Foodstuffs: Two 'Nerds' Catch, Eat Their Way Through New Hampshire's Freshwater Fish

Oct 16, 2014

Clay Groves (left) and Dave Kellam, aka The Fish Nerds, in a file photo from 2011.
Credit Amy Quinton, NHPR

For the past several years, two men calling themselves The Fish Nerds have been on a quest to catch and eat all the species of New Hampshire freshwater fish. Their quest is now complete.

Clay Groves and Dave Kellam talked with All Things Considered about what they learned while trying to “Catch-m-All and Eat-m-All.”

How did this all get started?

Groves: I was hanging out one winter and got a phone call from Dave, and he says, “Hey, Clay, I just thought of something. Let’s try to catch every kind of freshwater fish in New Hampshire.” And I said, “Yeah – let’s eat ‘em too!” Because I like to eat stuff. We didn’t spend any time discussing the details or how to do it.

Just “here’s an idea, we’ll go for it.”

Groves: Yep.

But you did have some rules – for example, you had to catch everything legally, and each time you caught a kind of fish for the first time, that was the one you ate?

Kellam: Yes. A lot of people go out and fish all day, catching a whole bunch of fish. But ours was a plan for species diversity. We would get the first legal one and move on, which meant some of the fish was quite small.

For a lot of people, fish is one of those tastes that you either enjoy or don’t – it’s not an in-between food. Is that because of the inherent fishiness or is it recipes and preparation?

Groves: It’s more attitude than anything. People decide, “I’m not a fish person,” and therefore they close themselves off, when they really should be saying, “I don’t like the way that fish is cooked,” or “I don’t like that style of fish.” Because there are so many kinds of fish and so many flavors.

What’s an example, then, of fish that people might need some coaxing to try, but with the right preparation might be pretty appetizing to them?

Kellam: The last one that we caught was the channel catfish – catfish can really off-putting in their appearance but they’re really a great food fish if you know how to cook them. We prepared it like a striped bass, baked over a grill, and that was actually the wrong way to prepare it. It was very strong tasting and it really wasn’t very appealing.

What we did with a cousin of that fish, known as a bullhead, or a horned pout is what they call them in New Hampshire, was to deep fry it. And that is the way to cook a catfish.

And also, not worrying about how it looks but how it tastes.

Any fish that are just hard to get down no matter how you prepare them?

Groves: We ate a Slimy Sculpin, and I can’t imagine any way that fish would taste good. It burst in your mouth with slime and ooze, and I just can’t imagine that being a pleasant thing.

What’s comes next? Do you have another quest in mind, or are you going to go back and try some of these fish with new techniques and new recipes?

Kellam: We’re definitely focusing on our podcast, our online radio show. We’re talking about the quest and then opening it up to listeners. We have thousands of listeners all over that are offering suggestions of what we could do.

But it sounds like whatever the quest may be, there may be another quest from the Fish Nerds.

Groves: It seems to be that our podcast listeners want us to do another quest. So we will find another reason to fish.