Posts Tagged ‘cooking fish’





Originally Published the Week of Nov. 8, 2016 in Western Outdoor News

I see it time and again. Every afternoon for about 9 months-out-of-the-year, my crew and I personally trim and vacuum seal fish for our clients. We do anywhere from 50-400 bags per day. That’s A LOT of fish.

No doubt, it’s good business. Moreso, I think it’s a worthwhile investment for any angler wanting the best care for his or her fish.

Or not.

 “Nah, we’re gonna bag it ourselves.”

(Angler jams it all in a few bags. Gets home. Must now defrost a bowling ball-size baggie of freezer-burned fish. For only two people. Fish gets wasted. Tastes like…uh…freezer burn.)

 I’m gonna take it back home and then use my vacuum sealer on it”

(Takes home frozen fish. Must now defrost it again to use on home machine because it’s awful tough to vacuum-seal frozen fish. Fish has now been frozen and defrosted several times by the time you eat it. Plus probably rinsed or soaked in fresh water diminishing the taste.)

 “I don’t wanna waste the money. Why?  I’m just gonna eat it.”

(Well, of course you are! Glad you’re not a picky eater!)

And I love this one:

“We have a vacuum sealer back in the hotel room.”

(Spends all day on a boat. Comes back to room. Sets up vacuum sealer on hotel room bathroom sink. Scatters bloody, gooey, slimey fillets all over the counter, the shower, the sink. Maybe enlists someone to help. Spends next 4 hours sealing fish one…fillet…at…a…(yawn)…time.   Rest of buddies are hanging poolside drinking beers and eating nachos).

I understand the mindset. God bless ‘em. I’m not saying this to drum-up fish-packing business. We’re plenty busy!

But, you already pay all this money and spend all the time to come down to catch beautiful fish and then don’t take care of it is nuts!

From an economic perspective, if you have 50-pounds of dorado or tuna in your cooler and it retails at $20 or $30 per pound, do the math. That’s at least $1000 of retail fish you’re goofing with.

It’s like when I worked in a tackle store years ago. A guy would come in and buy $2000 worth of fishing gear for a trip, then ask for the cheapest “most economic” fishing hooks in the store.   It doesn’t make sense.

Listen, if you have the opportunity to seal your fish, by all means, do it. You’ll be grateful you invested in it when you’re eating that tasty fillet many months down the road.  If you’re giving it away, you’ll be a superstar.

But, many places in Baja still don’t have that availability.

Whether they do or not, there’s some things you can do to help insure your catch is in the best condition possible.

For one, if you can, ask your captain or deck hand to try to gaff the fish in the head.   Body gaffs are easy and sometimes you just don’t have a choice, but pushing that big steel hook through the meat obviousy damages the meat.

This is true especially in bloody fish like tuna. The blood floods into the damaged portions of meat ruining big chunks of it.

Once it’s in the boat, get it on ice. As soon as any living thing expires, it’s already deteriorating.

The best way to arrest the process is to ice it down. Especially in the Baja heat, just letting a fish sit on a hot deck, literally starts cooking the meat.

It’s not always possible. Sometimes, there’s just too much going on or you’re in a wide-open bite to stop and change gears. However, if you can get your crew to bleed the fish while it’s still alive and it’s heart is pumping, getting the blood-letting vastly improves the texture and flavor.   Again, this is especially true of bloody fish like tuna.

Once the fish is cleaned, again keep it as chilled as possible. Bring zip lock bags.   Here’s a big error I see all the time when people bring fish into our packing facility.

The cleaned fillets are kept cold, but without bags, they’re just thrown back into melting ice. The ice melts. It’s fresh water. The saltwater fish is now soaking up fresh water ruining the taste.   It’s floating in it!

Or, even worse, it’s NOT cold water because all the ice has melted. Now the fish is being slow-cooked in warm water. By the time I get it or see it, the fish is literally firm and bleached.

Dorado fillets are rubbery. Tuna should looks like red juicy steak. Instead, it looks like sinewy chicken.

One trick I learned years ago is called “Mexican Vacuum Sealing.”

It’s simple. Put your fillets in a zip lock. Don’t close it up. Immerse it slowly in a bucket of water allowing the water pressure to push the air out and compress the bag. When all the air is out, pull the bag closed.

Ta-DAH! Instant vacuum seal. Actually, leaving just a little bit of clean salt water in the bag is another bonus.

You’ve spent a lot to have that fish. So, take care of it!

That’s our story!

Jonathan signature



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 riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!    



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