By the time they’ve reached a half-foot in length, “snapper” bluefish are ideal, miniaturized replicas of their huge brothers and sisters, in both physical type and aggressive, tooth-gnashing attitude.
With a ravenous hunger that’s necessary to fuel their fast development– they reach about 10 inches in simply one summer– they’ll strike at any lure smaller than themselves, making them a terrific target for newbie anglers, youngsters, and the young-at-heart. They’re also great consuming, and catching 10 of them to turn into a perfect summer season meal frequently just takes ten casts. A minimum of that’s how I confidently described it to my fishing partner as we established on completion of the marina dock on a Sunday afternoon in September.
Twenty minutes later on, we had just one lonely bluefish swimming slow laps around our 5-gallon bucket. The snappers existed– wolfpacks of them would chase our Kastmasters all the method back to the dock on every retrieve– but they always stopped simply short of snapping at the lure. The little 6-inch fish were making a fool of me. I think they have more in common with full-sized bluefish than I had understood.
Despite their reputation as eating devices, bluefish of all sizes can sometimes be picky. Bait is often the answer, so when I finally snagged an unfortunate silverside, I sliced it into small chunks and used them to sweeten the trebles on the Kastmasters. With a little blood in the water, the bluefish showed their true colors. In ten minutes we had enough for a meal, pan-fried with a platter of fresh, garden-grown heirloom tomatoes.
Now when I go prospecting for snapper blues, I bring along a frozen scrap of fish or squid, particularly if I’ve brought along a prospective future fisherman. Typically a little, trout-sized metal lure or a pre-made snapper rig suffices to attract the snappers to bite, but if they require a little motivation, I merely bring out the bait and imitate it was my strategy all along.
Snapper Blue Recipe
Snappers are a “breeze” to clean up. You merely take them in hand and make a diagonal cut behind the head and gill covers, cutting through the backbone. At this moment, you must pull the head down, eliminating it from the body together with the entrails, and “Bob’s your uncle!” You have an ideal little special all set to be covered with skilled flour and pan-fried to achieve immortality.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional, however needed for me).
Put this mixture, or among your own designing (I typically use half flour/half cornmeal or corn) into a plastic bag, then toss in 4 fish and shake the bag up until they are layered. Get rid of the fish and cook in hot oil over medium heat until well brown and crisp on both sides. Keep the fish warm in a 175 degrees F oven as you fry the next batch. I usually use peanut oil, though canola oil likewise works fine. Butter is tasty, however you must enjoy it thoroughly to keep it from burning.
For me, there is an affinity in between fish (especially fried snapper blues) and ripe tomatoes. I often cut a couple medium-sized tomatoes in half, dip the cut edges in the leftover skilled flour, and sauté them in the same pan as the fish, either simultaneously or when the fish are keeping warm in the oven. When the breading on the tomatoes is well browned, I turn them over for a short time to prepare through.
Serve this mix with a glass of orange juice, a piece of toast and a cup of coffee, and you will be set to take on the day, even if it doesn’t get any better than breakfast. But who knows, you may get lucky.
These terrific fresh foods– snappers and real garden tomatoes– are readily available briefly each year, so go out there and enjoy them while you can. I do not mean to go to my serious having actually missed a single season of these grand cooking blessings.