvenile instead of an adult. Basically these fish can not spawn.
On this day my friends, James and Randy, were ready to try catching them using fly fishing gear. Both fellas were pretty new using this technique, but I had a feeling if they began hooking these nice little fish they would get hooked themselves.
By the way, when I say”little fish”, a typical half pounder will be in the twelve to nineteen inch range, and be about a half a pound to 1 1/2 pounds. Pretty fish, and they love to go airborne. It isn’t uncommon for a native fish to jump 5 times before coming to hand.
After a hour of rollicking fun, and gleeful whoops, James set about making these fish tacos right there on the riverbank. What follows is a recipe he sent me this morning so I could share it with you. We are talking yum, yum here folks!
Blackened Steelie Tacos
First thing is you have to catch a steelie, this dish cannot be properly enjoyed with anything less than a still wiggling trout. I enjoy the half-pounder variety for this dish.
Fillet, debone and skin (if you don’t like to eat this part of the fish) liberally coat the fillet with your favorite concoction of blackening seasoning mix. There are several premixed, or mix your own variations out there. Experiment with the seasoning until you get it the way you like it.
Then it is as easy as building a fire, chopping some cabbage, cilantro, onions, grate some cheese, and open some fresh made salsa.
After this preparation is completed the fire should be just about right to cook on, so take your favorite camp skillet and get it smokin hot on that bed of coals. Add a little oil (grape seed takes the most heat without smoking) throw the fish in and let it go until the seasoning forms a blackened crust, 2-3 minutes on each side. Warm some tortillas, melt a little butter over the freshly cooked fish, and build a taco. mmmm.
Now if the pan isn’t hot enough you won’t get the full flavor profile of a truely delicious blackened fish, so don’t be afraid to burn that fish a little around the edges. This is where the flavor is. A squeeze of lime, or lemon will also go nicely in your taco.
I tend to do all my prepping at home, and just take everything with me on my favorite steelie runs. Seems like no matter how good the fishing is, there is always time and opportunity for some really tasty tacos……Quit wishin and go fishin!
Just thought I ‘d put the ingredients for my blackening seasoning mix. This is a 3 to 1 ratio blend.
3 parts paparika
1 part each; cayenne, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, black pepper and salt to taste
The above blend can be used for all kinds of blackening preparations, and these tacos can be made with a multitude of fish species….enjoy!
This next blend is one we used on burgers in Baja last year and was really good too!!
1 tbs paparika
1 tbs garlic powder
2 tsp crushed dry thyme
1 tsp oregano
1-2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne
1/2 – 1 tsp black pepper