The Outer Banks of North Carolina provide an abundance of recreational opportunities, including bay and ocean fishing. My son-in-law had a birthday coming up, and we decided a deep-sea fishing trip would be a wonderful birthday present. It would be a guy thing, so he could bring a few friends along to enjoy a day on the water. Once we established a date that worked for all, I started the search for a charter captain. I wanted someone who was a little impatient, that would change locations if the action was slow and search for better fishing. Fortunately, I found what seemed like the perfect charter service, the captain explained that the current fishing conditions favored fishing for black sea bass, if that was OK with me. Are you kidding? Who doesn’t like sea bass for dinner!
I booked the trip, told the guys to mark their calendar, and made room in my freezer just in case we had some good luck. It had been a while since I fished offshore, and as the date got closer we all started to get excited. A day on the water, the chance for some excellent eating fish, and the fellowship of fishing together, telling stories, and just hanging out got everyone jacked up. When the day finally arrived to board the boat we were ready for a great experience.
Mid July offers day after day of warm and sunny weather. Our day of fishing was no exception! We motored out of the marina into the bay, and then headed for the open water. The ocean was relatively calm that morning, and the ride was easy and uneventful. After activating his GPS and bottom searching electronics the captain finally found what he thought to be the best spot to begin fishing. The lines went in the water and it did not take long to get the first bite. As the day wore on everyone was catching fish, many of which were keeper size, and the fish box was filling up. We now knew what was going to be for dinner that evening, and started looking forward to some fresh sea bass and even a couple of trigger fish on our plate.
The only challenge with catching sea bass it is that they do not grow very large. A couple of pounds would be a nice size fish. We decided we wanted to search for something a little larger now that we had a good catch of sea bass onboard. The captain was about to motor to a new location when we saw a school of mid sized Amberjack start circling the boat. We started trying different lures on and worked hard to entice them. The first fish was hooked by my son-in-law. He had a silver spoon with a bucktail on a medium weight spinning rod. He fought that Amberjack like it was a 100 pounder!! Once it was in the boat he was beaming ear to ear – it was the biggest fish he had ever caught!
It was not long before we had a second strike, then a third and a fourth. They were all in the 20 pound class, and gave us each a good fight and a fine end to our day.
When time came to return to the marina we had 2 trigger fish, 27 black sea bass and four large amberjack in the fish box. What a day! What a birthday party! Back on the dock the fish were laid out for a picture and then the captain proceeded to fillet the bass first, and then the trigger fish, and then finally the amberjack. We had brought along a cooler in anticipation of a good catch, but we did not anticipate eight large amberjack fillets with our sea bass catch. The cooler was full, with just enough room for some ice. We secured the lid, loaded it in the vehicle, and headed home with smiles on everyone’s face. What a day, what a birthday party to remember!
We decided on grilled amberjack for dinner, so the sea bass fillets were portioned out and sealed in freezer bags. Each of the anglers was able to take home enough sea bass and amberjack fillet portions for some wonderful seafood dinners. I do like to grill fresh seafood, but there are times when a good old fashioned fish fry hits the spot. I have found over the years there are some important lessons to be remembered when frying seafood.
The first lesson is to think about the coating you want to use. I like to use an egg wash, commercial fish fry coating, and panko bread crumbs. My procedure is to first dip the fish in the commercial fry coating, then into the egg wash. The ingredients combine to make glue that will hold the crumbs. The final step is to dip the fillet into the panko. One thought about panko, it often comes in a rather large size crumb, which tends to leave uneven coming. I like to run the panko through a food processor for a few seconds to break all the crumbs to uniform and small size. I have found I get better results when I do this. I l also ike to put the breaded fillets on a wire mesh rack and let them dry for 15 minutes or so. This will help keep your breading intact as you cook them.
The next lesson is you do not have to cook everything on high heat! Medium is adequate for frying seafood, will give a better and more even color to your breading, and will not produce smoke in the kitchen. Fry one inch thick fillets or fish steaks to a golden brown, turn over and do the same for the second side and you should have perfectly cooked fish. Avoid trying to fry a thick fillet, keep to the one inch thickness for best results.
Later in the weekend we had a fantastic fish fry with a little of each fish. I think this will become a yearly birthday tradition!!