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Fishing has become one of America's favorite sports. As any fisherman can tell you, there is nothing more delicious than freshly caught fish. If you are just learning to fish or feel concern about your ability to clean and cook fish, these tips will have you throwing fish fries for your friends in no time.

To begin, after you have completed fishing for the day, you should decide if you will skin or scale the fish you have caught. Some fish, such as catfish, will need to be skinned while bass, trout and other scaly fish simply need to have the scales removed from their outer body. To scale a fish you should get a firm grip on its tail and scrape off the scales from tail to head with a fish scaler or knife. After the scales are removed, cut along each side of the top and bottom fins and pull them free. In some cases there will be two sets of fins on top and bottom. First remove the fins closest to the head and then remove the back fins. If you prefer to cook the fish whole, you can leave the fins intact. Cut open the stomach from head to tail with a sharp knife and remove the viscera or entrails and scrape loose any bloody pockets. To gut the fish, cut a small opening behind the gills. Rinse the fish thoroughly and you are ready to cook. If you plan to skin your fish, cut completely around the head and tail just deep enough to penetrate the skin. Then make a slit the length of the back while working the knife under the skin. Pull the skin toward the stomach of the fish and cut it off. Do this on both sides.

To cook a fish you can fry, bake, poach, broil or grill it. Some fish, such as salmon and cod, can be cut into filets to remove the bones. You can do this by taking a sharp knife and slicing 1 inch thick pieces crosswise from the fish. This should only be done if the fish weighs 10 pounds or more. When you bake fish you will get better results if it is whole. It can be covered with butter or oil, chopped vegetables, herbs or spices and baked wrapped in foil in a 450 degree oven. To grill or broil your fish, it should be wrapped in foil or cooked in a grill basket and basted with oil or butter. You can poach your fish by wrapping it in cheesecloth and covering it with a liquid of your choice. Bring this to a simmer and allow to cook until the fish has cooked 10 minutes per pound of fish. To fry a fish you will first want to lightly salt them and then dip it in cornmeal or seasoned bread crumbs. Place the fish in hot oil and brown first one side and then the other.

When your fish is cooked it should be moist. You can tell a filet is done when it appears opaque at the thickest part. If you are cooking a whole fish, you will know it is done when a skewer inserted along the back bone meets little or no resistance. One of the best ways to grill fish fillets is to wrap it in foil with lemon pepper spice, 1\8 cup of milk, garlic and butter. Place the fish on a hot grill and cook until the thickest part is opaque. Even though a catfish can be grilled, these fish are delicious fried. All fried fish taste great when served with coleslaw, french fries and hush puppies. Baked, broiled or poached fish taste great when complimented by your favorite vegetables cooked right in with the fish.