THE lower water temperatures of this year had many fishermen worried that we wouldn't see the usual invasion of bluefish - those tough and hungry battlers.
Well, worry not. We've not yet got wall-to-wall blues yet but reports from the upper reaches of Great Bay to the Isles of Shoals indicate fishable amounts here.
If you've never been after bluefish, a simple way to get started is to get yourself on a half-day party boat sailing out of Rye, Hampton or Seabrook. Be prepared for some sore arms and back muscles, and if you're lucky, a year's supply of fish to eat.
Many people pooh-pooh the eating qualities of bluefish. Boy, are they barking up the wrong tree. The answer to great fish eating from blues starts at their catching.
If I go on a party boat, I'm going to have a big cooler half full of ice chips. Each bluefish I catch will have a couple of knife slits at the caudal peduncle (where the tail fin meets the body). I'll hold my fish over the rail until the bleeding stops, and then they'll go on ice, for the mate to fillet and skin later.
Ask the mate to also cut off the stomach flaps. These flaps are loaded with fat, and the fat is where any amount of harmful chemicals or heavy metals are apt to accumulate. If you are turned of by any fishy taste, also have the mate trim the dark meat off the fillet. Then back on the ice, please, for your finished product. If you are at least fairly handy with a fillet knife, you can do all of the above with ease yourself.
Dick's favorite bluefish recipes: take a couple cups of hickory chips, soak in water and put them in a foil pouch. Punch a couple of fork holes in the pouch and lay on hot coals. Lay some foil, big enough to protect the fish you're cooking, on the grill (this is optional).
Baste the fillets in a mixture of brown sugar, garlic powder, lemon juice and soy sauce. Using one of those campfire sandwich type of grills to clamp the fillet in, I put the fish on and close the cover of the grill. Then I check every few minutes until a fork tells me that the fillet is cooked through. The flesh changes from translucent to white. (You'll want to put the grill downwind, as the hickory chips will be causing quite a smudge!)
When the fish is done, take the foil from beneath the fish and, not turning, put the fish still in the sandwich grill-back directly on the grill, exposed to the hot coals. Leave just long enough to give that side a nice golden look. Don't turn! Garnish with lemon and enjoy.
Recipe number two is simple. Coat the fillet with a mixture of mayonnaise and horseradish to taste. Give a fairly good coating of flavored crumbs, (we love the Panko Italian), cover with a foil tent and bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes at 375. Remove the foil and brown the crumbs under the broiler. Enjoy the many gifts that Mother Nature provides!
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.