ALL FORKED UP
Originally Published the Week of Nov. 23, 2016 in Western Outdoor News
One of the great rewards of being down here in Baja and doing what we do is turning folks on to new experiences. For many, it could be the first time out’ve the country…or the first time to Mexico.
For others, maybe it’s the first time fishing; going snorkeling; or seeing dolphin. There are so many things that we take for granted. If you’re a regular reader of my columns, we don’t even think twice about so many of them.
For example, this past season, we had a wonderful large family come visit. As I put them on the fishing boats in the morning, one of the nice ladies told me, “This is our first time seeing the ocean!”
Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
They had never seen the ocean! It was like the time a few years ago when my dad told he had “…never seen the orginal Star Wars movie or any Star Wars movies.” Everyone has seen the ocean. Everyone has seen Star Wars! Haven’t they?
Never seen the ocean.
Wrap your brain around that for a moment. Think what it might have felt like climbing into a relatively little fishing panga at sunrise to go fishing and all the things that might be going through their minds.
Probably like Columbus headed west across the ocean with a lot of faith that he’d be coming back.
The questions the family asked me started making sense.
“Will it be deep?”
“How big will the waves be?”
“Is this an ‘ocean’ or a ‘sea?’
“What if a shark wants to jump in the boat?” (One of the kids asked that one…which drew some nervous laughs from the rest of the family!)
Happily, they put on brave faces and stout hearts and went out about 200 yards and came back with big smiles and lots of fish and stories to tell to the folks back in the Midwest.
One of the other great experiences…a treat for us Baja rats, but eye-opening to newbies is having your fresh caught fish cooked up for you.
Having our own restaurant puts us at ground zero when it comes to visitors eating fresh fish and especially their own catch.
As I often tell folks contentedly telling me about the great fish dinner, , “Nothing better or fresher than fish that was swimming around this morning!”
And it’s true.
Real? Fresh? Fish? Folks are blown away to find out that fish that has never been frozen, canned, shipped, transporated or processed can taste so much better when prepared and eaten straight away.
Whether it’s plated up as tacos, grilled, broiled, fried…or whatever…then served up Baja style with fresh tortillas, frijoles ,rice, some home-made salsas or sauces…Well, fewer things are better and surely a highlight of your Baja visit.
But, there’s a few things you should know about restaurant fish in Baja.
Almost any restaurant will be happy to cook up your fish. Speaking from experience, it’s a lot easier if YOU have already cleaned it.
Having you show up with 5 big pargo or 3 tuna straight out’ve your ice chest that still need to be cleaned is gonna take awhile. The restaurant might not be equipped to actually clean and dress out a fish for you. They might not know how!
Also, if the restaurant is in a rush and busy, it’s hard to pull one of the kitchen staff off his station and have him clear a spot just to clean fish. Many restaurants don’t have a “fish cleaning” station per se.
But, that aside, by all means, bring in your fish. Any and all fish are welcome!
What many folks don’t know is that there are some fish that are prohibited from being on a restaurant menu here in Baja. Two of the most common fish that come to mind are dorado (Mahi-mahi) and roosterfish. Also, totuava.
All 3 of those species are prohibited from commercial fishing. So, by law, a restaurant can certainly prepare YOUR fish that YOU caught and brought (Totuava is completely endangered and prohibited). However, that restaurant cannot legally purchase species like roosterfish or dorado and sell them to you or anyone from on our menu.
Restaurants are only allowed to sell “commercially” legal fish. To date, roosterfish and dorado are solely for “sportfishing” purposes. That means YOU with your hook and line . Roosterfish and dorado are prohibited from commercial harvesting.
Likewise, the restaurant can cook YOUR dorado or roosterfish, but it cannot legally purchase that fish from you (because it was sport caught) or from a commercial business. So, chances are, if you see roosterfish, dorado or totuava on a Mexican menu, it probably shouldn’t be there.
There are several reasons for this.
For one, there’s certainly the ecological impact commercial fishing would have on these species. Commerical and sportfishing pretty much wiped-out the tasty totuava population years ago.
The Mexican government…so far…has recognized that roosterfish and dorado are extremely important to the tourism/fishing industry and are a valuable resource. Translated, that means, they are worth a lot of tourist dollars. They don’t want it going the way of totuava.
There’s also the health issues.
From the perspective of a restaurant, purchasing fish from a non-regulated source like from a fisherman or from illegal harvesting could pose a health fish. Simply, in the chain-of-handling, there’s no way to know that the fish is safe to eat.
There’s no assurances (as far as that goes) to quality-control and inspection. Was it taken legally and correctly harvested and within the size and weight limited specified by law? No way to be certain.
Eat fish. Eat YOUR fish. Eat fresh fish on the menu too. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask what kind of fish you’re eating or raise an eyebrow if you see something wrong on the menu.
That’s my story!
Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004. Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico www.tailhunter-international.com. They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront. If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or drop by the restaurant to say hi. It’s right on the La Paz waterfront!
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