With its warm water and everlasting beauty, the Gulf of Mexico provides endless fishing opportunities. Whether it is from a dock, bridge, shoreline, boat or surfcasting, wading or deep-sea fishing, it is a recreation the whole family can enjoy.
I love to fish. Fishing was an exciting activity my brother, cousins and I learned and experienced growing up summers and holidays at the lake with my gramma. Back in those days we fresh-water fished. Now, with the Gulf of Mexico just a hop, skip and jump away, I saltwater fish every chance I get.
Popular gulf coast fish include red snapper; several species of grouper; Spanish, king and cero mackerel; dolphin fish (mahi mahi), catfish, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, flounder and mullet (which have to be netted). And, don’t forget the game fish — speckled trout, redfish and snook. Editor’s note: Florida wildlife officials have extended the current closed season for snook until September after a record cold snap killed many of the popular game fish.
When purchasing fish, one of the most important indications of freshness is smell. It should have a light, mild aroma similar to the ocean. If it has a strong fishy smell, move on to another fish.
If a whole fish is what you want, look for bright, shiny skin with close-fitting scales. Dry, dull flesh and loose scales are a sign of age. The eyes should be clear and bulging and the gills reddish and damp (not sticky). The flesh should be firm and elastic and when poked, should bounce back, leaving no indentation. Steaks or fillets should appear firm, moist and even in color with no darkened areas.
In order to retain its moisture, fish needs to be cooked quickly over medium-high heat. Broiling, baking, sautéing, grilling, microwaving, steaming or poaching (cooking in a liquid) are all great methods.
Take care not to overcook your fish, which is easy to do. Fish is lean and delicate and if not cooked properly can dry out quickly. Perfectly cooked fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork and is opaque in appearance. The general rule is 10 minutes per inch of thickness, at the thickest part of the fillet or steak, at 400-450 degrees. Fillets less than 1/2-inch thick do not need to be turned during cooking.
If your fish is being cooked in parchment, foil or a sauce, add 5 minutes to the total cooking time.
If you grill your fish, make sure you oil the grill grate and the fish to keep it from sticking.
In addition, if you use a fish you oil the grill grate and the fish to keep it from sticking.
In addition, if you use a fish basket for grilling, make sure it is also oiled.
Fish dish ideas
Marinate the fish in your favorite salad dressing prior to cooking. Broil, bake, steam or microwave the fish, then cube it and add it to pasta or for a delicious salad, add it to salad greens.
Broil or grill fish with lime-butter and seasoned salt.
Bake a whole fish with a crab or shrimp stuffing. Add broken leftover pieces of fish to salads, soups or sauces.
Make a delicious fish taco.
Dip the fish in melted butter or margarine, salad dressing, mayonnaise or mustard; then coat with desired crumbs and bake or cook in a skillet.
Coat in bread crumbs mixed with dry salad dressing mix, Parmesan cheese or a dry seasoning mix.
Cornmeal mixed with chili powder, Cajun or Creole seasoning
Crushed cereal, corn chips, crackers, potato chips or tortilla chips
Fish storage is important. The sooner you eat fresh fish, the better it will taste. If you will not be eating the fish immediately, freeze it as soon as possible.
Raw fish can be stored safely in a refrigerator at 40 degrees or lower for two to three days. Oily fish will store longer than lean fish and whole fish will store better than steaks and fillets.
Gut and clean fresh caught fish as soon as possible and then store it at the proper refrigerated temperature until you are ready to cook. Leftover cooked fish can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three or four days.
2-4 grouper filets, mahi mahi filets or your favorite white fish (amount depends on size)
2-3 fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs with Romano cheese (I use Vigo)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Paprika to taste
1/2 cup port white wine (or any white wine will work)
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 fresh lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking pan. Cover the bottom with thinly sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the fish in a single layer over the tomato/bread crumbs. In a saucepan, combine the white wine, butter and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes. Pour the mixture over the fish. Top the fish with grated Parmesan cheese, sprinkle with paprika then squeeze lemon over it all. Bake for 20 minutes. Serves 4. Serve with wild rice or rice pilaf.
Michelle’s Fish Spread
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon horseradish (add more to your liking)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
Dash of Worcestershire
2 cups smoked fish, flaked (Michelle uses smoked mullet)
Salt to taste
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients in the order given; mix well.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Cook’s note: You can substitute tuna for smoked fish.
Fish fillets in Creamy Dill Sauce
4 fish fillets, about 6 ounces each
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup white wine
1 lemon – 1/2 zested and juiced and 1/2 cut into wedges
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Salt and pepper the fillets. Heat the butter in a skillet large enough to hold the fish in a single layer. When the pan is hot, add the fillets and cook about 5 minutes, turn and cook until done. Allow about 10 minutes total cooking time for each inch of thickness.
Remove fillets and keep warm.
Add wine, zest and lemon juice to the skillet, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the cream and dill and boil until sauce begins to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste and spoon sauce over fish.
Serve immediately, with lemon wedges on the side.