Notes from the Island Fishmonger

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 September, which I have nicknamed “Slowtember” because it’s traditionally the slowest time of year for businesses on Siesta Key, has been especially tough this summer. To be a charter fisherman, boat rental company, fishmonger or any business owner on Siesta Key this summer with the on-again, off-again red tide situation has been unusually devastating to many. What we need is a small category one hurricane to blow this bloom out to sea. Well, maybe that’s not what we need…I just like a good storm! What we really need is some cooler weather which hopefully is right around the corner.

Despite the constant annoyance of the red tide that has affected all of our senses like our nose and throats, believe it or not, the off-shore deep sea fishing has been unbelievable. Those of you who understand that it is safe to eat seafood at this time have been enjoying the bountiful summer’s catch of Amberjack, Grouper, Hogfish and especially all types of Snappers. Some of you who are hesitant to eat fish from the Gulf right now are missing out, but I do understand your concerns. You should not stop eating fish or miss out on these great catches because it’s easy to fish around the red tide bloom. But if you still have concerns, there is a great alternative, and that’s a cold water fish like Cod.

I am not going to lie…Atlantic Cod is one of my favorite fish to eat in the world. I’ve had Salmon in Ireland, Bronzini in Italy, fresh Conch in the Bahamas but nothing beats a fresh piece of Black Cod from Boston. Maybe the reason I speak so highly of Boston Cod is that my favorite fish dish for lunch or dinner is a good old traditional fish-n-chips. If you’re ordering from a reputable restaurant, 99% of the time it is made with fresh or even previously frozen Cod. Now it is true that when I first opened the Big Water Fish Market seven years ago, I experimented with using our local Grouper as our battered fish-n-chips recipe just to be better than the rest.  I soon found out that Grouper has its place like grilled, baked or even fried Grouper bites. There is a reason Cod is the chosen one as fish-n-chips made with Cod go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Bob Stein ready to dig into the BWFM O’ DOLANS FISH-N-CHIPS

Cod is a white, mild, sweet-tasting fish that flakes easily when cooked. Cod is an important sustainable commercial fish and has been a mainstay of the seafood industry since the very first commercial fishermen hit the waters. It is a large deepwater round whitefish, providing thick, meaty fillets which are low in fat and has a good shelf life. The Cod I buy comes from the North Atlantic. In my experience, North Atlantic Cod tend to be softer and sweeter than the Pacific fish. Plus, North Atlantic can be shipped fresh whereas Pacific caught is usually shipped frozen.

In a nutshell, Cod is good eating all year round because of its cold-water habitat. The good news is that our waters will cool soon and the red tide will subside. With the cooler waters, local Pompano will make a return in October, Mahi prices will begin to drop, Oyster season will be back, Grouper and Snapper will be plentiful until March when seasons close and Siesta Key’s famous Stone Crabs will be back in season on October 15th which will eventually bring back the Tripletail.


Scott Dolan
Big Water Fish Market
6641 Midnight Pass Rd., Siesta Key – (941) 554-8101

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