What passed for “fish” at my childhood dinner table was usually a breaded, frozen stick that bore no resemblance to the original being that had a head, tail and gills.

I disliked fish and fish facsimiles, and as a vegetarian, I abstained from them altogether until about a year ago.

Now I’m among those in the U.S. who consume an average of 15 pounds of fish per year. (Doctor’s ordersI need more omega-3 fatty acids in my diet.) According to federal agricultural statistics, that compares to America’s average consumption of 57.5 pounds of beef2012 marked the lowest level in a half centuryand 45.5 pounds of pork. (And, yikes, 76.7 pounds of sugar.)

In this issue of DISH, we celebrate the Triangle’s fishing culture: restaurants, seafood shops, lakes, ponds and rivers that yield a mighty bounty.

We feature Saltbox Seafood Joint, a Durham eatery celebrating its first anniversary on an unlikely stretch of North Mangum Street. If you like your fish raw, check out our sushi roundup. Overfishing threatens many species worldwide, so choose your meal carefully; see a sustainability chart.

And learn about Walking Fish, a community-supported fishery program in the Triangle that trucks in a fresh catch from the coast twice a week. Three hours is a long way from Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks.

Drop your line: How to get a fishing license

If you want to fish in publicly owned waterways, you need a license. If you get busted by a conservation officer for fishing without a license, you can be fined $35, plus court costs. Or you could suffer a more traumatic loss: a tournament fisherman caught an 883-pound blue marlin off the coast and won a $912,000 first prizewhich he couldn’t accept because one of his crew members didn’t have a fishing license. (A fishing license is not required to fish in a private pond.)

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission issues commercial and recreational fishing licenses, depending on where you plan to drop your line: county, statewide, the coast or all of the above.

Prices range from $5 for a temporary license to $20 for an annual permit that allows you to fish inland and on the coast. Depending on the license you choose, trout fishing costs an extra $10.

There are no closed seasons on inland game fishes with a few exceptions: bass and trout. Check out the regulations and find registration applications for licenses at ncwildlife.org. You can contact the commission by email, licenses@ncwildlife.org, and phone, 888-248-6834.