Fishermen and divers, landlubbers and old salts tell many legends and stories about barracuda. Some are true, but most are a little truth with lots of embellishment. Even some reputable writers have spread the terrors of the “toothy menace” in the last few years with headlines like “Barracuda Attacks Woman” or “Man Brutally Mauled by Deadly Barracuda”. Needless to say, when the truth finally came out, the barracuda was innocent of unprovoked attack and was only chasing a fish for his dinner when the human got in the way. Certainly the great barracuda has a mouthful of menacing-looking teeth with large canines in the front and razor sharp slicing teeth further back in a very large mouth. The eyes are extremely large because they are primarily sight feeders, and when you are swimming or diving they will follow you through the water just to see what you are doing. They always remind me of a cat, so curious that they will sometimes horn in on what you are doing on the bottom to the point of occasionally being a nuisance. If you are feeding small fish, you might suddenly see a silver streak and all the fish you had around you disappear. Intentionally feeding barracuda is something best left to the “professionals” (spelled crazies) that do it for tourist shows. You really can’t be sure that the aim of the barracuda won’t be off just enough to take your fingertip along with the bait that you are holding for him. The barracuda is certainly one of the top predators on the reef when they reach adult size. They are commonly caught in our area of the Gulf from 30 to 60 pounds and that size fish has a mouthful of teeth that can pretty much take on anything living on the reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing for cuda During the summer we commonly see large schools of smaller fish from 2 to 3 feet long around the artificial reefs and they are great fun to catch on light tackle. Frequently they will spend almost as much time in the air as in the water when they are hooked. As for the tactics you use to catch barracuda, it changes slightly as the summer progresses. During late spring and early summer when the barracuda have just arrived in the area, they will bite almost anything shiny that you pull through the water very fast. You can use spoons, plugs, or even tube lures as long as you troll them over 7 knots. As the summer progresses, it seems the cuda wise up and are no longer interested in hardware. The best bait then is a Spanish mackerel rigged with several hooks. It seems the cuda just can not turn down a mackerel dinner. They have good taste in seafood. As to the subject of taste, barracuda are delicious. Most of the ones we get we catch and release since most people are scared of Ciguatera poisoning. I have never…
By Buck Davidson The four stout rods set off the stern bend against the resistance offered by the thick-lipped plugs digging their way through the indigo-blue Gulf waters. You watch two frigate birds wheeling overhead, wondering what the boat looks like from way up there. Your guide pulls your attention back to the 10 inch LED screen of the sonar unit perched on the dash. “Good spot just ahead – 6, maybe 8 foot ledge. Get ready to grab the rod. Caught some big ones here last week.” With one eye on the trolling rods you watch the sonar’s indicator line slope sharply upward, then down again – outlining the underwater mini-mountain below. You also note several arch-shaped flashes around the peak. Your guide’s reaction is immediate : “All right, there they are – now if one’s hungry…” The rest of his thought will be lost forever as the port side rods both bend double. You grab the nearest rod and set the hook – and it sets back, lurching your arms forward and burying the rod’s butt into your midsection. You swear you’ve hooked bottom, but the heavy surge you feel on the other end of the line tells you otherwise. The fishing rod you thought more closely resembled a pool cue when you first saw it this morning now seems terribly frail against the awesome power of the struggling fish. The tackle and your back muscles hold out, though, and after a pitched battle your guide sinks a gaff into what’s to become the feature attraction at tonight’s supper table: a 22 pound black grouper. Red Grouper This game fish profile actually spotlights three different fish: The black grouper, red grouper and the gag. When a Suncoast fisherman heads out to go grouper fishing – or “digging”, as it is often called – these are the targeted species. Each makes its home around rock piles, ledges, pilings, shipwrecks, reefs – in short nearly every type of bottom structure. It’s not unheard of to have sizable grouper living under the floating dock at the boat ramp. Blacks, reds and gags more or less hang around together, and the same area of structure may hold all three species. They also share an even more desirable feature: groupers are fabulous table fare, especially when prepared fresh from the water. The flesh has a delicate flavor and is very flaky in texture. Let’s look quickly at all three critters, then talk about how to bring one home for dinner. Black groupers and gags are frequently confused with one another, but there is no mistaking the strawberry-red coloration of the red grouper. Young specimens especially are often beautifully marked with varying shades of crimson, red and maroon. The inside of the fish’s mouth is scarlet-orange. Red grouper occupy areas of hard rocky bottom both nearshore and offshore – individuals move offshore around the time they reach six years of age. Reds grow to around 40 pounds, but 10-15 pounds is the usual catch….
By Buck Davidson Ho-hum, another day in the Gulf of Mexico catching snook, trout and redfish. As you speed toward your favorite spot, though, your guide suddenly slows the boat to an idle beside a buoy marking the entrance to the channel. As you peer into the water, you can make out several large, dark shapes circling just beneath the surface. You turn to ask what they might be, but your guide is already tossing a baited hook toward the lurking fish. Ten seconds later, you are watching line disappear from the reel as something very large and very fast steams away from the boat. Snook fishing is postponed for an hour or so before a 50 pound cobia is brought to the gaff. Such is a typical encounter with the inshore species predominant in Suncoast waters during the summer months. Cobia favor structure of some sorts, be it a channel marker, buoy or even a piece of floating debris. They lurk around these objects, waiting for shrimp, crabs and small fishes to wander within reach. It is rare to find cobia that are not hungry, and knowledgeable guides give at least a quick look around any type of structure they may happen to pass. If you should find cobia during your fishing trip, nearly any live bait will entice a strike, but be forewarned – a large cobia can give you a long, hard fight and will likely leave you with several aching muscles. Cobia are excellent eating, but if you plan to invite one home for dinner, know the rules: The bag limit changes occasionally, so be sure to check the size and bag limits before you go fishing (click here). So don’t forget – check those channel markers and buoys, ’cause you just neeeeveeerrr know. Get out and catch ’em, keep what you can use, release the rest and above all, save some for me. See you on the water. Buck
Here is a recipe that was sent to me by Paul Phillips with www.fintastic.com who said that I could use it. It truly is a great tasting recipe! This does a 15 pound Salmon, 10 pound Channel Bass(Redfish), a couple of Bass or Walleye, 15 pound Musky/Pike, 20 pound Red Snapper, etc. Put the following on low heat and let simmer for 30 or so minutes: 1 pound of BUTTER 1 med. onion diced 3-6 cloves of crushed Garlic Salt & Pepper (Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning is best) Tabasco to taste ( put in a minimum of 6 drops ) this is important and you will never know that it is there but you will know if it isn’t 4-6 squirts of Lea & Perrins juice of 2 or 3 lemons ( I usually slice one and add it also ) Get out the ol’ mixing bowl—put in the following: 2 Green Peppers diced 4 stalks of Celery chopped 3 cans of drained cocktail shrimp ( the real small ones ) 3 cans of drained crab meat—yep the real stuff not the imitation More Tabasco ( 6 drop minimum ) More Lea & Perrins another 4 to 6 squirts Salt & Pepper – Heavy pepper, light salt ( the crab & shrimp both have salt ) 3 cloves of crushed Garlic 1 large Onion diced One ¼ pound tube of saltine crackers crushed or about a half a loaf of shredded bread Pour in about half the lemon butter mix Work the mixture until it is fairly uniform Thin slice 1 lemon and 1 small onion Place half the lemon and onion on a large double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil, place the fish on top, stuff the body cavity with the mix, put the rest of the lemon and onion on top the fish. Form the foil into a tray, pour on the lemon butter mix, then try to seal it up. Place on BBQ, close lid, about 10 to 15 minutes a side ( less for smaller fish ), open topside of foil for last ten minutes to add a little smoke taste. Wrap the smaller fish individually. Fish should be firm but flake to a fork once the skin is pulled back. You can test it when you open it up for the smoke part.
Smoked fish spread (always better if someone else makes it and gives it to you), but still one of my favorites, even if I have to make it. Smoked fish spread is really simple. The main ingredient, of course, is smoked fish. I won’t go into how to smoke fish in this recipe but you can do it yourself, take your fish to a local smokehouse, or buy it in your local fish market. The species of fish really doesn’t matter, but usually it will be an oily fish such as mullet, mackerel, kingfish, or for you northerners, salmon or such as that. Smoked salmon is the only cold water smoked fish I know of. Now that you have your smoked fish in hand, flake it up with a fork or your fingers into a bowl of the appropriate size. The rest of the recipe is just like making tuna salad – use your mother’s recipe, or if your mother never made it or wouldn’t tell you how she did it, use my recipe. • Diced onions (very fine) • Diced celery (very fine) • Miracle Whip or Dukes Salad Dressing(or mayonnaise, if you must) • Sweet pickle relish • Diced pimentos (for pretty color) • Tabasco sauce (if you want heat) I also like Tiger Sauce… •Fresh Lemon juice to taste Mix all the ingredients with the fish in the proportions that you like, eat it on your favorite cracker or bread, or make a nice salad plate with tomato and cucumber on lettuce, or just spoon it from the bowl straight to your mouth, but by all means enjoy it. You can add salt and pepper to taste after you have mixed it all together, but usually the smoked fish has enough salt and pepper without adding any more. I want everyone to remember that if you are not going to eat the fish you catch, please handle them carefully and return them to the water quickly. Don’t just catch and kill fish for nothing, they are too valuable as a natural resource to waste any of them at all. Good fishing, tight lines and happy eating, Capt. Charlie
Did I say BAKED fish?………..holey moley, what’s wrong with Capt. Charlie? Well, It’s like this. I was invited for dinner with one of my customers after a great grouper fishing trip, and his wife cooked. The dinner was so good that I figured I had to pass it along to my readers. So here it is, courtesy of Maria Simoes, “Brazilian Fish Bake”. Grouper (or any other mild white fish), filleted, skinned, and boned. Enough for the amount of guests that will be present. (At least eight ounces per eater, but if you have real fish lovers, you’d better make it a pound per person.) Nice thick fillets work best, if the fish is too thin, it will over-cook before the potatoes and onions are done. • Onion(Vidalia is the best) • Bay leaves • Potatoes • Garlic(freshly chopped) • Salt & Pepper • Beer (some for the fish and some for the cook) The beer was negotiable, Maria used beer because her son didn’t like the flavor that wine left in the fish, but she said that most any good booze also worked well, brandy, bourbon, Portuguese moonshine (that’s my name for it, they call it 151, it’s a really strong white liquor that tastes like Kentucky moonshine to me.) • Olive oil • Limes or lemons • Paprika Lay your fillets in a baking dish and salt and pepper to taste. Chop the onion finely around and over the top of them. Lay in two or three bay leaves, sprinkle in the chopped garlic, chop a few potatoes into half inch cubes(one small one per diner) over the fish and sprinkle the whole thing with a little olive oil. Pour approximately 1/2 can of beer over the whole thing (other liquor is optional), sprinkle plenty of paprika on top and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the potatoes are done and remove the foil for a few minutes to brown the top. Serve in the baking dish with fresh steamed rice on the side, garlic bread, and a crisp green salad. Garnish with fresh limes or lemons. This is heaven! Good fishing, good cooking, and good eating, Capt. Charlie
Having been born and raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi for 16 years before moving to Florida by way of Georgia, I feel I have been blessed with a practical education in culinary delights that few others – unless they are from the Deep South as well – can match. One of my favorite recipes was a standard item on the menu at a restaurant in Vicksburg called “The Old Southern Tea Room”. I don’t know if it is still in business – I haven’t been back since 1966 – but here is my version of “Oysters Johnny Reb” from the Old Southern Tea Room in Vicksburg, Miss. You will need a casserole dish, fresh raw oysters, saltines, butter, Tabasco sauce, chopped scallions (“green onions” to you Yankees), plenty of fresh chopped parsley, a little milk, and Lea and Perrins sauce. (I can’t spell Worcestershire). Butter the casserole dish and crush up a package of saltines. Spread a layer of saltines in the bottom of the casserole as a crust. On top of the saltines, lay in a layer of the fresh oysters (no shells please). I did have someone ask me once when I was describing this dish if they could leave the oysters in the shell, since they were hard to open. They were astounded when I told them that you could buy oysters by the pint, already shucked. Place one drop each of Tabasco sauce and Lea and Perrins sauce on each oyster (more is better). Sprinkle the entire layer with the chopped fresh parsley and the chopped scallions, and then cover that layer with another layer of saltines. On top of this layer of saltines add a few dollops (don’t anyone dare ask me what a dollop is unless you truly want to start another war) of butter and another layer of oysters. Continue layering in the same order until you have filled your casserole dish or run out of ingredients, whichever comes first. You should make the top layer a layer of saltines with butter on top and then poke a few holes in the casserole. Add a little milk and oyster liquor (juice) to make it moist. Put it in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees and bake for forty- five minutes or until it is as done as you like. If the top starts getting too dark, cover it with Reynolds wrap. If you’ve cooked this dish right, it should come out with the consistency of dressing out of your Thanksgiving turkey. If it is too runny, you added too much milk and oyster liquor. Don’t fret, you’ll do better next time. If it’s too dry, you can always add some oyster liquor, as long as you didn’t drink it all. If you did drink it all, you can add a little milk. This is truly food for the gods and you shouldn’t share this recipe with too many of your friends since oysters are getting a little scarce these days. I wouldn’t want them…
This is preferable to “broiled fish” but still not as good as “fried fish”. You will need: • Fish (see the first two recipes) • Grill (gas or charcoal, makes no difference except at clean-up time) • wire basket to hold the fish or Reynolds wrap to cover the grill • olive oil or Italian dressing • salt • pepper • garlic • onion powder • paprika • lemon or lime • fork Start by getting the grill hot. Soak your fish in either olive oil or Italian dressing for a few minute to coat them. Salt and pepper your fish, garlic and onion are OK too, and place them in a wire basket, if you have one, or line the grill with Reynolds wrap and place the fish on the grill. This is just like broiling the fish, but the grill gives it a better character. Your fish will be done when it flakes with a fork. If you drink one beer while cooking your fish, at the end of the beer, the fish will probably be over-cooked. If this happens, Old Forester added to your next beer will ease the discomfort of eating over-cooked fish.(You may substitute Jack Daniels, Wild Turkey, or any other suitably intoxicating brand of bourbon to help the flavor) Good eating, Capt. Charlie
Here’s another great Mullet recipe from George “Grif” Griffin’s book “The mostly Mullet Cookbook” that you can buy at Amazon .com by clicking here: The recipe is amazing, the results sure to astound your palate. 1 pound fresh, skinless mullet fillets (Capt. Charlie’s note: remove the blood line that is next to the skin) 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup low fat sour cream 1/2 cup mayonnaise (low fat OK) 1/2 package (1/2 oz. or less) of ranch style salad dressing 3 ounces garlic-,onion-,or chive flavored low-fat crackers, crumbled Cut fillets into serving size portions and sprinkle lightly with salt. Combine sour cream, mayo and salad dressing mix, stirring until thoroughly homogenized. Place this salad dressing in a shallow dish and dip the fish pieces into it sand then into a pan containing the cracker crumbs. Coat the fillets thoroughly with the crumbs and place the portions o a 15 x 9 x 1 baking pan coated with cooking oil spray and bake for 20 or so minutes at 350 degrees F, until the fish flakes readily when forked. Should serve five or six and bring smiles to all. Again Grif, thank you for allowing me to use these recipes, they’re great! Capt. Charlie
Reproduced with permission from Coastal Loran and GPS Coordinates by Captain Rod & Susie Stebbins…Special thanks to Captain Rod and Susie Stebbins The preparation of this dish is as simple as throwing everything into a pot! This soup is very rich and is great served with French garlic bread. We especially enjoy it during the winter months when the evenings are a bit cool and on winter days while fishing – this and hot coffee. Mmmmmmmm. This soup is best made ahead of time at home and carried to the boat. Serves four. INGREDIENTS: 2 large handfuls of fresh clams 2 quarts of water 1 teaspoon of salt 1 medium onion, diced 2 stalks of celery 1 bay leaf 4-6 whole peppercorns 2 tablespoons of minced parsley 4 tablespoons of butter or margarine 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice 1 10-ounce package of frozen carrots 1 10-ounce package of frozen peas 2 potatoes, peeled and diced 1 half quart of milk 1/4 cup of whipping cream PREPARATION: Place the clams in the bathtub (or in a large sink or bowl) and cover with fresh water for two to three hours. It helps to stir them a couple of times. This encourages the clams to spit out sand instead of saving it for the soup. Put two quarts of water in the bottom of a double-boiler pot and bring to a boil (don’t use the water the clams have been sitting in). Place all of the fresh clams, still in their shells, in the top of the double-boiler and steam the clams until they open. Remove the meat, being careful to save the juices. Put all of the meat and juice into the boiling water in the bottom of the double-boiler. (You may have to add water to bring the level back to two quarts.) Add all the raw veggies and spices and return to a rolling boil. After five minutes, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cover the pot. Simmer for one to one and half hours, then add the butter to the pot, Add the flour to one cup of cold water and blend completely. Slowly add the flour-water mixture to the pot, stirring constantly. Cook two or three minutes. Add lemon juice and the frozen carrots. Cover and simmer for about five to seven minutes. Add the peas and simmer two to three minutes. Stir in the cream and then add the milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate the whole mess and take to the boat. Keep the soup on ice, then heat it up and serve it.