Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saltwater Fishing Tips: Whiting

Photo: My grandson with a whiting (left) and a spotted seatrout.

Searching for saltwater fishing tips? Don’t overlook the southern kingfish or “kingcroaker,” commonly called “whiting.” These saltwater fish are often overlooked by serious anglers, even though they’re easy to catch and are delicious on the table. Sure, it’s true that whiting don’t achieve the size of reds, and they don’t provide a thrilling battle, but they’re great on the table, and on light tackle, their short runs can be exciting. Also, whiting will often be biting like crazy when other saltwater fish species have lockjaw.

Most of the whiting you catch will probably weigh a half-pound or less, but if you’re lucky, you’ll catch some larger individuals, often called “bull whiting.” These fish can weigh more than a pound, so it’s possible to fillet them. Anyway, what whiting lack in size, they often make up for in number. I’ve fished from piers in Georgia and Florida at night when I’ve hauled in whiting as fast as I could reel them in and re-bait. In fact, I often caught them two at a time, using a double-rigged line. Several times when I was fishing from a pier that had lights that reflected in the water, I’ve seen schools of these saltwater fish congregating around the lights.

Whiting are perfect for beginning saltwater anglers and for kids. Any light rod-and-reel combo will serve as appropriate fishing gear. For bait, try fresh dead shrimp, sand fleas, or cut bait. Don’t put too much bait on your hook. I like to use ½ shrimp when saltwater fishing for whiting. Use enough weight to keep the bait near the bottom, where the whiting are searching for food.

I’ve caught whiting at different depths, so I suggest fishing at different levels until you find the fish. You might want to try the surf zone first – the spot where the waves are breaking and churning up the debris and bits of food on the bottom. If you don’t get any bites, gradually move your bait to deeper water.

Florida places no size limit or bag limit on whiting. When they’re biting, it won’t take long to fill a plastic zip-loc bag with whiting fillets – one from each side of the fish. In my opinion, the fish are best cooked by frying. Just dip the fillets in buttermilk or in an egg wash and coat them in flour, pancake mix, or cornmeal.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How to cook stone crab claws

We love just about every type of seafood, and stone crab claws are near the top of our list of favorites. What’s not to love? The crabmeat from stone crab claws is almost lobster-like in flavor, but the flesh isn’t as tough as lobster meat usually is. I think catching stone crabs is almost as enjoyable as eating the claws! When we visit the Gulf of Mexico, we always set out a trap or two, and the grandkids absolutely love crabbing for stone crabs and blue crabs. Oftentimes, our crab traps will produce a “mixed bag” of stone crabs and blue crabs, resulting in a crab feast for the family. If you’re interested in learning how to catch stone crabs or how to catch blue crabs, I have posts on this site that address those topics.

Okay, so after you’ve caught some stone crabs and removed the largest claw from each crab, what do you do with the stone crab claws? How to cook stone crab claws? Cooking stone crab claws isn’t difficult, but you want to do it as quickly as you can. This will help keep the crabmeat from adhering to the inside of the hard shell.

For three pounds of stone crab claws, bring about a gallon of water to a boil. Add about 2/3 cup sea salt. You might also want to add a mesh bag of crab or shrimp boil, or you can add your own herbs and spices, instead. For example, you might want to include cayenne, lemon pepper, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard seed, and/or coriander. Actually, many cooks prefer their stone crab claws to be cooked in plain saltwater. The choice is up to you.

Once the water comes to a full boil, add the stone crab claws. Once the pot returns to the boiling pot, place the lid on and reduce the stove burner to medium. The stone crab claws will need to cook for an additional 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of the claws. You might want to test the largest claw to make sure the crabmeat is white, flaky, and opaque – signifying that the crabs are done.

Once the crabs are done, remove them from the pot immediately and place them in a colander in your sink. Rinse the stone crab claws with cold water. Actually, I sometimes cover mine in crushed ice, too. This makes the crabmeat somewhat easier to remove from the shell because the cold temperature makes the meat contract some.

If you buy stone crab claws from the market, they’ve already been cooked, so they can be eaten as-is, unless you prefer warm or hot stone crab claws, or unless the claws are frozen. In that case, the claws should be heated in very hot – but not boiling – water, until they reach the desired temperature. Be careful, however, not to overcook your stone crab claws!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Best Naples Fishing Charters

Have you done any Naples fishing yet? If not, you don’t know what you’re missing! Naples has more angling opportunities than you can shake a stick at…or a rod at. Choose among canals, tidal creeks, bays, or the beautiful offshore waters in the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re visiting Naples, Florida, you’ll need to hire one of the Naples fishing charters. I recommend Captain Mike Bailey and his legendary brand of Naples charter fishing aboard the Ms. B. Haven.

Captain Mike makes fishing a pleasure for everyone, from kids to grandpas and grandmas. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a novice or an old salt. Even first-time anglers will have a blast with Captain Bailey. In fact, you don’t even have to like fishing to spend a great few hours on the Ms. B. Haven. Sit back, let the salt breezes caress you, and take in the wonderful views. There’s no telling what you might see along the trip in the way of birds and marine life. Bailey even offers a sampler trip that includes a little bit of everything: fishing, shelling, dolphin and manatee sightings, bird watching, and unforgettable views of the sunset over the Gulf.

Of course, if you’re a dedicated angler, you can stick to fishing. Inshore fishing trips last for four, six, or eight hours, and you’re never far from shore. You’ll have lots of chances to catch redfish, trout, snapper, black drum, sheepshead, snook, ladyfish, pompano, and even tarpon. Inshore Naples fishing charters are a custom fit for beginners, kids, and families. They’re also perfect for those who don’t have all day to invest on a fishing trip.

If you’re interested in offshore Naples fishing charters, Captain Mike can handle those, too. The Ms. B. Haven can get you where you need to go – fast. Mike will take you out to fish around natural and manmade reefs, along with wrecks and other bottom structure that attracts predatory fish species. Common catches include barracuda, sharks, grouper, cobia, little tunny, permit, king mackerel, tarpon, snapper, and reds.

Captain Mike Bailey has been fishing these waters for thirty years, so he knows where the fish are lurking. He’s great with kids, beginners, and all his angling guests. Don’t take my word for it – check out his rave reviews on TripAdvisor! He’s often described as “legendary,” “the king of Naples,” “the fishing guru,” and “the angling wizard.” To learn more about Captain Mike’s Naples fishing charters, click the highlighted link above, in the beginning paragraph.