In the past when visiting the keys for a week here and there, my family would book a charter boat and come back to shore with armfuls of the most delicious fish, cleaned and cut by the boat captain. A day or a half day is a GREAT way to spend time if you are in the keys. Even if you don’t care for fishing, the trip is always fun because you get to see some amazing sea life on the drive out – we normally see turtles, dolphins, sting rays, and jellyfish at the very least. Then there’s the appeal of knowing you’re in for a sure thing – I’ve never gone out on a charter boat and come back empty handed.
Now that we’re living down here, Mr. Foodie and I want to make fishing a semi-regular affair because we both love it and because we have easy water access. Our first fishing trip after we purchased a saltwater license was a dud. We didn’t have the right bait and we were in water that was too shallow – we caught and caught, but only caught babies. Thanks to a handy fishing app (Fish Rules) we know what the size and bag limits are for all the fish we catch.
We got smart this time and moved to deeper water, but still too shallow for some kinds of fish like tuna. We hooked a few babies, but then we scored two regulation-sized Lane Snappers. At this point we were running out of bait (which we changed to squid instead of shrimp) mostly because these fish knew how to get it off the hook despite my best hooking tricks. Then all of a sudden Mr. Foodie watched the pole bend at an extreme angle. He started reeling hard, but every few seconds this whopper would pull out the line in spite of his effort. To our dismay the line snapped and we lost it all – bait, hook, and weight. We never did see it, so we can only speculate about what kind of fish it was. Our neighbor suggested a Rockfish which likes to dive back into its cavernous hidey-holes with the line, thereby snapping it.
In any case, we were one squid box down and two lane snappers up by the time we headed home. Because we still lack a fish cleaning station, we used the davit base where the hose is to cut and clean our fish. Though they were regulation size for lane snapper, they were still too small to stuff whole as I would have liked, so we filleted them. I snapped off the heads and pulled out the guts while Mr. Foodie cut the flesh from the bones. We chucked the bits into the canal where they were almost immediately whisked away by the sea life there.
What to make with our fresh catch? Because they were on the small side even before we filleted them, we wanted to stretch the fish meat out a bit – so we decided on fish tacos! I’ve written about using a large batch of tilapia (to feed a crowd) in fish tacos, but this time we we decided to change up our recipe since it was a tiny amount of fish and just us.
Lane Snapper Tacos
3 small fillets of Snapper (about 1/4 lb) divided into strips
3 dashes Cumin
3 dashes Chili Powder
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 White Cooking Onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
salt and pepper
Put fillets in a bowl with squeezed lime juice and spices. Marinate for 15 minutes or so. Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat and place fish strips in hot oil. Cook 2-3 minutes per side.
For the filling, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until softened. Add drained, rinsed black beans and drained tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste and heat altogether.
To assemble the tacos, place 2-3 strips of fish in the taco, spoon filling over top, sprinkle cheese, and add any garnish such as lime wedge or cilantro to the plate.
Let me just say that I was shouting “yum!” as I was taste-testing everything before serving. The fish had the perfect amount of flavor without overwhelming the fish itself. The filling was delicious all by itself – the cooked onion and garlic carried the tomatoes and beans. Together the taco had texture, flavor, and heat – a trifecta that made Mr. Foodie smile at me between every bite.
I had been a little disappointed with our return on investment for this fishing expedition, but after tasting our tacos, I can say with confidence that it was worth every moment.