Friday, July 31, 2015

Charter Fishing for Bluefish on the Chesapeake Bay

For the last two years, my extended family has come together to charter a boat from Miss Grace Charters in Deale, Maryland to go fishing. The first year was our initiation to this kind of fishing and it took some convincing to get everyone there. 

The fears of being on a small boat tossed about in the middle of the Bay under the scorching July sun were hard to overcome. However, one part of that was easy to alleviate since the boat, Miss Grace is anything but unstable. With its wide 15 foot beam, she powers through the waves with a 600 horsepower diesel engine and we could walk about with ease. Last year, we were totally impressed with the comfort of the boat, the temperature of the air on the bay, the amount of fish we caught, the talent of Captain Karl to find the fish, and the incredible work of the first mate Eric, to unhook the fish and rebait the lines in record time - as well as filleting the fish for us afterwards with his outstanding knife skills.

So this year, we had to plan the trip again. A few more relatives joined the ranks and one fell off our list, unfortunately. The hardest part was getting up early enough to drive the hour and a half to get to the boat by 5:45 am. Some folks chose to drive down the night before and stay in a local hotel, but the majority of us carpooled in the early darkness - the experience only added to the sense of adventure.

We heard from some of the chatter around the docks that fishing was bad - a month of record-setting rain in June had fouled the catching - but we didn't worry. We climbed aboard with our coolers stuffed with hoagies, snacks and cold beer and and set off before the sun had risen. The freshness and the beauty of the Chesapeake is revitalizing that early in the morning and we powered out for almost an hour to get to the fishing grounds. The first mate set a couple of trolling lines and we slowed down a bit to test the waters. Sure enough, after a few minutes, "fish on" was being hollered out and a bluefish was flying through the air over our heads to land in the large cooler in the center of the boat.

I had never experienced trolling for fish like that. As soon as the lines started jerking, the closest person would grab the rod and start reeling in the line and then the first mate would grab the line from the back of the boat (because we were still moving along) and with a big pull bring it in over our heads to have it land in the cooler and simultaneously yank the hook back out.

For almost four hours we trolled and caught fish until the sun was hot and we were trying to stay under the shade of the roof of the cabin. Captain Karl took us out to a couple more fishing spots and we did catch a couple more, but overall, we were ready to head back. Since it took almost an hour to get back to the dock, we had plenty of time to talk and eat and just enjoy each other's company. 

In conclusion, if you were to ask me for my opinion about charter fishing, well then, I would say a resounding "Hell-yes!" How could you not like it? We caught sixty-three fish and took home coolers of delicious, fresh bluefish. Trolling was different than the normal fishing I was used to, but I enjoyed everything about it.

Look at all our bluefish!

For those of you who were wondering what we did with the bluefish, here is a recipe:

Mock Crabcakes
(Bluefish Fishcake Recipe)

First I marinated the fillets in the frig for a couple of hours in this marinade (Courtesy of Miss Grace Charters):

1 quart water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup kosher or pickling salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon ground pepper

Then I dropped them into a boiling vinegar water of 3 cups water to 1 cup white vinegar, turned the heat to low, covered and cooked for about 7-8 minutes. Then lifted the fillets from the water and let cool.

Once cooled, I removed the skin and the darker meat running down the center of the fillets (much fishier flavor in the dark meat). I gently flaked the fish into chunks. (At this point, the fish can be used for any number of recipes or frozen for later use)

Bluefish Fishcake Recipe

1 lb. skinned bluefish fillets, cooked by poaching in vinegar water (see above)
1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
2 tbsp. minced green pepper (or sweet corn)
2 tbsp finely chopped celery
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c. finely crushed cracker crumbs ( or toasted bread crumbs)
4 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except fish, then add the fish gently so you don't mash it. Form the cakes and roll in crushed potato chips (optional) and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Fry in butter/oil until golden brown on both sides.

Serve with a garlic aioli sauce (I added roasted red peppers and lemon juice to the sauce) on a soft bun.

Absolutely delicious!