The Best Eating Freshwater Fish | In Smooth Waters (2022)

Everything you will learn here

  • Top 10 Best Freshwater Fish for Eating
    • 1. Bluegill
    • 2. Catfish
    • 3. Trout
    • 4. Walleye
    • 5. Bass
    • 6. Crappie
    • 7. Yellow Perch
    • 8. Northern Pike
    • 9. Gar
    • 10. Freshwater Drum
  • Honorable Mentions
  • Reeling It All In

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American seafood menus often focus on saltwater fish and shellfish found in the Atlantic and Pacific. But even if you don’t live near the beach, there are plenty of delicious fish waiting for you in the lakes, rivers, and streams of your own backyard.

Check out the following 10 best options, plus a few honorable mentions, and enjoy the delicious taste and numerous health benefits of freshwater fish.

Top 10 Best Freshwater Fish for Eating

While they vary in size, flavor, and difficulty catching, these ten freshwater fish are a great experience both for your tackle box and your table.

1. Bluegill

If you’re a novice fisher and want to catch a tasty meal for yourself, the bluegill is a great choice to start with. Native to North America, the bluegill is a small fish (normally under 12 inches long) that’s easy to catch. You can find it in most bodies of water throughout the United States, but it’s particularly plentiful along riverbanks.

Note that even though it’s an easy fish to catch, the bluegill can be tough to clean out fully, so be prepared to put in a little elbow grease if you want to eat one. However, we think it’s worth it for the firm, flaky meat it provides. Like most freshwater fish, bluegill tastes fantastic pan-fried, and its small size suits it well to this cooking method.

2. Catfish

Catfish is a freshwater fish commonly found in the United States. It has a distinctive flavor and is considered a delicacy in some parts of the country, particularly the southern states. You can catch catfish or get them from a commercial fish farm.

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Unlike other fish on this list, catfish meat isn’t all white—it has some yellow tint. Although many don’t think it tastes as traditionally “fishy” as other specimens, it still has a strong flavor. Catfish are also notable for having leathery skin in place of scales, which can be difficult to remove. Try using a special pair of catfish pliers to get the skin off your catfish effectively.

There are lots of different delicious ways to cook a catfish, but perhaps the most popular is battering and deep frying. Serve alongside some hushpuppies for an authentic Southern meal!

3. Trout

There are few foods more evocative of the American camping experience than a freshly caught trout cooked over the fire. Closely related to salmon, trout are an anadromous species, meaning they can live in both freshwater and saltwater. Each variety of trout has a slightly different habitat—for instance, rainbow trout are mainly found in coastal waters, while brown trout are common in most North American rivers.

Trout has a delicious sweet flavor and a flaky tenderness similar to their cousin, the salmon. You can cook trout in various ways, including pan-frying, roasting, or grilling, but anglers agree that the fresher the trout, the better—so be ready to cook it fast! Trout is also an extremely healthy fish to eat, containing many healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Walleye

If you’re a northerner looking for an exciting and delicious catch, try your hand at angling for walleye. As the largest specimen of the perch family of fish, walleye is native to the northern United States and Canada and is commonly found in the Great Lakes. Walleye fishing is a popular sport in these areas. These fish are sensitive to light and tend to populate dark, muddy waters.

Walleye are relatively large freshwater fish, but they’re not difficult to clean, and they make excellent fillets. They’re an extremely versatile fish as far as cooking styles go—once you fillet a walleye, you can bake, broil, fry, or grill to your heart’s content, or get creative and put them in tacos or soups. Walleye has a mild, vaguely sweet flavor that is frequently compared to that of chicken.

Be aware that walleye meat can spoil quickly, so be sure to get it on the ice as soon as possible if you intend to cook and eat it.

5. Bass

Although sea bass is a classic dish in many seafood restaurants, many freshwater bass species are equally delicious. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are both native to the freshwater bodies of North America. They’re notoriously difficult to catch, making them a thrill for any angler to chase. In fact, many anglers will release the large bass they catch since these are usually breeding females of the species.

If you do decide to eat the bass you just caught, you’ll enjoy a sweet, flaky white meat similar to their cousin, the bluegill. Most basses are pretty large, so it’s common to fillet them before cooking. For the best tasting bass, try to catch one in cold, clear, and clean waters.

6. Crappie

Depending on what area of the United States you live in, you might know the crappie as a papermouth, strawberry bass, speckled bass, speck, calico bass, or, if you live in New Orleans, sacalait. No matter what you call it, it’s an absolutely delicious and flaky freshwater fish.

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There are two types of crappie: white crappie, which lives in large lakes and reservoirs and can be found in murky waters; and black crappie, which tend to prefer smaller, clearer waters. Both species are active throughout the winter months, making them a popular ice fishing catch in the Northern states.

Similar to the catfish, the crappie is a popular delicacy in the Southern United States and is commonly fried. However, their small, flat size also makes them perfect for tossing in a frying pan. Crappies have an extremely delicate, flaky texture that some people compare to crab meat. Like trout, they contain omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for a healthy diet.

7. Yellow Perch

When a freshwater angler uses the term “small but mighty,” there’s a good chance they’re referring to the yellow perch. Although specimens normally measure around just 7.5 inches long, the yellow perch puts up a dramatic fight that makes them a prized challenge for anglers.

Yellow perch are common to the United States and Canada and are a particular delicacy among fish-eaters in the Great Lakes. They can be found in many lakes, streams, and rivers in these areas.

Like crappie, yellow perch has a small size and flaky texture that suits it well for pan-frying; however, its texture is slightly firmer than that of crappie. If you’re feeling fancy, you can try out Perch á la Meuniér, a traditional French dish where perch is filleted, coated in flour, and served with browned butter. Bon appetit!

8. Northern Pike

Some people dismiss pike as not being a good fish to eat, but it is quite delicious if prepared correctly!

Northern pikes are easy to find and catch in North America—you can find them in pretty much any body of water that houses fish, including shallow areas as well as rough waters. An adult pike’s diet consists of smaller fish, but they are very aggressive, so any type of bait will likely do the trick.

Pike has a delectable white, flaky meat that is vastly underrated. The only drawback is that it contains an extremely high number of bones, so fully cleaning out a pike can be a considerable task.

9. Gar

If you’re looking for a fishing challenge, try going after a gar. Native to North America, gar is a fiercely predatory fish that prefers to congregate in shallow, weedy waters. They’re famous for their sharp, needle-like teeth and their habit of striking their prey with the sides of their long heads. These are some seriously impressively sized fish, with some weighing up to 100 pounds, and will put up a considerable fight against you and your fishing pole.

If you manage to successfully catch a gar, be careful to remove all its bones. Gar also has additional armor that can be tricky to remove. However, it makes for a delicious meal, particularly if you’re not a fan of the traditional “fishy” flavor, smell, and texture—gar isn’t flaky and tastes more like chicken than other fish species.

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10. Freshwater Drum

Red drum fish, also called redfish, are popular saltwater table fare, but their freshwater cousins are largely overlooked. However, a freshwater drum makes a delicious meal.

Freshwater drum fish are mainly found in the southern regions of the United States, particularly in the rivers of Tennessee and the Appalachians. It’s also called sheepshead and lives in many of the same waters where you’d find walleye.

Some people don’t care for freshwater drum fish’s thick texture, but it is a tasty and versatile fish that is especially well-suited for soups, chowders, and kebabs. Just make sure to get it on ice soon after catching it, as its body fat can break down quickly, eliciting an unpleasant odor and taste.

Honorable Mentions

If you’d like a few more freshwater fish to enjoy on your dinner plate, take a look at some other options that are fantastic for both catching and eating.

  • King Salmon
  • Coho Salmon
  • Steelhead
  • Tilapia
  • Dover Sole
  • Carp

We also have some other articles on related topics:

  • Best Tasting Fish
  • Most Overfished Fish Species
  • Most Consumed Fish in the World

Reeling It All In

While they may not be as glamorous as some of their saltwater cousins, freshwater fish still have the potential to be a culinary delight. Whether it’s a freshly caught trout roasted over a campfire or an expertly filleted smallmouth bass, any of the fish listed above is a great option for your next catch—and your next meal.

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FAQs

What is the best eating freshwater fish? ›

Five of The Best Freshwater Fish to Eat
  • Walleye. Walleye are a unique but popular gamefish sought after by every angler that has access to the cool waters they live in. ...
  • Crappie. ...
  • Catfish. ...
  • Trout. ...
  • Striped Bass.
20 Apr 2022

What are the most common freshwater fish? ›

Five common warmwater fish species are:
  • Bluegill.
  • Catfish.
  • Crappies.
  • Largemouth Bass (Most popular freshwater game fish.)
  • Sunfish.

What's the best eating freshwater fish in Florida? ›

Most freshwater fish caught in Florida can be eaten without harm. Bream (such as Bluegill, Redear sunfish, Redbreast sunfish or Spotted sunfish) and marine fish such as Mullet, Snappers, Pompano, Flounder , and Dolphin are generally low in mercury.

What is the best fish to catch and eat? ›

Best Game Fish to Catch & Eat
  • Rainbow Trout. Most river trout are tasty, but lake trout are often described as having a “muddy” taste. ...
  • Red Snapper. Image source. ...
  • Mahi Mahi. ...
  • Swordfish. ...
  • Channel Catfish. ...
  • Salmon.
11 Dec 2018

Is it safe to eat freshwater fish? ›

Fish-consumption advisories provide citizens with guidelines on how much fish they can safely eat to minimize their exposure to contaminants. Florida's freshwater and marine fish are generally considered safe to eat.

Do people eat freshwater fish? ›

While ocean fish live up to their “fishy” descriptor, that salty, briny taste is avoided with freshwater fish. What makes the difference for freshwater fish is cooking method. Some are most tasty when grilled, while others can be fancied up for the oven.

What is the name of freshwater fish? ›

Here is a list of freshwater fish found in Indian rivers, with Rohu, Katla, Mahseer, Magur, and Vaam being some of the more prominent names.

What is the example of fresh water fish? ›

Freshwater fish

What fish are in fresh water? ›

Top 27 Freshwater Game fish species
  • 1) Crappie. Crappie are the largest fish in the panfish group. ...
  • 2) Bluegill. Bluegill are a widely distributed freshwater panfish. ...
  • 3) Redear sunfish. Fishing Ladies. ...
  • 4) Yellow perch. ...
  • Other panfish species. ...
  • 5) Largemouth bass. ...
  • 6) Smallmouth bass. ...
  • 7) Striped bass.

Which tastes better crappie or Bluegill? ›

Most anglers agree that Bluegill taste slightly better. They have more fIavor and their flesh is firmer and flakier. Crappie, on the other hand, have a soft meat which some people find bland.

What tastes better crappie or bass? ›

Crappie has a milder taste than bass which is mild to sweet. Crappie taste less fishier than bass. Bass has a firmer texture than crappie which is softer and smoother. Crappie is more delicate and flakey than bass.

What tastes better perch or walleye? ›

Says it tastes way too much different. Tried to explain that walleye and perch are in the same "family" and taste pretty much identical.

What's the most popular fish to eat? ›

Tuna is the most popular seafood in the US, but about 95 percent of what we eat is precooked and canned. Tuna's high myoglobin content gives its raw flesh a deep red color and meaty flavor.

What is the tastiest River fish? ›

What Is the Best Tasting River Fish?
  • Trout: This fish is found in clear and cool streams, lakes and ponds—and it's one of the best to eat. ...
  • Walleye: This is a classic northern fish found in the U.S. and Canada. ...
  • Bluegill: This fish is often found near underwater structures or swamps in streams, ponds, rivers and lakes.
5 Jun 2019

What is the easiest fish to eat? ›

Tilapia – tilapia is arguably the mildest tasting fish there is. It's not fishy at all and has a mild sweetness. Tilapia is easy to prepare and goes well with a variety of different flavor profiles. Cod – cod has a mild flavor that's slightly sweet like tilapia.

Which is the safest fish to eat? ›

According to Seafood Watch, here are six fish that are healthy for you and the planet.
  1. Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the US or British Columbia) ...
  2. Salmon (wild-caught, Alaska) ...
  3. Oysters (farmed) ...
  4. Sardines, Pacific (wild-caught) ...
  5. Rainbow Trout (farmed) ...
  6. Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the US)
16 Nov 2018

How much freshwater fish can you eat? ›

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends: At least 8 ounces of seafood (less for children§) per week based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume between 8 and 12 ounces per week of a variety of seafood from choices that are lower in mercury.

Which is better sea fish or freshwater fish? ›

If you enjoy fish that have the flavor of the ocean, saltwater fish are the best option for you. In contrast, freshwater fish do not have a briny flavor and tend to have a milder flavor profile. If you are not a fan of the “fishy” taste of seafood, freshwater fish are the best choice.

Is freshwater fish good for you? ›

Even though freshwater fish are not as high in the healthy omega-3 fatty acids, they still make a nutritious choice for your lunch or dinner as most are low in fat and high in protein. A portion of freshwater fish provides 30% of an adult's reference dietary intake.

Can you eat freshwater fish everyday? ›

But is it safe to eat fish every day? “For most individuals it's fine to eat fish every day,” says Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition, in an August 30, 2015 article on Today.com, adding that “it's certainly better to eat fish every day than to eat beef every day.”

Is freshwater bass good eating? ›

Yes, you can eat bass (you probably already knew that). Whether it's freshwater bass or saltwater bass, as long as it's well cooked it can be a safe fish to eat - which can be great news if you love fishing. It can be rich in protein and vitamins, as well as being relatively low in calories.

What are 3 types of fish? ›

Fishes are typically divided into three groups: superclass Agnatha (jawless fishes), class Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fishes), and superclass Osteichthyes (bony fishes).

What is the fastest freshwater fish? ›

There are more than 230,000 aquatic species are recorded. Fish is one of the species of water.
...
Top 10 Fastest Fish in the World.
Name of fishDescription
2. SailfishScientific name: Istiophorus Swimming speed: 100 km/h to 110km/h Inhabited region: Indian and Pacific Oceans
9 more rows
30 Apr 2019

How many fish are freshwater? ›

More than 15,000 species of freshwater fishes are part of healthy rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands around the world.

What are the 5 most common fish? ›

10 Most Popular Fish Make Up 90% of Volume
Shrimp4.0Shrimp
Canned Tuna2.7Canned Tuna
Salmon1.999Salmon
Tilapia1.450Alaska Pollock
Alaska Pollock1.192Tilapia
5 more rows
24 Sept 2012

What is the largest fresh water fish? ›

The beluga sturgeon in Russia is the largest freshwater fish in the world. The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America. White sturgeon have been reported to reach lengths of 15-20 feet and weights of nearly one ton. The second largest freshwater fish in North America is the alligator gar.

What is in freshwater? ›

The definition of freshwater is water containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter of dissolved solids, most often salt.

Which is not a freshwater fish? ›

So, the correct answer is 'salmon'

What do you need to Fresh water fish? ›

Checklist for Fishing in Fresh Water:
  1. A state fishing license (depending on your age)
  2. A fishing rod and reel.
  3. 4- to 12-pound-test monofilament fishing line.
  4. A package of fishing weights.
  5. Fish hooks (Number 6–10 size)
  6. A plastic or cork bobber.
  7. A selection of live bait or fishing lures.

What's the best bait for crappie? ›

Jigs and minnows are often the best baits when fishing for crappie. Because of the diverse diets of crappie, they can be caught in many different ways, making them an excellent species for almost any angler to experience using their favorite technique.

What tastes better perch or crappie? ›

Crappies have much less dark meat, and are less "fishy" tasting than white perch. The texture is different, too; the meat of crappie is softer, while white perch have a more solid meat once cooked. I prefer crappie, by far.

What is the best panfish? ›

The best-tasting panfish is a matter of opinion, but crappie and bluegill tend to be the most popular. Crappie, usually filleted, obtain a bigger size and are well known for the unique slimy texture coating their body. Bluegill are generally much smaller and are gutted and fried whole.

What is the best tasting fish in the US? ›

What is the Tastiest Fish to Eat?
  • Cod.
  • Sea Bass.
  • Halibut.
  • Red Snapper.
  • Salmon.
  • Catfish.
  • Swordfish.
31 Jan 2020

Are Bluegill good eating? ›

Does Bluegill Taste Good? Although they are small (usually 10 inches or less), Bluegill is considered a top choice among the sunfish family for cooking and taste quality. The meat is mild, firm, and an excellent choice both as a formal dinner or camp meal. It does not have a fishy taste.

What's another name for crappie fish? ›

Other names for crappie are papermouths, strawberry bass, speckled bass or specks (especially in Michigan), speckled perch, white perch, crappie bass, calico bass (throughout the Middle Atlantic states and New England), and Oswego bass.

How old is a 25 inch walleye? ›

Generally, female walleye which are 25 inches long are about 10 years old, and 30 inch females are in the range of 20 years old. The oldest Lake of the Woods walleye we have aged was a 23 year old female which was 30.3 inches long.

Which fish is better cod or perch? ›

Cod has a non-fishy mild taste. The mild taste can be sweet at times and is good for people who don't like a fishy tasting seafood. Cod's texture is firm, flaky and moist if cooked properly.
...
White Perch and Cod Nutrient Comparison.
NutrientCod (4 ounces)White Perch (4 Ounces)
Calcium18.1 mg27.22 mg
8 more rows

Is haddock or perch better? ›

Perch and Haddock make great meals even though they taste differently. They have a firm, flaky texture but turn smooth when cooked. Perch tastes sweet than Haddock, and it is the reason it is in high demand. It tastes mildly sweet, while Haddock tastes salty with a mild flavor.

What is the most popular fish to eat? ›

Tuna. Tuna is the most consumed fish in the world, according to a UN report. There are several types of Tuna in the market today, all with low-calorie count and high vitamin and protein content.

What tastes better trout or bass? ›

While trout are usually smaller (especially stocked trout), they can grow to weigh up to 8 pounds. On the other hand, largemouth bass can average 12 pounds with a maximum reported weight of 22 pounds.
...
The main differences between bass and trout fishing.
TroutBass
Tastes betterTastes good, but not as good as trout
8 more rows

What is the healthiest white fish to eat? ›

Cod. It's a British classic in meals such as fish & chips, but cod is also one of the healthiest white fish around. Cod is high in protein, low in fat and a good source of vitamin B12, which is needed for energy and nervous system support and may be important in helping prevent depression.

What is the best fish that doesn't taste fishy? ›

Tilapia – tilapia is arguably the mildest tasting fish there is. It's not fishy at all and has a mild sweetness. Tilapia is easy to prepare and goes well with a variety of different flavor profiles.

What are the 5 most common fish? ›

10 Most Popular Fish Make Up 90% of Volume
Shrimp4.0Shrimp
Canned Tuna2.7Canned Tuna
Salmon1.999Salmon
Tilapia1.450Alaska Pollock
Alaska Pollock1.192Tilapia
5 more rows
24 Sept 2012

Which fish has the most protein? ›

With 30.7g of protein, fresh tuna has the most protein by weight and is atop the list of commercially available high protein fish. This value represents the amount of protein in a 100g serving of fresh tuna, and the nutrition can vary slightly for canned tuna.

What trout is the best to eat? ›

Rainbow Trout is the sustainable, low mercury fish labeled a “best choice” by the EPA and FDA. This colorful patterned fish is a member of the salmon family and is one of the healthiest fishes you can include in your diet.

What is the best bass to eat? ›

One of the most popular bass to eat, largemouth bass is said to have a clean taste. It's not as intense and fishy as some species but compared to smallmouth you may feel it's fishy. If the fish isn't fresh, this flavor will intensify. To some, the white meat of largemouth bass has a watery taste.

Which tastes better crappie or bluegill? ›

Most anglers agree that Bluegill taste slightly better. They have more fIavor and their flesh is firmer and flakier. Crappie, on the other hand, have a soft meat which some people find bland.

What is the most unhealthy fish to eat? ›

Worst: Orange Roughy

These fish, also known as slimeheads, can live up to 150 years. But that means they've been around unhealthy elements, like mercury, for a long time. So they're not the best option for a healthy diet.

What is the tastiest fish? ›

What Is the Best Fish to Eat?
  • Cod. Taste: Cod has a very mild, milky flavor. ...
  • Sole. Taste: Sole is another fish with a mild, almost sweet flavor. ...
  • Halibut. Taste: Halibut has a sweet, meaty flavor that's widely popular. ...
  • Sea Bass. Taste: Sea bass has a very mild, delicate flavor. ...
  • Trout. ...
  • Salmon.
14 Jan 2020

Why do you Soak fish in milk before cooking? ›

Before cooking, soak the fish in milk for 20 minutes

In this scenario, the protein in the milk binds with the compounds that cause that fishy odor, in essence extracting if from the fish. What's left behind is sweet-smelling, brighter flesh with clean flavor. (Just make sure you pour that milk down the drain.

What fish tastes most like chicken? ›

There are many types of fish with a mild flavor similar to chicken. The best fish to start off with are tilapia, arctic char, cod, haddock, flounder, sole and walleye. You can substitute any of these fish into your favorite chicken recipe. Shrimp and scallops also have a nice, mild flavor.

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