Big, Bad, Boiled: Cook a standard-sized fish

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Everyone loves a good hunting story, and hunters love to tell the story of a battle between stick and beast, and the story gets more exaggerated every time it is told. Details become bolder, more colorful and more intense. We only hope that when cooked for dinner, the larger-than-life standard fish found in these adventures pack just as much flavor, and are full of surprise.

The fish strikes the bait, the hook sets, the rod bends into a steep arc as its tip is pulled into the water, and the fight begins. It’s not a simple boxing, but a dance – releasing the drag, allowing the fish to run and hold the line, while maintaining enough tension for the angler to reel as the potential prize begins to tire. After what may seem like an eternity, spasming muscles make the last few revolutions of the reel before a massive, record-sized fish reaches the surface and is carried aboard or ashore.

The catch can still be a fish story, growing in size and exaggeration with each telling. Or, if you act quickly, these prized fish could be saved in the record books and set a new standard for their species. However, its fate depends on which record the fish qualifies for; It can be released to live another day or it can be brought home and cooked for dinner.

International Fishing Association (IGFA) It is the global body that certifies fish of world record size. However, within the United States, state records are tracked by individual agencies that manage recreational fisheries. Records vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and can be classified by length or weight and can include catch and release requirements.

The IGFA’s most popular record category, accounting for 70 percent of record submissions in 2022, is World Record Length of Interventions. This requires anglers to find the length of the fish on an IGFA-certified measuring device on a flat surface, confirm this with a photo, and release the fish into the water in a healthy condition so that it can swim away without any signs of injury.

Record catch size is species-specific, starting at 1,402 pounds IGFA world record for Atlantic blue marlin Off the coast of Brazil in 1992, it fell to 3.2 ounces Wisconsin Alloy Registera type of herring, was caught in May 2023. Both hold the record, although the former can stock the freezers of friends and family for a year while the latter barely lights up the palette as an entertaining dish.

“I caught a record fish recently – a 31-inch mutton snapper,” says Zach Bellapegna, a Florida-based angler and IGFA Angler Recognition Coordinator. “But it’s one of the best fish to eat out there, so I decided to skip the record books and stock my freezer.”

Bellapegna cooked standard-length lamb snapper in tomato sauce with onions and garlic. But standard length does not mean standard weight. If the 31-inch-long, scaly creature named after a mature sheep had been a little stockier, weighing in at a plump 30 pounds and 4 ounces to be precise, it would have broken the existing record. In fact, Bellapenia could have had his world record and eaten it too.

Anglers who decide to keep their record may be disappointed when it comes to eating their prize, as there is often a negative correlation between the size of the fish and its flavour, similar to mutton which has a lighter, less gamey taste and texture than lamb. . “In terms of table-priced quality, a standard fish (100-plus pounds) is probably not the best example of this type,” says Bellapenia.

Furthermore, larger fish are often older fish, and can be subject to years of Bioaccumulation They contain toxins and heavy metals such as mercury, making them less healthy than their smaller counterparts. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration It recommends that children under 11 and pregnant women avoid eating marlin, swordfish and bigeye tuna, among other things, due to high mercury levels.

Fermin Nunez, Executive Chef of Austin, Texas Restaurants luck And that itHe says that the flavor of a huge fish depends on its type.

“We often use cod or branzino in the restaurant, which in my opinion degrades as it gets larger,” Nunez says. “But fish like halibut get more flavorful as they mature in size, and not only will you get a good yield, but you’ll also get a great texture. They’ll have these big flakes after they’re cooked.”

(Photo: Fermin Nunez)

Nunez uses both farm-raised fish, which are often more uniform in size, and wild fish, which he says is exciting because it really depends on what the fishermen bring in.

He recently handled a 520-pound bluefin tuna and was happy to slaughter it. Although it doesn’t hold a candle to the bluefin record holder — 1,496 pounds — the task of getting ready was extremely difficult. The fish had to be transported to a warehouse, lifted onto a pallet, and then lifted onto a table by a machine.

“It wasn’t easy, because this was the biggest fish I’d ever seen,” Nunez says. “It’s not something we do very often. We used, generally, the same tools we would use on a regular-sized fish, but moving it was the most difficult part. It took us two hours to butcher it.”

The fish was distributed to Nunez’s two restaurants and continued for about a week and a half. The benefit of such a large tuna, Nunez says, is that he can use it in a wide range of applications. A 10-pound tuna collar—the plumpest part of the fish—is seared, tossed on the grill with a glaze and turned into tacos. Tuna belly, a fatty meat that likes to be cut into large portions, was served raw over oysters. The smaller portion of loin was served raw with avocado, black garlic sauce and fried shallots.

For the average angler who catches a huge fish and wants to invite it over for dinner, Nunez suggests slow roasting it over an outdoor fire. But if you don’t have access to a fire pit of this size, you can also fillet the fish and fry or bake it in smaller portions.

“You have to have the right equipment and space,” Nunez says. “You also don’t want to throw it on the grill. I like to salt it, marinate it, and cook it low and slow. This usually requires outdoor space.”

Anglers who have no appetite for their trophy fish also have the option of taxidermying them for posterity, but the process has changed over the past decade from using actual fish, called skin mount, to fiberglass entertainment. This allows the fish to swim freely with the cup mounted on the wall.

Although it’s a wonderful souvenir, we can’t help but think that the award-winning catch would be more appropriate marinated, roasted, and in our bellies.

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