How to Smoke Trout and Other Fresh-Caught Fish

Updated on February 19, 2020
C.S.Alexis profile image

C.S. Alexis is an artist who specializes in painting and jewelry making. In her spare, she loves fishing.

Smoked trout tastes great and is easier to make than you'd think.
Smoked trout tastes great and is easier to make than you'd think. | Source

Fishing Is Only Half the Fun

Now that the fishing and catching has taken place, you might be wondering what to do with all of the trout and salmon you caught. I know that is where I am with it. The bigger fish provide a lot of meat, and there are many different ways to prepare and preserve it. With the cost of food skyrocketing, it is a good thing to know how to preserve the extra fish you caught. Today, I am going to detail how to smoke trout. This item is quite costly in the grocery stores. I saw smoked salmon selling for about $8.00 for 8 oz. just the other day. That is enough to motivate me to get the smoker prepped and ready for a few pounds of fresh fish.

How to Smoke Trout

  • Step One: Prepare Twelve Hours in Advance
  • Step Two: Brine and Soak Fish Overnight
  • Step Three: Fire Up the Cooker
  • Step Four: Finish Setting Up the Smoker
  • Step Five: Let the Smoke Do the Trick
  • Step Six: Three Hour of Slow Smoking

You'll Need:

  • A smoker grill
  • charcoal
  • hickory chips
  • Fish, trout or salmon work out well with this method
  • olive oil
  • brown sugar
  • regular salt (no iodine)
  • pepper
  • a drying rack
  • a large bowl
  • a small bowl

Step One: Prepare Twelve Hours in Advance

I did this part the night before I planned to smoke the fish. I put the cut up fillet of fish in the brine mixture and covered it tight with plastic wrap. Put the dish in the fridge to marinate. I put my hickory chips in a bowl of water. Then I had to season the smoker as it was new and never used. This takes about two hours. This smoker required a complete coating of vegetable oil for all internal parts, excluding the charcoal pan. The smoker then had to be burned for a couple of hours. I built a small fire and added a few chips of hickory. What this does is season the smoker in preparation for using it. The next morning I emptied the fire pan and started a fire to smoke the fish.

The Big Lake Trout Will Go To The Smoker For Sure
The Big Lake Trout Will Go To The Smoker For Sure
Start the smoker with charcoal and Hickory chips
Start the smoker with charcoal and Hickory chips

Step Two: Brine and Soak Fish Overnight

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup regular salt (not iodized)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 qts.water

Stir in a large mixing bowl water and all the above ingredients. Mix until all is dissolved and add a fish fillet cut into 2 inch sections. The fillet I used weighed about 2.5-3 lbs. This is my first time smoking fish so I am not going to try more than one fillet without seeing how this recipe turns out. This amount worked well, and I used the remaining liquid as water for my smoker's drip pan.

Soak Hickory chips in a small bowl overnight.
Soak Hickory chips in a small bowl overnight.
The fish soaked all night in this covered dish . The marinade has been drained to put the liquid in the drip pan of the smoker.
The fish soaked all night in this covered dish . The marinade has been drained to put the liquid in the drip pan of the smoker.
Coals are hot and ready for the Hickory chips to start the smoking process.
Coals are hot and ready for the Hickory chips to start the smoking process.

Step Three: Fire Up the Cooker

I placed a large amount of charcoal into the fire pan and sprayed the coals with charcoal starter fluid. Let it rest for about 10 minutes and then added enough starter fluid to ignite. It took this smoker about 20 minutes to get hot. Then I put the water pan on and let it start heating. When it all looked good I put the Hickory chips on the fire. Be careful to use long handled tongues and an oven mitt to protect yourself from burns. I suggest always follow the instructions that come with the smoker unit. Be safe.

Lay the pieces of fish out on a rack to dry for some time while you are getting the smoker ready to go.
Lay the pieces of fish out on a rack to dry for some time while you are getting the smoker ready to go.

Step Four: Finish Setting Up the Smoker

I placed the fish on a rack so that it could drain real good while I was setting up the rest of the smoker. I put the marinade in the water pan and placed the water pan inside the smoker. I added additional water to the pan so that it was 3/4 of the way full. I had to add additional water about 1.5 hours into smoking the fish. This pan serves to catch drippings from the meat and also to add moisture during the smoking process. I suggest keeping plenty of liquid in the water pan to add ease when it comes time to clean the smoker. If you let the pan dry it will be harder to clean burned on foods.

Ready to smoke
Ready to smoke

Step Five: Let the Smoke Do the Trick

Now I have never smoked any kind of meat before so I was a little anxious about giving this a try. I placed the chunks of fish on to the top grate so that none of the pieces were touching. This allows maximum flow of air resulting in the smoke being distributed evenly during the cooking process. I also left the skin on the Trout when it was cleaned. I did this so that the meat did not fall apart when it was being moved. The Trout gets so tender that it will crumble at a touch. The skin serves as a sort of plate for each piece of fish. This worked out very good for this recipe.

I also added some additional coarse ground pepper to the fish right before I put the smoker lid on. It was not in the recipe to do so but, I like black pepper and thought it would enhance the flavor. Each piece was given a good dusting to ensure plenty of the peppery flavor in the finished product.

Step Six: Three Hour of Slow Smoking

I tied to keep my heat inside the smoker at a low temperature as I wanted the fish to continue to dry. Fish is very delicate and my common sense told me to keep the fire hot but keep it on the slow side. It took a total of three hours and I had to add water to the drip pan. I also added more wood chips about halfway through the process. The good thing about smoking food is that you put the lid on the smoker and leave it alone. I kept an eye on my temperature gauge and that was about it. You should NOT lift the lid of the smoker as this will allow heat to escape.

You will have to check it periodically. I waited 1.5 hours and then checked it. I decided that I would like for the fish to be dryer at that point. I added more water to the pan and that is when I put the additional Hickory chips on. I replaced the lid and let the fire basically burn down. This took another 1.5 hours. When the temperature started dropping because my fire was dying I called it done.

I am here to tell you that this Trout turned out so good it was worth every second I spent in researching and preparing this food. My Mother declared that this should be the only way to cook Trout as it is the VERY BEST! I would suggest this delicious fish to anyone who enjoys food fit for the gods. This trout turned out perfect the first try. Happy smoking!

There was just two pieces left after three of us decided to taste this Hickory Smoked Trout. We did NOT sit down to eat, we were only sampling the fare. Might need to do 10 lbs. at a time afterall.
There was just two pieces left after three of us decided to taste this Hickory Smoked Trout. We did NOT sit down to eat, we were only sampling the fare. Might need to do 10 lbs. at a time afterall.


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    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from NW Indiana

      No I do not recommend anything, just follow the directions for the smoker you use.

    • howlermunkey profile image

      Jeff Boettner 

      4 years ago from Tampa, FL

      Gonna give this a try... do you recommend a specific brand of smoker?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Holy amazing trout!

      I'm actually typing this with the three fingers that *aren't* covered in fish!

      This recipe is amazing. Thank you for sharing it.

    • profile image

      Mark in Chesapeake 

      8 years ago

      Tried this technique on my first attempt at smoking trout as well. I had some luck in upstate NY catching trophy sized-brown trout and brought a few home. I decided to smoke some trout and pheasant at a local university tailgate venture, but instead of cutting the trout up, as suggested in this recipe, I smoked two whole, large fillets. I used the same brine and placed the trout skin-side down on the oiled rack. In about two-hours, the trout came off the smoker and were literally devoured by our tailgaters. Great, simple recipe! Well done and thanks for the detailed instructions.

    • profile image

      That guy 

      8 years ago

      When you smoked it.......did you catch a buzz?

    • profile image

      Lucky Larry of Bakersfield 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for all the great tips. I thought I would only have to (THROW EM ON DA GRILL)and enjoy. Didn't know I was going to have to go to all the work of prepareing,but sure it will be worth it. Heck it only took 45min to limit each day. Will let you know how it turned out.

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from NW Indiana

      maggie here is a link with a number of ways to cook salmon. Thanks for commenting...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      is there another way to make the salmon? I dont have any grill, just an oven.

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 

      9 years ago

      OMG! I felt like eating the picture. This is voted way up/ useful, awesome and bookmarked.

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from NW Indiana


      Thanks for commenting. I use that smoker because someone brought it to me to use. I would have to say it is getting the job done. I did have to get to know the smoker and how it functions, making modifications for our weather, depending on the day. Must say I made a good go of it on the first attempt.

    • bbqsmokersite profile image


      9 years ago from Winter Haven, Florida

      This fish looks amazing! Had the opportunity to stay on a small island in Quebec Harbor (Lake Superior) and eat some tasty Lake Trout. We smoked some as well, and of course - there was the obligatory fish fry! A neighbor up there also made some very tasty Pike nuggets, which I had not had before.

      Noticed you use the Brinkmann Smoke'N Grill. How do you like it? Does it regulate temp well?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My husband bought me a new gas smoker to replace my charcoal one. I had the same one that you have in your picture. I used your brine and soaked it overnight and smoked it today using hickory chucks. Wow, it is delicious! Thank you for the brine recipe, I will be using it from now on since it is the best one I have used so far.

    • clearblue99 profile image


      9 years ago from Clear Blue Sky

      excellent hub, all the pictures are making me hungry to go fishing and smoke some fish! thanks for the awesome hub.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i am just about to try this out. sounds great and also easy!!!!!! i love the taste of smoked fish and i cant wait to get this in my BELLY

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Awesome, yet simple recipe. DEFINITELY TRY ALDER wood though. More suited to fish smoking. The full flavor of oak or hickory may be too strong for fish depending on one's taste. Alder is mild, substitute fruitwood if you cannot find alder.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      10 years ago from Washington

      Great info - and my favorite one-liner...'how do you smoke trout?' 'very carefully and with really big cigarette papers' Seriously it looks delicious and it is making me starving!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks a lot for the info. I followed your receipe but used an electric Bradley smoker. After 3 hours at 180 degrees the 16 (4 per rack) pan fry sized trout turned out perfect!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great layout you have here! Very easy to understand and follow and I love the pics for each step. We just moved to the mountains of North Georgia and we have a trophy trout stream right in front of new home. My husband and brothers are so addicted to fly fishing now and I love smoked trout. Just bought a new smoker and am going to use your recipe, I will let you know how it turns out but can't wait!!! Thanks again.

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from NW Indiana

      Try soaking the raw fish in milk as soon as it is cleaned and also remove the belly meat... must remember that Trout is a stronger tasting fish. Good Luck

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I have a friend who is trying to smoke lake trout and says after it cools down it gets too strong tasting. Can anyone tell me how to avoid this?

    • profile image

      smoking fool 

      11 years ago

      Thanks for the tips on smoking trout. My Dad gave me the receipe for smoking salmon and it has one more step after the marinating in the brine. You take the fish out of the brine and rinse off gently and shake off excess water and lay flesh side up on paper towels on a cookie sheet for 4 to 6 hours until the flesh is tacky but not dry. This will be my first attempt with trout so wish me luck. The cooking time suggested in you receipe helped me determine how long to cook the trout. My Dad's receipe is for salmon and the cooking time is 4 to 8 hours.


    • Eric L Walker profile image

      Eric L Walker 

      11 years ago from Kalamazoo, MI

      Impressive. Thank you for inspiring me to purchase a smoker. Now I know how.

      Eric Walker

    • funwithtrains profile image


      11 years ago from USA

      Sounds delicious! Lemon pepper is also good on smoked fish.

    • earnestshub profile image


      11 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I love trout. My dad when he got older moved to a place between two majr trout streams so he could fish every day.

      I am in the city now, but lived around good trout fishing for many years.

      A smallish, say under 2lb trout out of fast clean mountan water caught in the morning for breakfast tastes real good. We did not have great smokers, but our Latvian friend did all the smoking and we pooled the catch.

      Great memories.

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from NW Indiana


      I borrowed one from a friend who had never used one they had. Now I had to buy it from them because I have been keeping it busy and they don't need it anyway. Thanks for reading here and commenting. C.s.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      11 years ago from New Brunswick

      This is making me think I should get a cooker.

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 

      11 years ago from Oregon, USA

      mmmmm..... smoked trout. Sounds like you did it right!

    • ozarker profile image


      12 years ago

      Wonderful Hub!! My wife and I were just talking a couple days ago about trout fishing on a local lake and some ways to cook it, but we didn't consider smoking it. Since I already have the smoker (have had some great pulled pork cooked on it) :), we are definitely going to try smoking trout. Can hardly wait!


    • MummyAnn profile image


      12 years ago from UK

      Great Hub!! I love trout, in fact I love most fish and this is a great way to preserve it.

    • Juliet Christie profile image

      Juliet Christie Murray 

      12 years ago from Sandy Bay Jamaica

      The finished product looks very good . I suppose other fish could be tried too. Thanks for the lesson in fish smoking.

    • funnebone profile image


      12 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      I fi ate seafood I would be all over this but alas, It make me retch..I enjoy your posts nonetheless

    • Louie Jerome profile image

      Louie Jerome 

      12 years ago from UK

      Not something I would eat as I don't like fish but interesting just the same.

    • Lynn E profile image

      Lynn E 

      12 years ago from San Diego, California USA

      Oh this does look yummy. I've never smoked anything but I have to try this. Thanks for sharing.

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      12 years ago from Sydney

      Have bookmarked your smoked trout.

      Not keen on the fishing, will have to go to the markets to buy.

      Love smoked trout

      Thank you

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from NW Indiana

      Hey thank you R. Martin Basso. Sounds like you plan on doing some cooking. Glad you stopped in to check it out. Hope it helps you when the time comes. C.S.

    • R. Martin Basso profile image

      Reid Martin Basso 

      12 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      This is a great informational piece. Thanks CS... I'll be referencing this hub again this coming weekend. good stuff.

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from NW Indiana

      I want to thank all of you for the wonderful comments. This was fun to write, fun to cook and fun to share. Thanks again! C.S.

    • Rob Jundt profile image

      Rob Jundt 

      12 years ago from Midwest USA

      I love smoked trout. You have done a great job with this hub. Even though you have to put a little more time into prep, the payoff is always worth it. I like to smoke turkey breasts, chickens, pork loins and fish. By far, the fish is the most delicate and difficult. The process you laid out here works every time. Enjoy your smoked trout again and again. I know you earned it. Great hub. Thumbs up.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      12 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Oh boy this looks really great and yummy too. I can almost smell the smoke on the fish. I love smoked fish. Once we get travelling I will definitely have to try this out. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this with us, a detailed description, well illustrated, and can't wait to try it for ourselves. Well done.

    • Just_Rodney profile image

      Rodney Fagan 

      12 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      Excellent Hub a good brine for the fish an hickory chips for smoking, that really looked good, but obviously was perfect judging by your closing comments. Thanks.


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