Can You Eat Mudfish?
It’s amazing that some people still debate on whether to eat mudfish or not. There are still those who enjoy catching and releasing it but it’s not a popular practice like for the bass fish. Some even kill the mudfish for no good reason or thinking they eat many of the fish they are supposed to catch. Some States have strict regulations against killing the fish or even leaving it to die. It’s sensible to return back into the waters any fish that is caught and not utilized.
Before we decide whether to eat it or not, let’s look at a few characteristics of the fish. At least you need to familiarize yourself with anything you want to eat.
It’s worth noting that the mudfish is the only living representative of the ancient fish family. This fish has a long and plump body, long dorsal fin and a round tail fin. They have a small or no pelvic fin. It has a large mouth with small scissor-like teeth. You can identify males with the dark spot on their tail fins which is not present or is unnoticeable on females.
There are many kinds of mudfish and they all look different from each other. Of course, this depends on where they occur. For instance, the North American mudfish referred to as bowfin has a green spotted color. They look like average fish but they have exceptionally big and powerful jaws with very sharp teeth. The Canterbury mudfish of New Zealand have the look of an eel. They are dark brown with yellow spots that are noticeable on the underbelly of the fish.
Mudfish live in swamps, wetlands, lowland streams and drains. That’s how they derived the name “Mudfish”. Typically, they love to hang around in still or slow flowing water with dense aquatic vegetation and overhead cover. These areas are usually warm with poor oxygenation.
The mudfish can survive in areas where other fish can’t. When their typical swampy areas become dry, they migrate to stay under decaying logs and vegetation to avoid drying out. All they need is a moist surrounding. During this period, the mudfish hangs out on the surface with air bubbles in their mouths to enhance air absorption.
This is the only fish that can stay alive out of water for as long as 2 months. When out of the water, they can still respire either by taking mouthfuls of oxygen or through the skin. They usually lie on their backs when caught to improve perspiration through the skin while enhancing oxygenation of essential organs. This behavior also rehydrates the skin on the upper surfaces.
These fish are only active at night but juveniles often like to wander around during the day in search of food. One thing you’ll notice once you catch mudfish is their awareness of new surrounding and their responsiveness. They try to change positions, seeking damper areas and congregating to keep their surfaces moist.
Mudfish can be caught throughout the year but late summer is the best time. They’ll be found closer to the surface because the wetlands are somewhat dry by then. But, the mudfish puts up a good fight before you can pull it out of the water.
You need to have taut hooks because the mudfish is notorious for its slight bite. They’re not the kind of fish that grabs the bait and goes with it. Actually, the only indication you can note is a slight motion of your fishing line. So if the fish is not hooked immediately, you might count that as another miss. It’s easy to confuse it with big bass until you pull it out of the water.
They fall trap to lures or baits plus you can catch them on worms if they are hungry enough on that day. Mudfish feed on vegetative remnants on the bottom and on small aquatic insects so vegetative baits have always proved to be effective.
Once you have a catch, the next obvious thing is to take it to the dinner table. Some people have different views when it comes to the mudfish though and they’ll prefer to pursue them as a sport. In places like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, mudfish is one of the most sought after food fish. They are farmed in most parts of Asia while others are caught wild.
The best way to prepare mudfish is filleting. It’s even favorable because the fish has a small and fine bone structure. Just chop the fillets from the fish without cutting near the gut zone because this is where the mud taste originates from.
Once you have the fillets ready, soak the meat in salt water for a reasonable period. Be careful not to put too much salt. The salt draws blood out of the fillets and takes away the muddy taste with it after rinsing with clean water. You can then panfry them as you’ll do with other fish. Other cooking methods are roasting, poaching, baking and stewing. Smoking or grilling can still do but they are not great because mudfish isn’t all oily.
The flesh has a pink or almost white color with a mild flavor depending on how it’s cooked. The skin becomes soft when cooked but you can remove it if you wish.
So, back to the question…can you eat mudfish? The answer is YES you can. Just prepare it properly or seek assistance from someone who knows how to. Or even search online for mudfish recipes. Enjoy your meal.
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