Category Archives: Pompano

Jalapeño Fish Or Calamari Recipe

P1070559_cropped

Ingredients:
Approximately 1.5 lb of any fresh firm fleshed fish (amberjack, redfish, shark or mackerel etc.) or equivalent of fresh squid.

  1. 2 egg yolks
  2. Fine Sea Salt
  3. Chinese Five Spice Powder
  4. White Pepper Powder
  5. Fresh Jalapenos – Sliced
  6. Fresh Green Onions – Chopped
  7. Fresh Garlic – Minced
  8. Corn Starch (flour is ok but the crust will be thicker and not as crispy)
  9. Cooking Oil

1) Preparing the Spice Mix:
Heat up sauce pan and add 2 tablespoons of sea salt. When the salt is very well heated up, mix in about 1/2 teaspoon of Five Spice powder. Mix well and turn off heat and set aside.
Heating the salt desiccates it and ensures that the mix will bind immediately with the cooked meats and vegetables once they come in contact. Heating the mixture also releases the oils in the spices which will infuse with the salt. You can mix up a larger batch and store it in an airtight container for future use.

2) Preparing the meat:

For Fish:
Trim, wash, dry and cut fresh fish into small chunks. About 2-2.5″ by 3/4″ size. Set aside in refrigerator for 30 minutes. If your fish is not 100% fresh or has a slight ‘fishy’ odor, try this old restaurant trick of soaking the filets for 30 minutes or so in cold water with half a squeezed lime or lemon in it first.

For Calamari:
Wash and clean squid and blanch them briefly in boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
Remove the thin purplish skin that covers the squid. Discard everything except the sheath and the head with tentacles. Make sure you remove the beak of the squid and the ink from the eyes.
Slice the sheath into rings or strips and halve the heads and tentacles lengthwise.
Dry and set aside in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

3) Marinate:
Add 2 egg yolks in mixing bowl.
For each pound of meat add roughly 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper.
Fill a cookie tray or large plate with about a 1/2″ layer of corn starch.
Mix in portions of egg coated fish chunks or calamari till all pieces are thoroughly coated.
Shake off excess coatings and set pieces aside.

flames
A hot wok works wonders

4) Cooking:
Heat deep fryer till 350F and cook fish or calamari for about 2-3 minutes. Do not overcook!
When done remove the fish or calamari from fryer and drain. For the calamari, put the tentacles and head pieces in the fryer first. Followed by the other pieces 1 minute later. You want the tentacles slightly more well done or crispy.

Meanwhile heat up a wok or frying pan.
Add cooking oil and heat till almost smoking.
Toss in a handful of the sliced jalapeños (less if they are very spicy).
The jalapeños are almost ready when they are are slightly charred and you start sneezing so it might be prudent to prepare this dish in a well ventilated or outdoor location.
Add a table spoon or two of mince garlic, then lastly add the chopped green onions. Stir fry mixture together till fragrant.
When the mixture is fragrant, add the deep fried fish or calamari and toss entire mixture together.
Avoid stirring too much at this time as this may break apart the fish pieces. Tossing is preferred.
Reduce heat. Continue tossing the dish in the pan or wok while sprinkling in the Five Spice/ Salt mixture. (Amount of spice mix is your preference but be careful to not make it too salty. About 1/4-1/3 teaspoon is about right for most people.)

Serve steaming hot and enjoy! Best with a nice bright Pinot Grigio!

Recipe is courtesy of Hardy Tong of the Happy Buddha Restaurant, Galveston, TX. You could also bring your catch to his restaurant and have him cook it for you if he is not out fishing! 🙂

Stay tuned for a video of this recipe!

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Port Aransas Texas 9/30 – 10/1/2014 Fishing Report

Gulf Coast King Mackerel
My ‘Patriot’ Color Scheme Rod with a Daiwa Saltiga Lever Drag Reel

After a few less than stellar trips, we finally found a couple of days that looked promising so we made the trip from Austin. Tuesday was ok, we got there a bit late and missed the morning bite. The upside is that we also missed the showers that were blowing through early morning. We did get about 15 smacks and 5 pompanos. Skip jacks everywhere. No takes on the slide rigs. Water conditions were nice.

Wednesday was the ticket. We got there before daybreak and set up. A friend who stayed on the pier overnight had just landed a 8 ft bull shark. Huge Spanish Mackerel were hitting just before light. I threw out an old silver Abu Koster spoon (anyone know where I can get more?) that I had for a while, with a rod that I had just built. It was based on an MHX 8′ 6″ blank rated for 8-15lb. The first cast had several strong whacks that did not connect. Half way through the retrieve, something solid connected and smoked out 20-30 yds of line off my Daiwa Certate 3000. I was slowly pumping it in when the fish suddenly stopped and made a high speed run quartering back to the pier. I reeled slack line frantically and ran to the side to get on top of the fish. This was where the high gear ratio of the Certate came in handy. I had to lean far over the railing with the rod to keep the fish from the pilings.  I thought I was going to either break the line or the rod! Fortunately as is typical of Spanish Mackerels, when you get them to this point, they have pretty much burnt themselves out. This was a huge one too! The largest I’ve seen this season. Easily 25-26″ and fat. After landing the fish I discovered that the 10′ of 30lb test mono top shot was frayed to hell and needed replacing.

Spanish Mackerel
Magnum Spanish Mackerel

During the entire day any kind of silver spoon produced the bigger fish. Green and white jigs worked well too. Some pompano were even caught on green jigs and silver/redhead Gotcha plugs. Aside from the little baby pomp I caught with the Sabiki while catching bait, all the Pompanos caught were larger fish in the 15-17″ range. This continued most of the day till we were all worn out. We had to work our way through lots of Skipjacks which was exhausting. They were tearing up schools of small shad everywhere. The water was literally boiling. Pompanos were mixed in there too but were harder to catch because of the Spanish Mackerel and Skipjacks. We started packing up about 5pm. The last rods to be packed were the slide rigs. While I was cleaning up gear, the slide rigged bait on my self built rod with the Saltiga Lever Drag 30 popped of the release clip and the reel started screaming. I let the fish have his head for about 15 -20 secs by leaving the drag at strike setting. Just enjoying the shrill scream of the reels clicker before tightening up and setting the hook. Seems I burned him up by letting him run so far because he came in quite docile. He was quickly netted and decked. A 25 lb king mackerel is a real nice way to end a trip. Bait was a feisty juvenile Jack Crevalle.

During the day we also saw a huge school of bull reds. The run should start real soon. And a small pod of 2-3 ft tarpon. We also got quite a few 4 ft black tips that we threw back.

Bait balls consisting of mainly of 1-2″ shad were everywhere and the Spanish Mackerel and Skipjacks were just destroying them. Winds light SE/E 6-10 mph, seas were 1-2 ft with no chop. Water was clear green but towards end of day when winds picked up, there a light chop and the clarity diminished. Water temp hovered around 80-81F.

Final tally was a 2 man, 2 day possession limit of 60 Spanish Mackerel (we threw back many smaller fish of less than 16″) and about 17 very good sized pompanos. And countless Skipjacks!

Overall it was an incredible trip with good company, meeting some new friends and catching up with some old ones. Even met a really nice couple from North Texas that recognized me from this blog! What more could a man ask for?  Tight lines!

Gulf Coast Spanish Mackerel and Pompano Tips

Florida Pompano
A typical Florida Pompano (about 18″)

I’ll share this method that we use with great success just about everywhere we fish for Pompano and Spanish Mackerel or ‘Smacks’ as they are often called. In Hawaii, this method is also called ‘whipping’. A very successful method if you have the right gear. We often get other species like kingfish, bluefish and Jack Crevalles this way too.

  • 8-10′ fast action rods. 8-15 lb class. I like Steelhead 2 pc rods
  • Spinning reel: 4000 size with 20lb power pro
  • Terminal rig is basically a bubble float that you fill with water for casting distance (clear because any other color will invite strikes that will cut you off). In the picture I’ve rigged the float up with quality BLACK swivels at each end. Makes it easier to change leaders when cut off.
  • 6-7′ 30# mono between the float and lure(length allows the lure to ride a bit deeper and keep the strikes away from float)
  • 5″ of single strand coffee colored wire 28# to 35# test tied to lure (short length is all you need. I personally only use a 3″ section)
  • Lures of choice are chartreuse speck rig jigs. Because they are so cheap to buy. Spoons and plugs work too but cost much more. Plastics don’t last long. 1/4 oz is best as they have a much heavier duty hook. It’s pretty sad to be catching fish every other cast and see some new guy come along with a nice Rapala or Mirrorlure and try and get in on the action, only to lose a $5-6 lure on the first cast. Color is VERY important. We’ve tried others but Chartreuse is THE BEST color for smacks. You get two to a pack. Just cut off the mono and tie on with wire. One lure per rig is enough. You cannot work two effectively. You can buy them here: http://www.hhlure.com/products/speck-redfish-rig

Method: cast as far as you can, feather the spool at end of cast and the lure will fly ahead of the float and straighten the rig when it hits the water. Useful when it is windy because if you get the lure wrapped over the float, the smack will hit it and cut you off. Whip the rod on a fast retrieve to make the float splash on the surface. Pausing between the splashes will allow the jig to sink a bit. The big ones seem to like the slower retrieve. Sometimes fast and frenetic whipping will often drive bite shy fish crazy. You will often see 3-4 fish fighting over the lure during a retrieve. When you have a fish on try and hold rod up when fighting the fish to keep as much of your line out of the water . Often other smacks will try and hit the lure that is already on the fish or even the float itself. Anything that is a knot or swivel will create a bubble trail in the water during a fight and will invite strikes and subsequent cutoffs.

You may substitute the bubble float for a conventional float (a Launcher float is great for this) and the jig for a live shrimp on a small treble and that will work extremely well too when the fish are fussy.

Splash Rig
Simple Splash Rig

When the smacks are not around, I do away with the wire and tie on a banana jig for pompano.  The pink and yellow color works really well for them.  The colors mimic the ghost shrimp that Pompano feed regularly on. Pompano are generally bottom feeders so to target them you need to have a longer leader (5-7′) so the lure will have a chance to get down to them.  When retrieving, splash the float a couple of times and let sit for 4-5 seconds to allow the lure to flutter down deeper.  The surface splashing will draw their attention to the jig.  Often you will see two or three of them cruising the surface chasing or following the float. When that happens, stop your retrieve and they will go back down after your lure. Here’s a pic of some of my favorite banana jigs.

Doc's Goofy Jigs
Doc’s Goofy Jigs

Pompano season is coming up soon (Sept – Mar).  Best time for them is when the seas are calm after a north wind.  Light northers along the mid to south Texas coast will tend to push bait out from the beach and the pompano are there to feast on small crabs and ghost shrimp. Down there we call these days ‘pomp days’ and are an anxiously awaited event when pompano can be caught right in the surf.

Pompano are also primarily sight feeders so clear water is good time to fish for them but they do rely on scent to locate food (see my post about chumming).  I have fished for them overseas with live bait in murky water and was being out fished by the locals 10 to 1.  They told me to lightly step on the shrimp to get some of the juices out.  It seemed counter intuitive to me to step on a perfectly good live bait but it did worked.  Which is why I have often seen people catch pompano on the pier with fresh dead peeled shrimp when water conditions were far from clear.   These days I always tip my jig or even my live shrimp with a little bit of peeled dead shrimp when I am hunting for them.

I have heard that the best bait for pompano are ghost shrimp but I have never tried catching or have ever used them.  Apparently they are not difficult to catch with store bought ghost shrimp pumps.  I might give them a try this year as I heard they are good for sheephead too.

I know that many folks do really well with shrimp tipped with Fsh Bites. I’ve tried it and can testify that it really works!

That’s all. It doesn’t get any simpler and cheaper. Trust me these techniques really work. Just don’t learn it so well and crowd me out when you see me whipping away happily on the pier.  We were doing this very successfully on 91st pier 12-15 years ago until some others caught on to this technique. Then it became impossible to fish that way anymore as we almost always got crowded out. Now we just fish somewhere else.

Kin
A nice Kingfish caught on light spinning tackle
Spanish Mackerel and Pompanos
A mess of Pompano and Spanish Mackerel

Chum much?

Chumming on the pier?
Let’s face it. If you want to catch fish and if you are like me, you’ll do anything. I admit I’m a bit obsessed about everything that helps me catch more fish. So..the toils of my obsession I am going to share with you so that you might catch more fish.

The idea came to me one day as I recalled how we used to chum when we fished offshore for Yellowfin Tuna and all manner of game fish including snappers. We’d often barter 6 packs for by catch with shrimpers and head out to the rigs and anchor up current. We’d slowly toss out pieces and chunks of scrap fish till we had snapper literally right aft of our stern. We’d do the same with chunking out at the floaters and teasing the tuna out to our boat. Since I don’t go offshore much anymore, I applied the same thinking on the pier where I now almost exclusively fish.

Whenever we’d hook a Spanish Mackerel (Smack) or a Pompano on the pier, I often grab a couple of live shrimp (or dead, or some cut bait) and toss it out into the current. It keeps the school around till we get another line out to them. This works really well since Smacks and Pompano move around a lot and when a school shows up you want to keep them around as long as possible.

In the last 4-5 years I’ve been keeping all our leftover bait fish (shad is great) and shrimp, grinding them up in my meat grinder when I get home (I like the cheap $18 meat grinder from Academy). I even use the leftovers after filleting our catch. I grind everything up, heads tails, bones and all. I then put measured amounts on the mixture in a blender with 50% water and a few table spoons of Menhanden oil. You can buy Menhaden oil anywhere on the internet these days. I often also add some leftover bread to soak in the oils. I pour the resulting slurry into a gallon or sometimes quart sized empty milk bottle and freeze them up. I’ll make up 1 gallon or 2 quart sized bottles per day of fishing.

On the pier, I cut a hole in the bottom of the frozen bottle and hang it over the water with a rope. As the slurry melts it’ll provide a constant drip of stinky goodness into the water. Over the course of the day you’ll actually see an oily slick as far as the eye can see. This often keeps bait fish around the pier and subsequently their predators. Not to mention that it’ll draw predators from miles away. Pompanos love shrimp so I always make sure my chum has a good component of shrimp in it. Chumming does have occasional unusual and unexpected results. Once we had so many Skipjacks around the pier, it was impossible to fish. They were so thick they were hitting bare hooks and anything thing that fell into the water…pieces of paper, pennies, cigarette butts etc. We’ve also had large schools of Redfish patrolling up and down the pier. Hitting everything we threw at them.

If you are as nuts as I am, give it a try and you’ll be surprised what you kind of fish you’ll draw in.

Cobia ling
Light Tackle Cobia

This Cobia and his much bigger girlfriend was circling the pier under the chum bottle for and hour or so but neither would hit anything we put out. They would look at our offerings and turn away. I finally dug around in the bait bucket and found the largest live shrimp we had and free lined it down to them. As soon as the shrimp was in the water, they turned around and fought over it. The smaller of the two was faster and took the bait. 30 back breaking minutes later, we landed him. Since then we’ve caught quite a few more. Some much larger than the one in the pic.

Nice Cobia
Nice Cobia

Please fee free to add what you know or your experiences regarding chumming.