One of the added bonuses of writing a cooking blog is that your relatives invite you over for dinner more often. Sunday afternoon some friends and I got lost in Corona Park and I nearly missed dinner, caught and cooked by my brother-in-law Paul.
As spring approaches, Striped Bass make their annual migration north along the eastern seaboard. When the water temperature nears 50 degrees, bait fish become active and the bass start feeding. The earliest activity takes place in the shallows of the back bays because the dark colored bottom absorbs the sun’s energy and the water there warms up first. Considering this, the tide, the weather, the lunar phase, my busy schedule and the price of gasoline, I decide on a fishing spot close to home, only two miles from our house in central Queens County, NYC.
I head out about 9 PM on a Friday night. I begin my walk from the road into the darkness wearing over sized Wellington boots and carrying my tackle and bait. Stripers will nose through the sand trying to stir up sand worms to eat, so I have brought clam bellies with me to use as bait. I simply let it sit on the bottom.
I find what I think is a good spot about a mile down the shore. It is almost high tide. The bottom gradually slopes away and the water is still shallow very far out from shore. I bait the hook and cast it as far as I can. I set the rod into the sand spike and wait.
While watching the rod tip for movement, my eyes play tricks on me. The darkness, wind and moving clouds make it seem that something is nibbling on my bait. When I reel in and check, I see that the bait is untouched, so I cast it back out. Shortly after, the rod tip dips violently and then goes slack. I lift the rod to check and feel nothing. I suspect he has stolen my bait. I quickly realize that the line is slack only because the fish is running directly toward me. In a blur, I crank the reel to take in the slack. Now the fish feels the line and bolts away from shore, peeling line from my reel. He turns and runs parallel to the shore. I can make out his dorsal fin and tail cutting through the water about 30 feet away from me. After a few minutes of this give and take with the fish, I land him. It is 36” long and about 15 lbs. It is my first keeper and I am going to eat him.
While I carry my trophy back to the road, I pass groups of other fisherman. To a man they are all truly impressed and congratulatory. Hispanic children pose for cell phone pictures, crouching down and giving a thumbs up next to the fish that hangs at my side. A group of Russian men want to buy the fish from me. A Guyanese man and his boy ask me what I used for bait. I tell him that I used clams and he seems forlorn. I realize that he doesn’t have any clams with him and now he thinks he may not catch anything. I give him all the clams that I have leftover. In the darkness only his eyes are visible and now they show me relief and hope.
Blackened Striped Bass the Hard Way
- 4 Plump Striped Bass fillets
- Blackening Seasoning
- 2 lemons
- 1/3 stick of butter or more
Take a 12 to 16” cast iron griddle and set it on your BBQ
Set BBQ on HIGH for 15-20 minutes, close BBQ cover
Pan should get to about 500+ degrees with cover closed
Take 4 nice pieces of Striped Bass and trim off ALL dark meat from skin side. Coat all fillets with seasoning lightly rubbing into fish and add some pepper if you like
Take 1/3 stick of butter and put it in the pre-heated skillet
As soon as it is melted, put the fillets in the pan and squeeze a half lemon over the fish and close grill cover
Let the fish cook for 4-6 minutes until fish starts to blacken nice on the bottom
Turn fish over and squeeze more lemon over the fish and close BBQ lid
Cook until the fish is flaky (do NOT over cook)
Garnish with some fresh Parsley, lemons and serve.
We served polenta, zucchini and grape tomatoes as a side dish.
Blackening Seasoning The Hard Way
- 2 teaspoons ground paprika
- 4 teaspoons dried leaf thyme
- 1 tablespoon granulated brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to your taste
- 1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Place all ingredients in a jar and store in a cool dark place. Shake jar well before each use.