It’s summertime, and up where we live in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, that means it is time to get out on the water. Fishing is a popular pastime up here, and sometimes we have an abundance of freshwater fish and look for diverse ways to use it. And, of course, pizza always comes to our minds.
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While we have gone fishing with friends and family over the years, we aren’t out on the water as much as we would like, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to eat freshwater fish. We have friends and family that are avid fishermen and women who are generous with their catch, and we get some fantastic freshwater fish.
And our favorite: friends’ families who have cabins “up north” in Minnesota or Wisconsin, close to all those pizza farms. Whenever we have a cabin weekend with friends, we love indulging in as much lake fish as we can.
What Are Fresh Water Fish?
Freshwater fish is fish that you catch in lakes and rivers. Some popular freshwater fish to catch and eat are walleye, trout, kokanee, steelhead, salmon, bass, sturgeon, catfish, perch, crappie, and pike. 🐟
Obviously, this is not a list of all the freshwater fish in the U.S., but these are some of the most common ones we come across. We are pizza experts, not fish experts, but we have learned the best ways to use freshwater fish on pizza!
How to Use Freshwater Fish on Pizza
Smoked freshwater fish is one of our favorite ways to add freshwater fish to pizza. If you are lucky enough to have a pizza oven that also functions as a smoker, then you are all set to start smoking fish. And if you love grilling pizzas, many grills double as smokers, too. Here are a few we like:
- SUNLIFER Vertical Charcoal Smoker and Grill Combo $145.95-ish
- Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker $229.99-ish
- Cuisinart Grill and Smoker, Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker $482.99-ish
- Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Charcoal Grill and Smoker $497.00-ish
- PIT BOSS Wood Pellet and Gas Combo Grill $1,099.99-ish
Smoking fish takes a bit of trial and error. You will need to adjust the times for different types of fish. But the number one most important first step to smoking fish is to brine it for several hours before smoking. There are several types of brines, and it really comes down to taste.
Would you prefer the fish to have a sweet smokiness or a tangy spiciness with a sweet aftertaste? Just like pizza, brines come in all flavors. Here are two brines that we love. Each is for four to five fillets with skin on.
Mix everything together and let it cool. Then marinate fish for 6-8 hours covered in the refrigerator. Pat dry before smoking and discard the brine.
Another brine that is excellent on freshwater fish.
- 2 Quarts water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
- 1 Tablespoon of Tabasco Sauce (optional)
There are many brine recipes, from simple sugar salt solutions to using citrus like lemon and orange or sweet juices like orange, apple, or pineapple.
Soy sauce or teriyaki sauce add some umami and sriracha, hot sauce and barbecue sauce can level up the flavor. Sugar and salt are always the base, but from there, you can really mix and match flavors.
Grilled, Steamed, and Baked Fish
If you don’t have a smoker, then you can cook fish in other ways. The key to adding freshwater fish to pizza is that it must be cooked first. You can grill, steam, fry, or bake it before adding it to the pizza. Cooking times will vary depending on the fish type and the filet’s thickness.
Favorite Freshwater Fish Pizzas
- Smoked trout with mushrooms and lemon garlic sauce
- Fried catfish with red peppers and sweet onions
- Grilled kokanee with pineapple, jalapeños, and barbecue sauce
- Smoked walleye with gouda cheese, and arugula
- Steamed sturgeon with capers and scallions
- Baked perch with roasted garlic and shrimp
- Grilled crappie with anchovies and fresh tomatoes
- Smoked bass with roasted garlic, fresh arugula, and olives
- Fried pike with fresh tomatoes, red onions, and a tartar sauce drizzle
- Smoked steelhead with red onions, capers, and lemon garlic sauce
Freshwater Fish on Pizza as Base Sauce
Recently we were at a friend’s barbecue, and she made mini freshwater fish pizzas with the fish as the base. So with her permission, we wanted to share this unique way to use freshwater fish to make pizza.
Pat fish filet dry and lightly bread them with either flour or panko. Sauté fish fillets in a pan with oil. When they are done, set aside on paper towels to cool and let the oil absorb. When cool to the touch, spread tomato sauce on the fillet and sprinkle with your favorite cheese. We suggest slices of fresh mozzarella, grated mozzarella, smoked gouda, or grated Parmigiano Reggiano, our favorite is fresh parmesan.
- Make them small for savory appetizers.
- Use pesto instead of tomato sauce.
- Use a firmer fish so they won’t fall apart.
- Serve in a lettuce cup for an easy hand-held appetizer.
Have you tried freshwater fish on pizza? What is your favorite way to prepare fresh fish? Can you incorporate it into your pizza prep routine?