The Thrill of Blue Fishing

 A summertime fishing challenge and equally a culinary delight

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Headboats are 50-60 foot fishing vessels that carry 20-40 men and women who pay a captain to catch fish. Rods and reels and bait are provided along with radar to find your fish of choice. My brother and I enjoyed these outings off the Montauk and Connecticut shores. If the conditions are right, you can land several fish in a couple of hours.

Summertime brings schools of bluefish and stripers (striped bass) to the Eastern shores that challenge the best of us. We always enjoyed fishing for these species because of their fight and culinary delight. We also loved the process of driving early in the morning to the docks to meet our fishing boat and the excitement of getting out on the water. Cleaning and preparing a delicious meal of flatfish was considered a transcendent experience for many of us.

One morning we left the docks early with lunches and snacks to tide us over. It was a little windy that day but the sky was blue and the water flat. Captain Tony was one of our favorites because of his skill in finding fish. We were already hungry by 10 a.m. so we opened our cooler and shared a pastrami sandwich.

All of a sudden the wind picked up and so did the fishing. We all began to drop our silver, diamond jigs to the bottom being careful not to get bitten by the razor sharp teeth of our catch as they flopped onto the deck of our boat. The fish kept hitting our lines as we began the heady experience of catching fish at a remarkable pace. I accidentally dropped my sandwich on the floor boards of the boat but could not have cared less as I joined my brother on the rails who had already pulled in two big ones.

All of a sudden no more than 25 yards off the starboard side of the boat, a whirling water funnel rose like a cyclone to a height of about 75 feet in the air. Everyone was awe struck and uncertain what to do except to keep fishing. The captain knew that if the funnel moved towards us let alone struck us, we could capsize.

But just as quickly as it arose it disappeared back to the surface. We were dumbstruck and relieved over our good fortune. By day’s end we had caught our fill of blues and Captain Tony turned around and headed home. Fishing had never been such a thrill. Eating those blues wasn’t too bad either.

Bluefish Recipe

Serves 4

child holding fish

Heat oven to 425 degrees F or a grill until charcoals are white. Toss smoked paprika on top of sliced lemons placed on fillets. Cook on a sheet tray on the middle rack for 10-12 minutes or on your outdoor grill.

Within 10 minutes or so, fish is done. A good test is when your fork easily cuts through the white flesh (dark flesh is fat). If your fish is too moist cook 5 minutes more. No need to turn over.

Another cooking option is to wrap your catch in foil with aromatics like capers, mayo, chopped plum tomatoes, red onions, a sprig of thyme and basil, a branch of fennel, 1 oz. of butter with a pinch of salt and cayenne to taste.

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Chef Alan Zox, Ph.D cooks, writes and teaches about healthy, flavorful food.