Fall Fish Feast- How To Prepare Around A Campfire

Father/ son camping and fishing.

It’s that time of year again! The ground is speckled with yellows, oranges, and reds as autumn sweeps down the hills and valleys. Sweater weather is in full swing, jack-o-lanterns are starting to make an appearance, and Halloween is right around the corner. What better way to get festive this fall than going camping?

The fish are biting like crazy this time of year, trying to pack on fat before the long winter. It’s prime-time for cozying up around a fire in a blanket and enjoying the charms of nature. And nothing beats waking up to the sound of cottonwood leaves falling on your tent. 

Well, maybe one thing beats waking up to a blanket of yellow leaves on the ground. Maybe an autumn feast complete with a Dutch oven pumpkin cobbler dessert to keep you warm. But why choose when you can have it all? 

We created this recipe for times just like these. Because we know the simple truth of the good life: it doesn’t take much to make great memories. In this case, you just need a few ingredients and tools. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s dive in headfirst and get started making this the best fall camping trip ever. 

What you need:

The first thing you’re going to need to have an amazing camp dinner is a killer autumn campsite; complete with oak, cottonwood, aspen, or maple trees. Of course, water is also a must (because what is camping without some fishing?) Next, you’re going to need a good campfire. 

In the fall, it’s best to keep a fire going all day while you mill around camp. For one, because the warmth of the fire will keep you comfortable. And because when cooking in a Dutch oven it’s best to go low and slow. So, we’re going to need a good bed of coals to cook on. 

This brings us to our Dutch oven. The cast iron Dutch oven is any car camper’s best friend. We recommend a 10” cast iron Dutch oven with a lid for this recipe. This size is ideal for cobbler making. We’re going to be cooking everything else with just one item that packs light: aluminum foil. 

Aluminum foil is perfect for campfire cooking. As long as you have a hot bed of coals going, you can throw just about anything in tin foil and cook it up to perfection. The only trick here is retrieving whatever you’re cooking without burning yourself. Which is why we’re making sure to bring along our handy dandy metal tongs. 

So, to recap: 

– Beautiful autumn campsite

– Wonderful campfire (complete with a deep bed of coals)

– 10” cast iron Dutch oven

– Roll of aluminum foil

– Long metal tongs

Easy enough right? You’re camping, after all. Why make it stressful? Now, let’s talk about the food portion of the recipe. 

Ingredients: 

This fall feast has three parts. Of course, you can modify and add as much as you’d like. We’re just providing a way to make a big meal easily. Our meal is centered around fish, as any camp dinner should be. We recommend brown or rainbow trout, but you could also go with bluegill, crappie, bass, walleye, or even catfish (although you may need some more cookware to fry it). Whatever you happen to catch is just perfect. 

Next are some nice, sweet, filling yams (or sweet potatoes). Yams are perfect because you can wrap them in tin foil and toss them in the fire. You could do the same thing with potatoes if you like. And if you really feel like reaching for the stars you could chop up some squash, carrots, onion, even broccoli and cauliflower and cook them hobo dinner style

To go along with our veggies we’re going to need some butter (obviously), seasoning, and any other toppings you’d like (sour cream, chives, etc.). For seasoning, the simplest way to go would be salt and pepper. We recommend adding Lawry’s seasoned salt to just about everything. It’s a great all-around seasoning for camping, which keeps things simple when you pack your camp kitchen. 

Lastly, we need to make our cobbler. This is the most complex of the foods we’ll be making, and takes the most time. But we’re confident it will be worth the effort. To make our pumpkin cobbler, we’ll need:

– 1 29 oz can of pumpkin purée

– 1 15 oz can of sweetened condensed milk

– Four eggs

– One box of spice cake mix

– One stick of butter

– Cinnamon and nutmeg

– Vanilla ice cream (optional, but way more fun)

As we’ll see in a minute, this all combines pretty simply in our Dutch oven. To recap everything else, our main courses are made up of:

– Your favorite freshwater fish (or whatever you happen to catch)

– Yams

– Salt and pepper

– Lawry’s seasoned salt

– Butter

            and/or

– Russet potatoes

– Squash (butternut, acorn, banana, etc. No wrong answers)

– Onions

– Carrots

– Broccoli

– Cauliflower

Simple enough, right? Remember, you can make this meal as simple or as dressed-up as you’d like. The essentials are pretty much the same either way. Now let’s get into how we’re going to turn these ingredients into the ultimate campfire feast.

Instructions:

Step one, as we’ve already covered, is to get a fire going. Seasoned Dutch oven chefs know firsthand that the right way to prepare a cobbler is to get started early. Whether you prefer a teepee or a log cabin fire, we just need a big bed of coals to work with. Once you have that started, we can get going on our cobbler. 

First, add the pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, and four whole eggs, whisking to combine. Season with 1 tbsp cinnamon and 2 tsp nutmeg. Whisk again to integrate your seasoning. 

Next, add your dry spice cake mix. Sprinkle an even coating over the top of the pumpkin mixture. Then, cut the stick of butter into slices. Place the butter squares on top of the dry cake mix in a checkerboard pattern. 

Cover your Dutch oven and set it on a thin layer of coals. Remember, slow and low is the key. Check it regularly. Too much heat and the cake mix will burn. If the pumpkin is cooking, but the butter isn’t melting, add just a few coals to the top of the Dutch oven with your tongs. Do not forget to check it. Dutch oven cooking is kind of like smoking meat; it’s a marathon, not a race. You should cook your cobbler for a minimum of an hour. 

Once we start getting closer to dinner time, we can start our yams. This part is simple. Poke some holes in the yams with a fork, wrap them in foil, and bury them in the coals. These will sit for around 30 minutes. To check them for doneness, squeeze them with the tongs. When they’re done, they will be a little squishy. If you’re also doing potatoes, use the same method. 

Last (but certainly not least) is our fish. Clean it, rinse it, remove the head. You can also remove the scales by scraping a knife across the fish. If you want to go the extra mile, you can filet it, but this isn’t necessary. If cooked right, the meat should fall right off the bone. Cut a piece of foil and set your fish inside. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and/or Lawry’s. As a bonus, you can add some chunks of butter to the inside of the fish. Wrap the fish with the foil, then wrap the whole affair in another layer. This will help the meat to cook evenly. 

Treat the fish the same as the yams and toss them in the coals. They will cook for around seven minutes. Be sure the meat is cooked evenly before eating. Some people prefer to remove the skin, others just eat it. Fish skin [https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fish-skin#nutrition-benefits ] has been shown to be high in vitamins and nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, and adds a delicious crispy texture. 

Plate it all up!

Now there’s nothing left to do but enjoy. By now, the sun is going down, the fire is crackling happily, and your feast is ready. Remove the goodies from the fire with your tongs and let them cool, then unwrap them. You can add butter, seasoning, sour cream, chives, or whatever you like to your yams and vegetables. 

Your cobbler should be perfect by now. Be careful: when you remove the lid, everyone in a ten-mile radius might come begging for a scoop. Top it with ice cream if you like, and enjoy. This is what autumn is all about!

A note about the author: Conrad Lucas is a biologist, naturalist, and writer from Salt Lake City, UT. He specializes in bat ecology, and loves skiing, caving, canyoneering, climbing AND fishing. You can follow him on IG @drinkfluoride and find his creative work at www.jconradlucas.com.

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