Fishing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about long distance hiking, though many a PCT thru hiker has been known to stash a rod and reel when heading into the Sierras.  Eating foods found naturally along the trail can be an immensely satisfying experience on a long distance hike…and a source of a few extra calories.  This post is about how to cook up a fish real nice in the backcountry with the minimal amount of equipment.

Find a nice place to fish–consider a pack raft.

Upper Seymour Lake
Upper Seymour Lake, Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, Montana

Packrafts have opened up a whole realm of possibilities for hikers.  Though a bit heavy for traditional long distance hiking (and expensive), they’re a super handy option for exploring lake basins!  We borrowed a 7.4lb NRS packraft from a friend and carried it up 11 miles of trail to Upper Seymour Lake in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness.   The NRS packraft inflates in a few minutes with a hand bellows.  No pump motor makes it Wilderness compatible.  That’s Wilderness with a capital “W,” folks!  We’re using a simple Wal-Mart dock rod in this photo.  Make sure you’ve obtained a fishing license before you go!

Catch a fish

Trout Catch
I caught a trout!

Mmmmm, doesn’t that look like good eating?

Prepare the fish

Fish Fillet
A fine fillet of trout

Remove the head and clean the fish with the same water in which it was caught.  Scale the fish, then remove the head behind the gills.  We carry a small filet knife to take care of the dirty work.  Trout scales can be taken off by scraping with a spoon, credit card, or side of the knife.  You will also need to remove the guts and take the head and tail off.  Cut the fish in half to make two filets.

prepped filet of trout
Ready for seasoning

After the fish is completely cleaned, remove the pin bones and set aside.

Build a fire

A nice flat rock makes a natural cooking surface

Be certain you’re traveling in an area where campfires are legal.  Good campsites are found, not made, so use existing fire rings.  I have yet to find a lake, no matter how remote, where some semblance of a campfire ring was not present.  Use small sticks from downed trees.  There’s absolutely zero need to make a monster fire with big wood. See for more about minimizing campfire impact in the wilderness.

It helps to have a partner start the campfire while you’re prepping the fish.  Get the stone nice and hot!

Season the Fish

Seasoned trout filet
We used lemon slices, butter, and Mrs. Dash

Lots of choices here, but it’s mandatory to bring along a little foil to wrap up your fish while it cooks.  This keeps the fish from sticking to the rock and cooks the fish by steaming.  I believe the fancy food term for this is en papillote. Ooh la la!  For seasoning, salt, pepper, lemon, and butter never fail.  We used a lemon, butter, Mrs. Dash, plus a little extra salt and pepper.  All are easy to throw in pack.  Old Bay is also a tasty choice!


Cooking Trout
Trout is wrapped and cooking over our hot stone

Make sure the fish filet is sealed in the foil, then place on the hot stone.  We’ve got each filet in it’s own wrap.  How long to cook for?  Depends on how hot you’ve got your stone and how big your fish is, so you’ll just need to check it every few minutes, but you’ll be cooking until the fish is opaque.


A meal of lake trout
Lake trout with orzo rice and avocado

We recommend accompanying with orzo pasta (fast cooking) or mac and cheese.  We carried an avocado along too.  Make sure you pack everything out, store your food properly, and cook far from where you sleep.  We used a Bear Vault BV500 bear canister for no-hassle food storage in grizzly country.  It also makes a handy plate, as you can see!


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