Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Yea, but they’re not on the ’net, man
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
‘Scrooged’ at the border?

A better fish fillet
In addition to having our fishing fleet here in La Paz, we also commercially pack fish as well. During the season, I’m personally in our “fish cave” two to five hours a day hand­ling the fish for our clients.

Needless to say, I see a heck-of-a-lot of fish. We get fish that belong to our clients, as well as other anglers who fish elsewhere or have their own boats.

IT ALL STARTS with a well-placed gaff shot.

It’s very rewarding to send folks home with some really nicely done fish. Whether they fish with us or not isn’t important. I like seeing the smiles knowing they’re taking home the very best memories that go along with those packages of fillets.

Even better to get calls or e-mails from folks months later. Or, even longer!

They tell me how surprised they are that the fish still tastes stellar and just as good as the day they got it. It’s gratifying. YESSSS!!!

I love it when folks bring me their fish. Most of the time, it’s at least already cleaned by the captain or deckhand and I’m just fine-trimming, weighing and portioning it so we can vacuum seal it.

However, there are times when I simply cringe seeing the fish that’s brought to me. I literally hate to send it home with folks.

What’s that old adage? “Poop in… poop out?” (add in your own derogatory expletive).

It’s like anything else. If you start with good stuff, you end up with good stuff. If you give me great fish to work with, I’m gonna send you out with some good stuff too.

If only folks would think a little bit and take better care of their fish, it would make a big difference. That starts long before they bring me their fish.

flawlesstunaFLAWLESS TUNA

For example, I know you don’t always have control over it, but whenever possible, go for… or ask for head gaffs on a fish. Not always possible. And it takes a certain level of skill between the gaffer and the angler.

A lot of anglers don’t realize that it takes a bit of finesse to lay out a hot fish “just so,” whereby the captain can gaff it in the head. Sometimes, a captain is just anxious to get the fish in the boat so the client doesn’t lose the fish. I get it.

But, sticking the fish in the head avoids damaging the tasty and valuable meat. When a fish gets stuck in the body, it continues to pump blood into the flesh. It “bruises,” if you will. A big, ugly bruise. Especially, muscular fish like tuna.

So… I get these gorgeous chunks of valuable fish and so much of it is ruined by huge, bloody “bruises” in the meat. It has to be cut out and discarded. I’ve had to toss out 10 to 20 percent of otherwise perfectly good meat due to bleeding.

Along those lines, even if you don’t get a head gaff… Once you do get your fish in the boat, give some thought to “bleeding” your fish. Time constraints in the middle of a hot bite will sometimes prevent this, but if you can do this, or ask for it, it makes a huge difference.

Simply, while the fish is still alive, cut it by the heart and bleed it. If you can, hold it in the water, and the heart will pump out excess blood.

When any creature dies, it starts to deteriorate immediately. Logically, so does the blood.

When you let a fish pump out its blood, it greatly enhances the quality of the meat and taste. You’ll notice a fresher, less-fishy flavor and the flesh will have a lighter color to it.

Of course, the worst kind of fish I receive is when the fish has not been kept cool after it dies. Ice is critical. If not ice, at least, don’t leave it out in the hot Baja sun as some folks do. When you do, it’s literally cooking!

SASHIMI FROM YELLOWTAIL that was swimming that morning.

The fish comes to me and it almost “dissolves” in my hands. It falls apart. It’s mushy. It falls off the bone. It’s grey and discolored.

Tasty tuna, wahoo, snapper… it doesn’t matter. It might already be starting to stink. I wouldn’t serve it to our cats. Unsalvageable.

Often, so much of it, I can’t even pack. In all fairness, I have to throw it away.

If it’s somewhat salvageable, I know it’s gonna be crap when the folks eat it and there’s no way to explain once they walk out the door and go home with their fish. Just such a waste.

Another peeve is letting fish sit in water after it’s cleaned. No plastic bag. Just sitting and floating around. Often it’s in the melted ice. Maybe it’s cool. Maybe the water is already tepid and warm.

Just floating and maybe getting warm. A lovely “soup” in the making. But either way, two things are happening.

It’s breaking down into mush. Maybe not so fast as just sitting out in the sun, but it’s still on its way to falling apart.

Second, the fresh water is getting infused into the flesh. For one, it might not be the best water to begin with. But, sitting in fresh water, the natural saltiness that makes ocean fish so tasty is getting lost. Want bland-tasting fish? Let it soak in fresh water.

A quick fresh water rinse is okay. Letting it soak is tragic.

Lastly, you would think it is common sense, but avoid the urge to put your fish in the same ice chest as bottles of beer! If you must join them, use canned beer.

You can imagine what happens when beer bottles break in an ice chest full of fish fillets.

I’m good, but not that good. Impossible to pick little pieces of glass out of your fish fillets. I have to tell you all your fish is headed into the trash unless you want to eat pieces of glass!

A little thought is well worth it.

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