Bait it. Hook it. Fight it. Gaff it. Clean it. Cook it. EAT IT.
Whether by rod and reel or spear, heaps of mental and physical energy is spent going through the motions of fishing and procuring the catch. Ah geez, let’s keep it real – we’ll call it obsession. So if you’re going to jump through liquid hoops to make it happen, be sure to make it worth the effort. Respect and take care of the catch; make the most of it and use it all. Remember that most anglers also cook (or at least try). It’s who we are. Sharing tips, techniques, ideas and recipes plays an integral part in the fishing/cooking community. And it’s the only way we learn to not only land that big fish… but to turn it into that delicious plate of food to share with others.
Damien Hobgood, pro surfer, hoists a monster California Yellowtail.
Photo credit: Farkas
Damien looks on as chef/angler John Park shares some tips on the ultimate Hawaiian poke, using Damo’s fish of course.
Photo credit: Farkas
Trout about to take down the finished product… Ono Yum.
Photo credit: Farkas
With Southern California and local Baja waters currently exploding with a stratum of fishing not seen in many locals’ lifetimes, chef-anglers of all levels have had a bounty of pelagic species to use to practice and perfect dishes from all walks of life. While some of the most prolific catches in the world are reeled in from Hawaiian waters (this year being no exception), this year’s west coast bite has been, literally, off the hook. Anglers in cattle boats, private boats, skiffs, pangas and kayaks have all thrived on this hot bite, which actually just carried over from last year. And the band played on…
Even the groms are getting in on the act. Niko Traubman with a mid-size tuna on Gary Clisby’s boat, Pacific Quest.
Regular poke, spicy poke, ANY poke is good. With this much fish, it’s the year to experiment.
Whether it has been on the surface iron, live bait, jigs, feathers, yo-yo, swim baits or a good ol’ fashioned spear gun, everyone has gotten in on the action this season. The 30-40 pound grade of yellowtail has been steady, big bull mahi mah/dorado have been flying over the rails, ono/wahoo and opah/moonfish are starting to hit the fish counts and the real story has been the tuna. BIG. BIG. TUNA.
Dave Grimes – just another day at the office. Ono Yum readers surf, fish, spear, dive, paddle, sail, play music, create art and then some. Then again, some only do one or maybe none of the above, but enjoy what we do! Either way, for those of you on the west coast that are looking to get in on the local bite and turning it into a meal, be sure to “know before you go.” An angler has some responsibilities: learn fishing etiquette and safety, understand and abide by fishing regulations, and only keep what will be eaten/used. The latter is only possible if the catch is cared for, so here are some local tips from behind the lines.
Dave Grimes – Owner, Rudy’s Taco Shop: The great thing about spearing a fish is that I can start taking care of the fish before it’s even in the boat. I cut out its gills and bleed it as soon as the fish is under control, and the fish never gets banged around the deck. Between that and a minimized fight compared to rod and reel, there is very little lactic acid build-up. That basically means better quality and texture. It goes straight from the water to the fish box and I try to keep it whole on ice overnight before cutting the fish, since the meat firms up as it gets colder.
“I have a hard time cooking Blue Fin. My two sons and I have been doing nigiri, sashimi and a couple varieties of poke.”
The freshest, cleanest tasting tuna requires cutting out the bloodline, which takes skill and quite a bit of practice. Guaranteed your guests will thank you for it.
Adam “Trout” Traubman – Waterman, Ono Yum Editor-in-Eats: Over the years I’ve become methodical and efficient with fish, because if that wasn’t the case the fish would be wasted. And nothing is worse than killing something for nothing. The key is preparation – reliable cooler, plenty of ice, sharp fillet knives, paper towels and a good vacuum sealer. If you’re fishing a cattle boat (large fishing boat open to the general public) don’t be shy about asking a deckhand to pop the gills on your fish – every single fish. Whether a pelagic (offshore surface fish), a reef fish or a rockfish, the difference in the color and taste is VERY noticeable.
More often than not, when you buy rockfish it’s pink. Here’s a reality check – I caught this rockfish and popped the gill and bled it… white as snow and not the slightest scent. Amazing what fish can be when properly cared for.
Most boats are now very good about getting your catch in the fish-hold quickly, which is great, but ½ and ¾ day boats can vary, so at least be sure you spray your catch down and keep it out of direct sunlight. Private boats are a non-issue because you are completely in charge of your fish’s destiny. And if you fish from a kayak, simply stuff a fish bag with ice in your hatch and then once you bleed your fish… send it on down. In addition to “fishy fish” prevention, it minimizes bacteria and health hazards. Manicure the catch by cutting out the blood lines, dry the fish with paper towels and, by all means, if it will be more than a few days before consumption, invest in a good vacuum sealer to preserve freshness.
Smoked Ahi vac-sealed. Waste not want not.
Captain, angler, deckhand, fish monger and chef when you fish from the kayak!
Art Whitting of the Ella Mae put me on this nice bull mahi and this was the result…
John Park, Chef – Owner Fish 101: After bleeding and gutting a fish, the key is to ice it down in a saltwater slurry of ice, water and salt, which keeps it at an ideal, cold temperature without completely freezing. I remove the skin and bloodline, always watching out for scales. Tuna ages well in the walk-in fridge, especially the fat. And of course I’m not interested in wasting any part of the fish, so I like to scrape the meat off the backbone and near the skin with a spoon to use for spicy tuna.
John with another slob So-Cal blue fin
Sous chef Josh not missing a single spot – zero waste
“Akami is great for sashimi! For those of you who don’t know, Akami is the leaner meat from the side of the fish and also known as Maguro.” – John Park
Sharing information helps us evolve and learn. We all need help. I’m not saying share all your secret spots. I mean, c’mon now… you have to pay your dues. But if your neighbor is going out, it’s best to make sure he or she is understanding of the surroundings, respectful, educated, prepared and does not create waste as a result of a lack of education. Share what you know. Act like our fisheries are a finite resource. Because they are.
When most anglers clean a nice fish like a Yellowtail, the collar is one of the first things to go to waste. But, if you learn to do it right, it’s one of the best things in the world. Period.