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KEN BARNES: Fish for dinner? Recipes from the master

Steve Merlo

Pictured is longtime Bakersfield Californian columnist Steve Merlo with a 17-pound ling cod caught on a trip out of Port San Luis in 2015.

Most of my readers realize that I do not claim to be a fisherman. I have only written a couple of columns about this activity over the months.

Just never had time to hunt waterfowl and upland game birds, and find time to do fishing, too. But, that does not mean I cannot share a couple of recipes from my old pal Steve Merlo's book, "The Official, Can't Live Without It, EASY, Wild Game And Fish Cookbook."

I have printed his recipe for doves the past couple of opening seasons, so, with his wife Candy's blessing...enjoy.


INGREDIENTS: 3-pound panfish filets...1 cup all purpose flour...Peanut oil...two beaten eggs...1 tablespoon black pepper...2 cups cornmeal...1 tablespoon All Season salt.

Put a half-inch of peanut oil into heavy fry pan and pre-heat to 350 degrees. Give the fish a light bath of beaten egg, then coat the filets with a mixture made from the rest of the ingredients. Before cooking, test the oil with a very small piece of fish to make sure the oil bubbles around it. If the pan's too cold, the fish will be greasy, but if it's too hot, you'll burn 'em. Take the time and get the temperature to where it sizzles lightly, then place the fish, a few pieces at a time, into the oil. Don't turn the fish right away, but allow it to lightly fry until one side is crispy. Carefully turn the well-browned filets, then brown the other side. When both sides are golden-brown, continue to flip the filets from one side to the other until the desired doneness is achieved. Remove meat and drain on a platter of paper towels. Garnish with lemon and tartar sauce. Serves four.


INGREDIENTS: 3-pound 'Rockcod' or rockfish filets...Four cloves chopped garlic...One large ripe tomato, thinly sliced...One large belle pepper, thinly sliced...1/4 cup white wine...Fresh Rosemary...One Lemon, thinly sliced...Olive oil...Salt and Pepper...One large red onion, thinly sliced...1/2 tablespoon dry Italian Seasoning...1/2 cube butter...One medium brown onion thinly sliced.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, lightly coat filets with olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped garlic and dry Italian seasoning and mix by hand for even distribution. In a large casserole dish, place a layer of filets, then put a single layer of tomato, onions, lemon, peppers, and rosemary sprinkles. Continue until all the fish is used. Slice butter evenly over the top, then add white wine. Cover and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Serves four.


INGREDIENTS: 3-pound striped bass filets...2 cups Italian flavored bread crumbs...Salt and Pepper...Olive oil...Three beaten eggs.

This simple recipe is so easy, yet people tend to elaborate on it and screw it up. Use the K.I.S.S. formula for success (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Bathe the filets in the beaten egg. Coat the fish with the bread crumbs, then fry until the filets are a nicely done golden brown. Remove, drain, hit 'em with a little S & P, and serve.

Ken Barnes is a record setting shooter and longtime outdoorsman from Kern County. Email him at with comments or column ideas.

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