Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cleaning and Cooking Sheepshead Fish

Catching convict fish is a challenge, but cooking sheepshead fish isn’t quite as difficult. The toughest part of getting a sheepshead to the table is cleaning your catch. Sheepshead have large bones for their size, making dressing them a little more challenging than filleting your average fish. The best way to fillet a sheepshead is to scale it first, then lie it on its side and insert your knife next to the spine, just past the gills. Be sure to use a very sharp knife , or even better, use an electric knife. A wet knife blade wil work better because it will cut the flesh instead of tearing it. Cut down at an angle, avoiding the rib bones. Once the knife has exited at the bottom of the fish, slide it steadily along, parallel to the cutting surface. Cut through when you reach the tail. Remove any of the red meat. Repeat the process for the other side. Rinse the fillets and cool them as soon as possible.

The sheepshead is now ready to cook with sheepshead recipes. This fish has a wonderful flavor, much like crab or lobster. Good methods for cooking sheepshead fish include frying, sautéing, pan broiling, grilling, and baking. Sheepshead can also be used in soups and chowders, and they can even be used to make imitation crab meat. Because sheepies are very lean, you’ll need to cook them with fat of some sort. This might be butter, margarine, bacon drippings, olive oil, or vegetable oil. The fillets don’t have to be marinated, but marinating will add some extra flavor. If you choose to place the fish fillets in a marinade, you don’t have to leave them long. An hour is usually sufficient.

Like most lean fishes, sheepshead cook quickly, so it’s easy to overcook them. When the flesh is cooked for too long, it can get dry and somewhat tough. How can you tell when whole sheepies are done? Watch the backbone – the meat will draw away from the backbone. The flesh on whole dressed fish and in fillets will turn from almost clear to white when completely done.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sheepshead Fish Recipe: Chowder

Looking for a good sheepshead fish recipe? Maybe something a little different? Okay, I’ll admit that I’m not usually a big fan of fish chowder, but sheepshead chowder is different. I think that’s because sheepshead taste a lot like lobster, so it fits perfectly well with the other chowder ingredients. Give this at least one try before turning up your nose at it! It’s really good – I promise! If you want another sheepshead fish recipe, click the link above.

Sheepshead Fish Chowder recipe


6 slices bacon
¼ cup diced celery
½ cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 pound sheepshead fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cans Campbell’s potato soup
2 soup cans water
1 cup heavy cream
½ stick butter
1 small bag frozen corn, thawed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
Grated parmesan cheese

Directions: Fry bacon until crisp, in a Dutch oven. Drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1-2 tablespoons drippings.

Sauté celery, onions, and fish in bacon grease until veggies are tender. Reduce heat and add soup and water. Stir until smooth.

Add cream, butter, corn, garlic, black pepper, and red pepper. Crumble bacon and toss it in the pot. Taste the chowder to see if it needs salt.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you prefer a thinner chowder, add milk or water. For a thicker chowder, simmer uncovered.

Serve chowder in soup bowls and top with parmesan cheese. Yum!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cobia Fish Recipes: Pineapple-Grilled Cobia

Cobia, or “ling,” as it’s often called in the Gulf, is so delicious that I’m surprised there aren’t more good cobia fish recipes available. In desperation, I finally had to create some of my own! Actually, this wasn’t a big problem, as I love experimenting with new recipes and flavor combinations. I seem to have a special knack for this, and most of my original recipes are successes. That’s not to say that I’ve never had a flop – I have. For the most part, however, my food ideas have been well received, and the following cobia recipe is no exception. Whenever I enjoy this dish, it always reminds me of being on a tropical vacation! My pineapple-grilled cobia is especially good with my sofrito rice, by the way.

Pineapple grilled cobia


4 serving-size cobia fillets
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup pineapple juice
4 tablespoons melted butter
4 pineapple slices
4 teaspoons brown sugar

Directions: Rinse cobia fillets and pat dry. Salt fillets and rub each with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Sear both sides of fillets on a hot grill.

Remove from grill and place each fillet on a sheet of foil, making a shallow bowl with the foil.

To each cobia fillet, add ¼ cup pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and one pineapple slice. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon brown sugar onto each pineapple slice.

Close foil packets tightly and return to grill. Cook for about 12 more minutes. Exact cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillets.

Largemouth Bass Recipe

Yeah, I realize this blog is about saltwater fishing, but I thought some of you readers might be interested in a largemouth bass recipe. After all, this site is devoted to fishing in the South, and what Southern angler doesn’t fish for largemouth bass? Even if your passion is saltwater fishing, you might not be able to make it to the coast all the time, so you might satisfy your fishing appetite by angling for some largemouth bass in local ponds and lakes.

Largemouth bass are delicious! The flesh is firm and white, and it has a mild flavor. Most folks fillet largemouth bass, but there’s something to be said for cooking them whole. The whole fish makes a dramatic, attractive presentation! Try this largemouth bass recipe on the grill!

Grilled Largemouth Bass recipe

What you’ll need:

1 largemouth bass (dressing instructions below)
Sesame oil
Melted butter
Lime juice
Worcestershire sauce
Fresh parsley
Garlic salt
Black pepper

Directions: Gut and scale fish, leaving the head on. Cut out the gills. Rinse the fish well.

Using a sharp knife, slash both sides of the bucketmouth vertically. Slashes should be 2-3 inches apart.

Rub the fish all over with salt, including inside the cavity.

Rub the fish with sesame oil.

Cook the largemouth bass on a clean, oiled grill, over medium coals. The thickest part of the fish should be over the hottest part of the grill, and the thinnest part should be as far away from the heat as possible. If you want more smoky flavor, close the grill lid during part of the cooking time. The fish will need to cook about ten minutes per inch of thickness, per side. You can tell when the fish is done by looking at the flesh and the backbone. The flesh will turn white and opaque, and it will begin to pull away from the spine.

While the largemouth bass is cooking, make your sauce. I can’t provide you with exact amounts because it depends on the size of your fish as to how much sauce you’ll need. To ½ cup of butter, I add ¼ cup lime juice, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon garlic salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Heat all this together in the microwave. Increase or decrease the recipe if you need to.

Carefully remove the cooked bass from the grill and drizzle with the sauce. I like to make extra sauce for dipping! Need more fish recipes? They’re just a click away!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cobia Fishing

Cobia is a popular fish here in the South, as it is in other places around the world. Along the Atlantic, the fish is called cobia, but in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s usually referred to as ling. Cobia are very aggressive feeders and will strike most anything when they’re in the feeding mode. This includes mullet and other small fish, shrimp, crabs, and a variety of artificial baits. Cobia will even hit small hardhead catfish – and you thought those hardheads weren’t good for anything! See? You just never know what kind of fishing tips you'll get here for Florida fishing.

In clear water, like in the Gulf, cobia can often be seen, so sight casting is possible. Sometimes cobia can be viewed swimming with stingrays, and oftentimes cobia will hang out in pairs. Cobia also like staying close to buoys and any type of floating debris, so remember this when cobia fishing.

From my experience, the best way to catch cobia or ling is to freeline a live pinfish or mullet. If you see a cobia, toss the live bait in front of it. If cobia are hanging deep, toss your bait out and let it sink to the bottom, then retrieve it with a series of jerks. Some old salts say they can “call cobia up” by making noise. They do this by slapping the water, imitating the sound of a wounded, struggling fish.

Cobia is excellent on the table and performs well in a variety of fish recipes. I especially like baked cobia recipes. The flesh is white, mild tasting, and firm. Below is an easy baked cobia recipe:

Easy Baked Cobia recipe

4 serving-size cobia fillets, about ¾-inch thick
Heavy aluminum foil 4 squares
4 teaspoons melted butter
4 tablespoons white wine
4 small sprigs fresh dill
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Rinse cobia fillets and pat dry. Place each fillet in center of foil squares.

Drizzle melted butter over fish. Add white wine and dill.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Close foil packs tightly and place them on a cookie sheet or baking pan.

Bake cobia packets at 450 degrees for about 13 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before opening pouches.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Southern Food - Fish Fries

Have you enjoyed the experience known as the “fish fry”? If you’re unfamiliar with the term, allow me to explain. A fish fry – here in the South, at least – is an outdoor gathering where lots of fish are fried in a big pot over a gas cooker. Along with the fish, other food items are often cooked in the grease, too. Of course, here, it’s always Southern food: homemade hushpuppies, fried Idaho taters, and/or fried sweet taters. On a separate burner, there’s usually a big pot of grits or cheese grits to go with the fried fish.

Southern fish fries range in size, but they’re usually attended by a good number of guests. Most people save up enough fish in their freezer until they get enough for a big party. Of course, some folks luck up and catch enough fish on one fishing trip to host a large fish fry. Most people who are invited to the fish fry bring a dish. There has to be a lot of coleslaw and sweet iced tea. Other than that, any Southern food is apropos. These might include potato salad, pasta salad, tossed salad, vegetable casseroles, or fruit salads. If the fish fry takes place when fresh vegetables are coming in, some squash, zucchini, eggplant, or green tomatoes might be cooked in the hot oil. There are usually lots of desserts involved, too.

So…what kinds of fish are appropriate for a fish fry? Well, what kind do you have? Oftentimes, more than one species of fish is cooked at a Southern fish fry. The exception might be crappie. When you have a successful crappie fishing trip, it’s usually very successful! The same usually hold true for saltwater fishing for whiting. Otherwise, the fish fry might consist of a mixture of bream, bass, catfish, grouper, mullet, speckled trout, redfish, shark, croaker, and/or snapper. The fish might be dressed or filleted.

The weather is getting just about right for outdoor events like fish fries! Why not host your own? Just call up all your friends and family members and invite them over. Ask everyone to bring a side dish and some lounge chairs or camp chairs. Go out and buy a bunch of peanut oil, thaw out your fish, and get crackin’!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Crab Recipes: Cheesy Crab Souffle

Everyone in my family loves crabmeat. As a result, I’ve created quite a few crab recipes. If you’ve read the rest of this blog, you know that we also enjoy catching our own blue crabs. In fact, some of the grandkids spend more time crabbing while we’re at the beach than do anything else. Crabbing is a lot of fun, and the results are especially rewarding when you enjoy the sweet, succulent crab meat in some great crab dishes.

Here’s one I think you’ll like!

Cheesy Crab Souffle

1 pound crabmeat
3 tablespoons real butter
¼ cup plain flour
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
3 beaten egg yolks
½ onion, chopped fine
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 beaten egg whites
Grated cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 1 ½-quart baking dish. The baking dish needs to be placed in a larger pan, with about 1 ½ - 2 inches of water.

Pick through crabmeat, removing any bits of cartilage and shell.
Melt butter and stir in flour. Add milk and cream slowly, creating a smooth mixture.

While stirring, add egg yolks. When the mixture is smooth again, add the onion, lemon juice, garlic salt, and red pepper. Fold in the beaten egg whites.

Pour mixture in the baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and continue baking for about 20-25 more minutes. Make sure the center is firm before removing soufflé from oven.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Red Fish Fishing - Best Fishing Lures

I really enjoy red fish fishing, and I'll gladly learn and share fishing tips! One of my most memorable angling battles ever took place on a breezy autumn night at the end of a very long fishing pier while doing some Florida fishing. I was fishing with a finger mullet about six inches in length, near some rocks. I was using pretty light tackle, and I thought I’d never land whatever was on the other end of my line. When I finally got it close to the pier, a pal directed his flashlight beam on the water, and I saw the tell-tale goldish-red reflection of the red’s scales. With the help of a gaff, we finally got the big brute on the pier. It weighed in at almost 36 pounds.

Advantages of Redfish fishing with lures

I’ll be honest with you – I usually prefer fishing for redfish with live bait – especially mullet. Unfortunately, live mullet aren’t always available. And when they are, you need some bulky paraphernalia to keep them alive. This isn’t always convenient or even feasible.

With red fish lures, however, you can keep a big selection in your tackle box, so they’re always ready to go. They stay fresh, too, and you don’t have a problem with crabs mauling your bait. Another advantage of red fish lures is that you control the action. You can speed it up or slow it down, and you can maneuver it around rocks, pilings, and oyster beds. That’s pretty hard to do with live bait.

YUM redfish lures

Many serious anglers are familiar with YUM plastic baits. The secret to YUM lures is that they’re impregnated with something called “Live Prey Technology,” or LPT, for short. The LPT is an enzyme that attracts predators, signaling them to feed. When redfish sense the enzyme, along with being attracted to the erratic swimming action that means injured prey, the reds can hardly resist attacking the YUM baits.

YUM baits are designed for several different types of fish, but for redfish fishing, try the Sweet Shrimp, the YUM Houdini Crab, the YUM Samurai Curltail, or the YUM G-Shad.

D.O.A. fishing lures

We’ve had good luck fishing for redfish with D.O.A. plastic lures, too. I like the six-inch jumbo shrimp, the four-inch standard shrimp, and the curl tail grubs with the red jig heads. The softshell crab will work for redfish fishing, too.

The D.O.A. red fish lures mentioned above come in a wide range of colors. We’ve found that the best fishing lures for reds are the pink, near clear, red and white, and gold. I suggest keeping several colors in your tackle box and trying them all.

Bayou Buck red fish lures

The ZZ Spot Spinners are neat plastic lures with fish-attracting curly tails, glass and brass beads, and saltwater-proof brass spinning blades. These red fish lures won’t twist because they swim straight, so you won’t even need a swivel. They also feature wide gap mouths specially designed for red fish fishing.
For fishing for redfish around grass or oyster beds, like in marshes, try the Twistless Sister, the In-Line Reef Glider, or the Oyster Proof. For colors, I like the strawberry, the lemon meringue, and the red for red fish fishing.

Once you land a redfish...

If you catch a redfish that's a keeper, you're in for a tasty treat! Blacken it, fry it, grill it, broil it, or stuff it. I have some great fish recipes! Of course, you'll want some awesome sides and yummy hushpuppies to go with your redfish, so check out my beer- buttermilk hushpuppy recipe in Southern food. I'll bet they're just about the best you've ever eaten!