"Rough" Up Your Diet and Exercise
This Spring

Mark Maule, Adjunct Instructor Health Sciences
Behty Harrison, Department Chair

As spring approaches, more opportunities become available to holistically improve your nutrition and fitness. Spring signifies a rebirth of natural occurrences that allow for increased healthy lifestyles while respecting the environment. One of the most overlooked spring-related nutritional benefits is incorporating rough fish into a diet.

Rough fish generally includes the following fish species: suckers, carp, catfish, and bullhead. When people hear the word “rough fish” they often respond with, “gross, yuck, disgusting,” due to preconceived notions of these fish as bottom-dwelling creatures that taste like mud. However, these natural food sources provide the much needed protein and fatty acids linked to progressive health development.

Two of the most appetizing and nutritious rough fish sources are suckers and catfish. Suckers are generally the first rough fish that become highly active from the end of March through the end of May, due to their ritualized spawning runs. During this time period, suckers can be caught quite easily in small to large rivers and are known for their highly nutritious, flaky meat. Suckers are generally 70 to 75 percent protein and contain healthy fatty acids. While suckers are plentifully available, it is not a very popular fish because it has many bones. However, when prepared appropriately, suckers make a terrific healthy food source.

Catfish become more active during the same time frame, but generally peak their activities from May through June. Like suckers, catfish is both appetizing and has high protein and fatty acid contents. This fish is also a more commercially accessible, and can be purchased in most grocery stores across the United States. Catfish is usually found in the frozen fish section as they are farmed for their fine meat.

But how can fishing be incorporated into an exercise routine? If you have the means and location, fishing is a great way to incorporate a different, effective method of exercise. In addition, fishing allows you to take only the food that you need for sustenance. Hiking along stretches of river requires tremendous amounts of balance, muscular strength, and muscular endurance. Even a stretch of river which is only one mile in length can require caloric expenditures matching that of biking or even running. Specific muscles need to traverse the river areas where rough fish are most commonly found include the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, gastrocnemius, and hamstrings. Hiking to get to your fishing spots can be a solid choice for a lower body workout for the day.

Kayaking and canoeing is another means for fishing, allowing the angler to access as many fish as possible and covering up to 10 miles or more per day.  Although quite different in its musculature usage than hiking, kayaking and canoeing also require large caloric expenditure. These activities require the use of the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids, forearm flexors, biceps, and triceps, which translates into a strong upper body workout for strength and endurance.  Both hiking or kayaking/canoeing to fishing spots are highly effective toward improving upper and lower body strength and endurance, so incorporating these activities into your workout schedule cab be beneficial to a complete body workout.

Whether you choose to catch these fish yourself or go shopping at the supermarket, suckers and catfish are a great choice to incorporate into a nutrition plan due to high protein and fatty acids, both of which are known for their muscle recuperation and metabolic qualities. So, spring forward with your nutritional and fitness modalities by incorporating rough fish as part of your diet and daily exercise.

Below are two recipes that have been developed carefully over time to be health-conscious and appetizing:

Sucker Recipe

Sucker Patties

2 lbs sucker meat
1 cup bread crumbs
3 eggs
2 Tbsps black pepper
2 Tbsps garlic powder


  1. Boil sucker meat chunks for 25 minutes. Remove all bones (may take time, as there are many bones).
  2. Combine all ingredients and stir thoroughly. Form into 4-6 ounce patties and then fry in a pan coated with olive oil cooking spray for 10 minutes at medium heat; flip, spray pan again, and fry the other side for 10 minutes.
  3. Serves 3-5 people.

When prepared in this fashion, the fish tastes similar to salmon or tuna.


Catfish Recipe

Angel Hair Catfish

1 lb catfish
1 lb angel hair pasta
One 8-ounce container of prepared onion dip (such as Kemps®)
2 Tbsps garlic powder
2 Tsps black pepper
½ medium onion diced


  1. Cook angel hair pasta to desired tenderness with spices and onion.
  2. Simultaneously boil catfish for 25 minutes at medium heat.
  3. Take catfish and dice into many small pieces and then combine the fish with the pasta and prepared onion dip and mix thoroughly.
  4. Serves 4-6 people.

Mark Maule, MS, SPN, CFT, YFT

Mark Maule is a professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences where he teaches Creating Wellness: Psychological and Spiritual Aspects of Healing.  Mr. Maule received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse and his Master of Science in Psychology/Sport Psychology at Capella University.  He has spent many years working in treatment centers, both residential and day, and as a fitness/wellness director for children ages 6 to 17. 

Mr. Maule is a Specialist in Performance Nutrition (SPN), a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT), and a certified Youth Fitness Trainer (YFT).  In addition to teaching, he is writing a children’s book and working on opening a wood burning business with his wife. 

Behty Harrison, MA, DOM, LAc

Behty Harrison is the academic chair of the Bachelor of Science in Health and Wellness program for Kaplan University and the director for the Kaplan University Center for Health and Wellness. She comes to Kaplan University with an extensive background in the fields of psychology and complementary and alternative medicine. Ms. Harrison is a licensed acupuncturist and is recognized by the state of New Mexico as a doctor of Oriental medicine. Ms. Harrison was a clinician at the prestigious Integrative Medicine Clinic at Evanston-Northwestern Hospital in the Chicago area, which is associated with the Andrew Weil integrative medicine program.

She holds a master’s degree in psychology from the New School for Social Research in New York City and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and South Asian studies. She spent a year in India as part of her South Asian studies program and did a graduate fellowship in South Asian studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Ms. Harrison has an ongoing interest in meditation, Buddhism, music (piano, flute, cello, voice), and travel. She has done several sea kayaking trips in Alaska, Canada, and Baja, Mexico, and eco-travel to Costa Rica, where she river rafted and paddled in the rainforest amongst crocs and monkeys. Next, she hopes to travel to Antarctica.

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

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