SMOKING FISH 101 - Fishing season is in full swing, and while there is nothing like fresh fish tacos, poke, or just grilled fish, smoking is the next best thing. Mix up some smoked salmon with cream cheese for a tasty dip, or smoked tuna with mayo and spread on crackers, or just snack on flaky trout around the campfire on your next camping trip. Hungry yet?

Smoking fish is easy and it brings a whole new level of preserving your harvest. It's been done for centuries and while we add all kinds of flavors, rubs and seasonings, the concept is still the same, low heat and good smoke.

There are a variety or woods and pellets out there for smoking, and fruit wood is the best for fish. Mesquite is definitely too strong, even on red meat for my taste. And hickory can be a little strong too, but apple is the most favored. You can use pellets, chips or chunks depending on your smoker. I've been using an old electric smoker lately and the pellets work great.

Your choice of smoker can vary too, from charcoal, electric and propane. Nothing beats a real charcoal smoker with wood chunks in my book, but for small batches the electric is so easy to use. 

Almost any kind of fish can be smoked, although the most common is salmon and trout. I've also smoked tuna and mahi mahi, with great results on the tuna! The large brooder trout that Fish and Game releases are great for smoking, not so great for much else as their flesh can be mushy. But smoking firms up that flesh.

RUB vs. BRINE - Experiment with what you like. A brine will usually consist of salt, spices, water, and even wine. The flavor can be more subtle and can lend itself well to lighter fish. Personally I like rubs, they leave a more robust flavor and pretty much anything goes. A rub starts with salt and sugar, from there you can add any spices, citrus zest, chili flakes, and finish it off with teriyaki, molasses or any other flavor you want to add. When I smoke tuna and yellow tail I don't add anything, just plain and I later can it.

Here's the recipe for a basic and my favorite rub:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup non-iodized salt

Black pepper (optional) Sprinkle on when you place the fish in the smoker

Cover the fish completely with the mixture and let sit in the refrigerator 24 hours. You can layer the fish by putting a sheet of wax paper between each layer. You're going to notice a lot of "fish juice" after 24 hours, this is normal, as the salt is going to bring a lot of the moisture which helps with the preserving.

Most rubs and brines need to be set at least 24 hours in the refrigerator, so make sure you have room for your fish. If you have large, thick cuts of fish you may want to make some slices through the flesh, making sure not to cut the skin. Or even cross hatches to allow the brine or rub to penetrate all the flesh. It also helps the cooking process all the way through.

When your ready for smoking preheat your smoker to around 175 degrees. A thermometer is helpful, but exact temp isn't so crucial with fish, especially the smaller fish like our kokanee. Add your preferred wood chips and close it all up. Be patient! After about two hours take a peek for thin fish, 3 for thick. You don't want constant smoke throughout the process, otherwise the fish may turn out somewhat bitter from over smoking. I only use one pan for the kokanee and two (or about 6 large chunks on the charcoal smoker) for salmon and tuna.  Test your pieces with a fork and if the flesh flakes it's done. Remove and enjoy!

Or, you can vacuum seal or can your smoked fish. I always grab a few packages and a jar or two when we go out camping. Good stuff!

HINT - If you or you know someone with fruit trees, ask for 2-3" diameter branches whenever they trim them (or a storm breaks them). Cut these up to about 4" lengths for your charcoal smoker (of course they need to be dry) I've used peach, plum, and apple this way. We had to cut down my moms apple tree one year and you can bet we had smoking wood for years!



Erika Forsythe

Avid Huntress

ReelCamo Girl Brand Champion 


Facebook: Erika Forsythe


 ReelCamo Girl is a lifestyle brand focused on ladies who love the outdoors.There is a growing need for a place for women to share  their outdoor experiences, as well as an interest in clean eating and  self-sufficiency. Through our website and social media networks, we  offer a safe place where the ladies can share their pictures, stories, wild  game and fish recipes, and news articles about conservation and  hunting perspectives.

ReelCamo girls are strong, capable, kind, compassionate, nature & country-loving individuals. We encourage responsible and ethical hunting. We care about the land and wildlife management and about long term sustainability. We hunt, fish, dive, shoot and hike…for peace of mind, happiness, pure clean protein & connection to the outdoors. ReelCamoGirls can shoot a gun, draw a bow, track an animal, get CAMOed up, bait a hook, clean a fish and still be feminine.

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