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Jeff Jones
"Bassnfly" - Guest Blogger

Cooking Salmon Grouper (rock fish)

Guest Blog by: Jeff Jones , CA 12/21/2013

     My culinary skills are legendary; legendarily nil.  But experimentation and a little book-learning paid off in the kitchen.

  Part of my new experience fishing in saltwater is the fact that catch and release is not always an option.  When catching rock fish from 200'+ deep water there is no doubt in my mind that releasing a fish with its swim bladder sticking out of its mouth and eyes bugged out is at best wishful thinking.  In the past I havenít often kept fish unless I intended to eat them that day, but I believe that part of responsible angling is making use of what you do kill so that they donít go to waste.  With that in mind I began to experiment with recipes for cooking fish.

  So far my best (even my wife was surprised she liked it so much) has been the simplest preparation.  One day I perused her collection of cookbooks for ideas on how to prepare a meal of fresh fish.  On her bookshelf I found a cookbook from Seattleís famed Pike Place Market that really helped this novice.

  The first part of the book is about cooking techniques and not recipes and this is where I found the most helpful information.  It states that a simple rule is to cook the fish over medium heat for 10 minutes per inch of thickness.  My filets were not quite that thick, so I went with a safe 7 minutes total.  It also said that using a cast-iron skillet would work best.

  First you have to prepare the fish after catching them.  When fishing a charter you will likely have much more fish to go into the freezer than on the stove that night.  When I get home I like to rinse clean the filets, place them in a bowl with some salt, and soak them in the refrigerator overnight.  I learned many years ago that soaking overnight will remove most of the redness that the filets may have, especially for white bass, wipers and stripers.  I donít really know if this step is necessary for rock fish or other salt water species, but I do it anyway out of habit.

  The next morning I rinse the filets again and place enough filet(s) for two into Zip-lock baggies for freezing.  I use vacuum baggies to remove as much air as possible and lay them flat in the freezer.  When ready to cook, remove the baggie(s) and either lay them on a plate in the refrigerator or soak them in a pan of room-temp water to thaw.

  This is the easiest and tastiest fish dinner Iíve ever made.  Rinse the filets well, feeling for and removing any small bones that may remain.  On a plate place a layer of lemon pepper seasoning to coat the fish to your liking.  Pour a small amount of sesame seed oil (found in the Chinese food section of the store) into a cast-iron skillet and heat to medium.  Place the filets on a paper towel and pat dry on both sides, then place a filet on the plate of lemon pepper seasoning and press down to coat.  Flip to coat both sides and place in the hot skillet.  Keeping in mind the 10 minutes per 1-inch of thickness, and that my filets were not quite an inch thick, I set the timer for 3 minutes, and then flipped the filets for another 3 minutes.  The extra minute of cooking time was while I was checking the fish to see if they looked done.

Side note: to go along with the fish I made sautťed asparagus: about 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 crushed and chopped garlic cloves.  Cook until tender, about 15 min. on medium heat, or to your taste.

     Fishing is a skill that can be learned.  Sometimes the harder part for some is learning the ethics of fishing.  Part of that ethic is to not waste the resource. I practice catch and release most often, but when a catch cannot be successfully released, or when some species need to be harvested to maintain balance, knowing how to prepare the catch is part of the fishing skill everyone should know.

     As I am always looking to improve.  One reason I wanted to place this blog up is to encourage others to help me get better!  Please share your culinary secrets with the forum so I and others can expand our skills and variety.

An avid angler and writer, Jeff started tournament bass fishing in 1990. While his first love is bass fishing, he also enjoys fishing for other species including fly-fishing and saltwater. Jeff is active with area bass organizations and has held most officer position at either the club or state level and has been a frequent State Team Qualifier. A guest speaker for the Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classic, Jeff has presented numerous seminars and tank demonstrations and is dedicated to promoting the sport of fishing through education and youth.
A catch of rock fish including the salmon grouper, named for the color not the salmonidae species.ISBN#: 0-89815-872-9Ziploc fish filets
Sesame seed oil and lemon pepper seasoning.  Don`t add salt until you taste, its already salty!The filets are ready to coat and the asparagus is already cooking. 
Blog content © Jeff Jones
Blog Comments
Catman1979, 12/21/2013 10:59:25 PM
Very good write up, and thanks for bringing that to people's attention. Most of us catch and release, but when that isn't an option, it is important to respect that catch, and cook it the way it should be. I think cookin' should be in every anglers tackle box of tricks, bar none.
malty falcon, 12/22/2013 12:09:44 PM
Soaking the fish overnight in salt solution is unnecessary for those fish. It changes the texture too much, and I only do it to fish that should have been eaten a day or two earlier. To get rid of the redness, cut the bloodline out with a knife.
Lloyd Tackitt, 12/22/2013 1:09:35 PM
Cooking tip I got from a charter boat captain in Florida. Roll the filet in egg and then in instant mashed potato, the dry mix right out of the box, then fry. Makes a very nice light and crispy coating.
Smelly, 12/22/2013 2:25:39 PM
My wife and I are what are known as Foodies. We both can cook and enjoy preparing food in styles from around the world. Two good websites are and there you can type in what you are cooking and find a host of different ways to make it. you will also find different techniques, like the brining method you talked about.
opencage, 12/23/2013 7:17:25 AM
Thanks Jeff, great blog and tips from everyone else too. All copied to my 'recipes' doc. Lloyd, I'm definitely trying that potato coating tip the next time I have enough panfish for a dinner.