When I first starting fishing these Florida Gulf waters many years ago, we would travel until we got to the coordinates of mile marker destinations known as M3 or M7 and even further out to the Gulf stream or occasionally the Middle Grounds in search of the larger Grouper and Snapper. I remember throwing back a lot of what we thought at the time was uneatable fish. Thinking back on it, a lot of this uneatable fish that we did not keep back in the day turns out to have been very edible and delicious.
Many of these so called “trash fish” are now in the display cases of many fish markets across the state. A lot of the fish we threw back such as Amberjack, Porgies, Grunts, Drum, Shark, Parrot Fish, Lion Fish, Kingfish, Spanish Mackerels and even Barracudas are good table fare. On any given day you will find one or all of these whole fish/fresh fillets in the retail market at Siesta Keys Big Water Fish Market.
“Trash fish” or better known as a “by-catch” is an accidental catch that gets caught in the fishermen’s nets or line and is sold as a less expensive product than the fishermen’s target catch. This by-catch turns out to be good eating with a less expensive price tag and provides relief for the Groupers and other popular fish that might be over fished.
Amberjack is a fantastic example of this “undesirable” so called trash fish. Its reputation was that of an oily, strong tasting, dense-textured, dark meat. The Amberjack is now a local favorite that actually cooks into a mild, moist, white flaky yet strong textured and versatile fish. I, as would a lot of my customers, prefer a good thick cut Amberjack fish sandwich over local favorites like Grouper or Snapper any day of the week.
This is the case all over the world. For example, Leopard Shark and Stingrays have overpopulated and been roaming the San Francisco Bay for years. They have never been table fare until recently when local chefs introduced the Leopard Shark into the San Fran culinary scene.
I recently attended an event in Sarasota that inspired me creatively and reminded me of all of the catch that was once let go by my friends and me. The event was hosted by Sarasota’s Edible Magazine and was called Trash Fish Dinner and is a must attend for Sarasota local fish lovers in the years to come. The event highlighted big name local chefs who talked about and served an evening of the best seafood you never had. They served some spectacular dishes that featured Mullet, Porgies, Drum, Grunts and the most surprising was the Jack Crevalle that we all catch on the beach and throw back on a regular basis. The Jack Crevalle was served by Chef Darwin who presented a dish of Jack Crevalle ceviche in a ginger aji Amarillo sauce with garlic and sesame oil. Who would of thunk it?
Just last week I was at a NYC Fish Market in Hell’s Kitchen where I observed locals buying Carp. I thought to myself now there’s a trash fish….but then again I have never eaten Carp so maybe I’m just not in the know yet. Next thing you know we will be eating Lady Fish and Florida Catfish. I’m sure some folks have already eaten this fish that I currently view as bait.
Here is a recipe that will liven up any fish dish whether it’s a local fav or a trash fish.
September Tropical Salsa Recipe:
Make a refreshing, citrus flavored September salsa with chopped red onions, chunked pineapple and mangos, rough cut cilantro, chopped scallions, a dash of cayenne, fresh squeezed lime juice, and salt to taste. Gently mix in a bowl. Grill fish of your choice, skin side down, for 10 minutes per inch of thickness and serve your grilled fish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a scoop of Tropical Salsa on top and enjoy.
September Tropical Salsa and fresh fish is available at Big Water Fish Market.
In the words of Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern, “If it looks good….eat it!”
Live well…..Eat Fish
Big Water Fish Market
6641 Midnight Pass Road
Siesta Key FL 34242