The Island Fishmonger

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Eat like a King

Although the month of Lent ends with Easter weekend, that is no reason to stop eating fish on a religious schedule. As a matter of fact, with the health benefits and delicious taste factors, I can’t think of any reason to discontinue your heart-healthy fish diet.

First of all, April fishing begins our prime season on the Gulf Coast. Yes, we will see a decline in some of our favorite cold water fish such as Tripletail, Sheepshead, and Pompano although all these fish will still be available, just not as abundant. The great news is many of the March commercial fishing regulations get lifted in April. Red and Black Grouper closings are lifted in Mexico so we will see a huge relief in the prices of both Grouper species. A local favorite, Cobia, will migrate back to Sarasota in search of warmer waters and as always, all Amberjack regulations are lifted this time of year. Our Gulf Snapper will be plentiful, especially Yellowtail Snapper and Key West Grunts. As with the Grouper, Snapper prices should also begin to drop in April. April through September is prime “El Dorado” (more commonly known as Mahi Mahi) fishing, especially in Key West as they migrate to our waters during the summer time. Cobia, Amberjack, and Mahi Mahi are on the hot list but don’t forget about the Kingfish or King Mackerel as it is probably the hottest catch of the month.

Jack with King Mackerel
Many of you are looking forward to chasing the Tarpon this Spring and I wish you luck. I’m not that interested in catching a Tarpon because of the backbreaking work for a fish I can’t eat or sell. There’s no money in it.

The Kingfish is what I want. It is an underrated fish. I have even heard it called a trash fish. This is simply not true. If properly prepared, this fish is outstanding table fare. Back in my offshore recreational fishing days, we were after Grouper & Snapper like everyone else. I’m sure that’s part of the reason these particular fish got overfished and we now have season restrictions to protect them. I can’t tell you how many Spanish Mackerel, Barracuda, Grunts, Blacktip Sharks, Porgies and Kings I have thrown back per the Captain's request. All these fish were considered trash fish back then and now today they are all good eating.

The Kingfish or King Mackerel is a migratory species from the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. In April, our waters will be blessed with the migration and spawning of this fish as it passes through the Sarasota area from Texas. The King is a medium sized fish typically encountered from 5 to 30 lbs. I personally think this is a beautiful fish in appearance with its lateral line that starts high on the shoulder, dips abruptly at mid-body then continues as a wavy horizontal line to the tail. Its color is best described as black and olive, fading to silver with a rosy iridescence on the sides. More often than not this fish has yellowish-brown spots on the flanks. This fish has large edged teeth so you don’t want to get bit while taking this fish off the hook.

The raw flesh is grayish with a pink hue due to its high fat content. The fish has a denser texture and is a bit oilier than most fish but the fat content gives this fish great flavor and is a great source of omega 3 fatty acid and fish oil. This fish is much better served quickly after a catch as the meat deteriorates quicker than most fish. King Mackerel are primarily marketed fresh for that reason. The fish may be sold as fillets, steaks or whole. They are best prepared by grilling, frying, baking and most popular is smoked.

A few menu items you may see in April at your Big Water Fish Market is a Fresh Cobia Poke, Mahi Mahi or Amberjack served with spicy rice and a tropical salsa, fried King Fish tacos, a King Mackerel stir fry and Smoked Kings. In May look for the end of Stone Crab season so get your fix in before May 15th. Carolina and Maryland live Softshell Crabs and Alaskan Crab legs will take their place.

Live well…Eat Fish.

Scott Dolan
Big Water Fish Market

Siesta Sand
Author: Siesta Sand

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