I try to get out and go fishing at least once a week if at all possible. My friend Patrick has a boat, so he and our friend Jim and I are the Sunday crew (a different group goes on Saturdays), and we go out for, well, whatever Patrick says we do. Lately, it's been ling cod.
Ling cod is a time-consuming and labor-intensive catch. Cod don't like spoons or spinners like salmon do; they're far pickier, maybe a little smarter, and prefer live bait. The live bait of choice is usually sand dabs. Sand dabs can grow to a size that is worth catching and eating, but there are a lot of smaller ones, and those are the ones we go after. We spend about an hour or so catching dabs and putting them into a giant bucket full of water. You want a good 10-15 dabs, just in case; they can wiggle off the hook, or be swiped off the line by predators other than the elusive cod, so it's good to have several on hand. Ideally the best size is around the length and width of an adult human hand, a little larger. They're dumb as rocks, so they'll take a bite of anything you lower into the water, but there is a specific kind of bait we use. It's this stuff that sort of looks like a flat sponge (I cannot remember what it's called, exactly)- you cut it into smaller pieces, toss it on the hooks, and lower the line into the water until your line weight hits bottom; they bite in no time.
After we got a bucket full of those little fellows, we sped up to an area off the south shore of Whidbey Island called Possession Point, strung the dabs on our hooks, and lowered the lines into the water.
I took him home and put him in the fridge for a while. My filleting skills are still under development, so it's easier to get the meat off the bones after rigor mortis has set in. I don't mean to be morbid, but it's the mean truth of the matter. I took a few more photos of him with my regular camera and then one more of his awesome little fishy face.
Since my plan was to use one fillet to fry into fish and chips, the skin had to be removed. This is a delicate process and there really isn't anyway for me to describe it, since today was the first time I've ever had to do it, myself. All I can say is that you need a really sharp knife and some patience. If you have both of these things, you will be able to cut the skin away from the flesh without damaging the flesh too badly. I think I did ok for my first try.
It's not really cooking or recipes, but I thought it might be fun to do a blog entry following a food from its source to its final destination on a plate. Sea to mouth in about 7 hours; you can't get much fresher than that.
If you have FaceBook, you can "like" Patrick's page here. He shares recipes and photos of his adventures on his boat, and he's an all-around cool guy. Bon appetit!