With the price of posh fish skyrocketing, many people are trying their luck catching their own feast for their table. If you want to have a go at bringing home the bacon – the bacon of the sea, that is – then read on.
Sea angling has had a surge of interest recently as the recession bites. For many it is a relaxing outdoor pursuit that has a benefit of a tasty dinner at the end of the project. And anything that you can eat with lemon pepper butter can only be a good thing. If you are starting out as a novice sea angler, there are many centres now in coastal towns that can give you good advice, the right bait, and hawk you a pile of equipment should you like to try your luck. The east coast of Ireland is becoming very well known for delivering good catches. The following is what you may reel in along the coastline.
Turbot are large flatfish and if you manage to catch one you will be beside yourself with glee. Turbot has been held in high regard in Europe for at least two thousand years. They are super expensive to buy from the fishmonger so if you hook one you’ll have a free feast. They are becoming quite rare however, so if you do manage to hook one, release any other that you might catch in addition. The fish has firm white flesh that holds well in cooking, and has a subtle flavour. It is scaleless and its body is studded with numerous bony knobs, so it’s not a beauty queen, but they can grow to over 40lbs, so they are worth seeking. Small turbot will only produce thin fillets (and are to be avoided from a marine conservation standpoint). Mega-large turbot do tend to have tougher fillets which are good in curries. If lightly cooked fish is what you long for, then a middle-sized turbot is just what the doctor ordered.
Method: For larger fish, the perfect bait is mackerel strips. The bigger fish need clean sandy ground to and are found near shallow rocky reefs, patches of rocks and also around the ends of wooden groynes that run out to the low water tide line.
The flounder is a very agreeable fish as it will eat anything and you can catch it pretty much all day long, all year. It prefers brackish estuarine waters and likes to find its way up tidal rivers. They are famous for not being picky eaters and they will shove anything in their gobs. They also are not deterred by big hooks and chunky bits of bait either. They will wolf it down so this often leads to deeply hooked fish. Not good if you are planning to throw it back. Kill it and eat it is the best philosophy here.
Method: A good way to hook a flounder is to try bottom fishing on any sandy harbour on an incoming tide. Flounder react to disturbances in the sand or mud, so you can reel in your bait in stages on a snag-free bottom. Pause every minute or so to ensure that the flounder find the bait. In estuaries half a peeler crab is great bait.
This fish is an awesome critter. It can be used as bait for just about all larger fish and sharks. Mackerel are prized (and are highly harvested) for their meat, which is often very oily. The meat can spoil quickly, causing scombroid food poisoning – it must be eaten on the day of capture, unless properly refrigerated or cured. The fish are common all around Ireland and can be taken by shore anglers in huge numbers.
Method: There are many easy ways of finding mackerel. Clues are: shoals of jellyfish, gannets diving into the sea, tiny bubbles coming to the surface, or oily patches in the sea. The most common bait used to catch mackerel is mackerel themselves.
Cod is found along Irish coasts and can have varying colours. They can be caught in all types of environments, from reefs to sand to stony beaches. They are available to catch all year but you’ll most likely catch them along the shore in December and January. Cod were heavily over-fished in recent history and are still in recovery mode, especially in Ireland. Wexford Harbour and some of the Wicklow beaches have been known for good cod catches from the beach.
Method: Peeler crab along with squid is good bait, especially in early autumn. Mackerel is also great bait for cod.
This is one ugly and primeval looking fish. Despite its dinosaur-like looks it is a member of the cod family and is tasty even with just a bit of butter and lemon. Be careful of this fellow though as he has a barb under his chin and teeth that has made many a grown fisherman cry – for days. It is a great sport fish however you will find him hard to snare from the beach, but it does happen. They like rocky patches so you’ll find yourself snared very often if you don’t get it right. However the good news is that these fish will eat anything, often a fisherman has cut open his catch to see metres-long octopus tentacle in the ling’s belly. That, and other ling, because they aren’t scared of a bit of cannibalism.
Method: The lingcod grabs bait and then tries to return to its lair, so if you feel a tug then hang on for the full fight. If you get the ugly fellow out of his house, then the fight is pretty much over and he will come to the surface. This is one fish that you will need to give a good bang over the head if you want it to not kill you in the boat.
The conger eel is found in the eastern Atlantic from Norway and Iceland to Senegal, and also in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. It is sometimes seen in very shallow water by the shore but can also go down to depths of 1170 m. They have an average length of up to 3m, and weight up to 110 kg, making them the largest eels in the world. You’ll know one of these guys when you see it. They are snake-like with a huge mouth and very very sharp teeth. If you want to lose a finger, this guy will volunteer to help you out.
Method: Conger Eels are bottom feeders and will eat anything that comes their way. They like to hang out amongst wrecks and rocks, so as soon as they are hooked, get them up off the bottom as quick as lightening. If not they will lock themselves next to the nearest rock formation and you will lose the fight. And your expensive tackle.
This fish with a blue back is a prize catch for Irish for sport fishers. It loves the Atlantic surf beach as much as it loves a quiet calm sandy bay. You’ll find this critter mostly south of Dublin and south of Galway. This fish is the fish lover’s fish; he tastes delicious in all forms. There are strict laws regarding bass in Ireland, it is protected so when you catch one you can pretty much finish up for the day. All commercial fishing for the species is banned and there are several restrictions in place for recreational anglers, a closed season May 15-June 15 inclusive every year, a minimum size of 400mm. European seabass was one of the first types of fish after salmon to be farmed commercially in Europe. And the industry is growing every year, demonstrating how popular this little sea fellow is.
Method: Best baits are sand eel, lugworm, peeler crab, ragworm, fish strip and razor fish. You’ll tend to catch these delicious creatures shallow rocky shores. Many species of bass go into a feeding frenzy late in the summer before migration, and this is a good time to throw in a line. Fish early in the day or late in the day and hopefully you’ll remember your camera to photograph the one that didn’t get away!
TURBOT IN KERALA RED CURRY SAUCE
For the marinade: 1 kg turbot, salt, 10g pepper, 8 curry leaves, chopped, 50ml oil
For the paste: 100g oil, 5g whole red chilies, 5g coriander seeds, 5g cumin, 4 cloves garlic, 25g ginger, 75g onion, 100g fresh coconut
For the Sauce: 500ml fish stock, 50ml oil, 10 curry leaves, 25g onion, 50g tomatoes, 75g maple syrup, 25g lemon juice, 200g coconut milk
Method: Cut, clean and marinate the fish with salt, pepper, curry leaves and 50ml oil (keep bones and trimmings for the stock). To make the paste heat the oil in a pan, add the chilies, coriander seeds, cumin, garlic cloves, ginger, onions and coconut. Sauté until brown then transfer to a blender and blitz to a paste. To make the sauce first make a stock by simmering the trimmings and bones in the water for 30 mins. Sieve to remove the bones. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan, add the curry leaves and onions and sauté. Add the tomatoes and cook. Add the pre-prepared paste mixture and continue cooking until the oil is extracted. Pour in the fish stock and the maple syrup and lemon and stir for some time. Check the seasoning and finish by adding the coconut milk. Heat oil in a pan and sear the fish until golden brown. Add to an oven-proof dish, pour over the sauce and cook in the oven for 15 mins.
Serve with fragrant rice.
CANTONESE-STYLE STEAMED LING
Ingredients: About 1.5 lbs of ling cod, 4 stalks spring onion, red pepper, ginger, seasoning, 1tps salt, 3tbsp soy sauce, 1 tps sugar, 3tbs oil.
Method: Wash everything. Julienne the spring onion and red pepper into thin strips. Cut half of the ginger into thin strips and the other half into slices and soak in water. Mix soy sauce and sugar in a separate bowl. Insert a cut into the thickest part of the fish and rub the fish with salt. Place the fish on a plate, then place ginger slices on the fish. Set up a steamer in a wok, add water, and place the fish on the steamer after the water boils. Steam on high heat for about 8 – 10 minutes. After the fish is cooked, remove the ginger pieces and add the [mixed] thin strips of ginger, spring onion, and red pepper. Pour the soy sauce and sugar mixture over everything. In a separate pan, heat up the oil then pour the hot oil over the ginger, red pepper, and green onion on top of the fish. If the fish is too fishy, it helps to marinade the fish beforehand (or overnight) in some sake or rice wine.
CAJUN MACKEREL WITH LIME MAYONNAISE
Ask your fishmonger to debone the mackerel for you, this will save you a lot of hard and messy work!
For the Cajun mackerel: 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning, 100 g flour, 4 mackerel fillets, deboned and butterflied, skin left on, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, lime wedges
For the lime mayo: 250ml mayonnaise, zest and juice of 1 lime, salt and freshly ground black pepper
Method: To make the lime mayo, whisk together the mayonnaise, lime zest and juice. Add seasoning to taste and set aside. To cook the mackerel, mix the Cajun seasoning with the flour in a shallow bowl. Toss the mackerel fillets in the flour, making sure they are evenly covered. Shake off any excess flour. Heat a frying pan and add the oil. Place the mackerel fillets in the oil, flesh side down (you might need to cook the mackerel in batches; don’t crowd the pan). Cook for 2 minutes and carefully turn over. Add the butter to the pan. Cook the fish for a further 2 minutes and remove from the pan. Serve the mackerel on warm plates with lime wedges and a dollop of the lime mayonnaise.
CONGER EEL TEMPURA
Tempura is a Japanese style of deep-frying that uses a really light batter and very hot oil to produce a light, crisp crust.
Ingredients: 2 conger eels, in chunks, 1 egg yolk, 1 cup ice cold sparkling water, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tps salt, 1/4 cup corn starch, 3/4 cup rice flour or all-purpose flour, oil for frying
Method: Tempura is about preparation and speed, heat and light and air. Heat your oil to 370 degrees in a deep fryer, heavy pot with a candy thermometer attached to the side. Do this over medium-high to medium heat. Create a place for your fried seafood to rest by laying out a paper towel under a rack. Salt your seafood and set it aside. Mix your dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix them well. When the oil is hot whisk the egg yolk and the sparkling water together, then pour it into the bowl of dry ingredients. You must be efficient from here on in. Rapidly dip your seafood into the thin batter — the consistency should be like melted ice cream, shake off a bit and drop it into the oil. Do this in batches so the oil temperature does not drop too far. Do not crowd the pot! Fry for 2-4 minutes, depending on the size of the item. Listen. Do you hear it roiling, and popping and sizzling? Good. If you hear this sound subside, remove the fish immediately. Once the seafood is out of the oil, lay it on the rack to drain. Dipping sauces are excellent accompaniments, too, but for a really good tempura you really only need a squeeze of lemon or lime.
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