Notes from the Island Fishmonger

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Another Day in Paradise

   I believe we have all heard the expression “land to plate” or “sea to plate”. That simply means that the food on our plate came from the land or the sea. Well thank you Mr. Obvious as the best I can tell is that all of our food comes from the land or the sea but thank you for the fancy & fun way of saying it! Recently the expression has evolved into “farm to plate” as the knowledge of where and how the animal, fruits or vegetables were raised has become of the utmost importance to foodies around the globe. Yes its essential to know that your food is fresh and was grown without harmful chemicals which is the major reason for the rise of organic and farm raised foods.

   What fascinates me is the actual process of sea to plate. A lot of things have to happen just to put one fillet of fish on your plate and into your belly. In order to fully understand the situation, I did my homework and spent the day on the boat with local charter captains, brothers Tom and Jason Boyle of Siesta Key Charters.

   The day started early. There’s something about being on the waters of Siesta Key to really clear your head and made me wonder why I don’t do this more often. The first stop was at the Siesta Key Marina where we were met by my friend, owner and operator of the Marina, Maurice Dentici. We got fuel, bait and tackle. Cha-ching goes the register. It takes these gentlemen approximately $500 a day to operate (not including the $100K it costs just for start up of an operation like this). Fortunately, the brothers make their money back by booking deep sea charters but today we are fishing.  We then proceed through the Siesta Key Intracoastal Waterway into the Sarasota Bay and under the Ringling Bridge and out to the Big Water. We travel approximately 40 miles out to sea, stopping occasionally to catch live bait. For me that’s the most fun I have on a fishing trip…live bait are often caught several at a time on a sibiki line. As land disappears and the Florida heat begins to set in, we finally arrive at our destination out at sea. It’s so calm at sea with the quiet, soothing rocking of the boat. I began to feel sleepy then all of a sudden…FISH ON!

The day’s big catch

Over the next 5 hours we caught one fish after another, relocating on occasion when our well went dry. Now for me, with the exception of stress on my back while landing a big fish, this was another day in paradise. For these guys it may appear to be paradise (and they do love what they do) but it is a job. I imagine 10 hour days on the water and boat maintenance could get a little tedious and repetitive. Well, we had a blast on this particular day and headed home after we caught our limit. Since we are only recreational fisherman, we could not sell the fish to Big Water Fish Market so we decided to eat it! When we arrived back at the marina, we filleted our catch and made plans to bring our catch to the Big Water Fish Market who will prepare your fresh caught fish for you (for a fee) if you’re a customer of the Boyle brothers.

Sebastian Marin (BWFM manager) processing a day’s commercial catch

   Most people don’t really think about what it takes to get fish to your plate. When they do realize it, they see that it is quite a process. To summarize, a day in the life of fishermen…gas + gear + bait = money. 10 hours on the water = time=money. They have to catch the fish, process the fish, clean the fish, prepare the fish and finally plate the fish so you can eat the fish. For commercial fishermen there are a few extra steps…they have to sell their fresh catch to a wholesaler who inspects, processes and delivers the fresh catch to restaurants and fish markets such as Big Water Fish Market. And don’t forget about the fish that gave up its life just to provide you with a healthy protein meal. For those of you who wonder why the price of fresh local seafood is on the expensive side, now you know.

Sea to plate Grouper Sandwich style

Live well……..Eat Fish.

Scott Dolan
Big Water Fish Market, SIesta Key


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