Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 41; No. 4 - FALL 2017 - Page 28

The Bay Naturalist by John H . Hook

FISH CLEANING Art & Science

Back in the day when trip success was measured by the number of full ice chests that came home , cleaning fish was about speed . Electric knives and fast filets were the rule . I suppose they still are for some , but when a three or five fish limit is the standard for success , speed cleaning isn ’ t nearly as important as it used to be . Many bay fishermen are shifting their cleaning table focus to quality instead of speed .

It ’ s hard to know for sure what caused this shift . I wouldn ’ t be a bit surprised if the sushi invasion over the last 10 to 15 years is as big a factor as declining limits in changing our attitude . Perhaps we just have a greater appreciation for our fish resources now . Whatever the cause , our behavior has changed . Fishermen show up at the table with knife cases and their own cutting boards . Fish throats are now a thing . Occasionally , I even see guys going very old school and scaling and gutting their fish so they can keep them whole . With the focus on product quality , here are a couple of science tricks to processing your fish that will help you get the best possible result . After all , you don ’ t want your five-star recipe turning out to just be three-stars when you serve it .
Remember the concept of osmosis from high school biology ? That is a big deal in having your fish , especially filets , be the best they can be . The osmosis idea is that water crosses cell membranes very easily and always moves from an area where its concentration is higher to where it is lower . All the fluids in cells have lots of minerals dissolved in them which reduces the percent of water . Those minerals are very important . Sports drink advertising makes a fuss about replacing
lost minerals that they call electrolytes . Fish have those electrolytes , too , and it ’ s a struggle for them to keep the balance of water to minerals just right . They must be either getting rid of too much water , or too much mineral , depending on
whether they are in fresh or salt water . If they don ’ t , water either flows quickly into or out of their cells which kills the fish . That ’ s why so few species can live in both fresh and salt water , it ’ s a real challenge to maintain that balance .
When you clean your fish , those cells have no defense against osmosis . Fillets sprayed with tap water immediately begin to take on water since tap water has a higher percent of water in it than cells do . That causes cells to quickly swell and burst . You may have noticed the edges of your filets turning a milky white after washing in tap water . That color change is caused by cells bursting and losing their fluids . Those fluids are what gives fish flavor , texture and moistness when cooked , or eaten as sashimi or ceviche . When the fluids are gone , so is your premium quality filet .
The easiest way to wash your filets and prevent osmotic damage is to wash fish in salt water . That can be as easy as using the water that they Photo were by swimming
Kathy Hook in , if it is close to a beach . Gulf of Mexico salinity is usually pretty close to just what you need . A couple of tablespoons of salt in a quart of water will make your own seawater . It doesn ’ t need to be sea salt either . Osmotic flow across a membrane doesn ’ t depend on what kind of minerals are dissolved in water , just how much , so regular table salt works fine .
Mineral concentration isn ’ t your only adversary either . Most people have gotten away from drinking tap water because it tastes bad . All the intentional and unintentional substances in water out of the kitchen faucet won ’ t hurt you , but they won ’ t make your food better either . Tap water is not a good idea when you want maximum quality fish . A gallon jug of bottled water with a little salt added will rinse a bunch of fish .
The first few times that I fished with a sushi chef friend , he wouldn ’ t let me anywhere near the cleaning table with our trout . We had no intention of turning them into sushi either . He filleted the trout by first gutting , then washing ( in salt water ), then heading , then washing , then drying and finally filleting . He had a special process for filleting , too , but that was more about tradition than improving quality . Back in the kitchen he prepared them karaage style which is a common Japanese frying technique . The difference in fish quality compared to my faster-is-better electric knife product was obvious enough for me to never go back to my old ways .
Now that you are more likely to hit the dock with a limit of three , instead of a cooler of thirty , try maximizing the quality of your catch . There is a bit of art and science to it , but five-star results are well worth the effort .
GCF
28 G U L F C O A S T F I S H E R M A N W W W . G U L F F I S H I N G . C O M
The Bay Naturalist by John H. Hook FISH CLEANING Art & Science B ack in the day when trip success was measured by the number of full ice chests that came home, cleaning fish was about speed. Electric knives and fast filets were the rule. I suppose they still are for some, but when a three or five fish limit is the standard for success, speed cleaning isn’t nearly as important as it used to be. Many bay fishermen are shifting their cleaning table focus to quality instead of speed. It’s hard to know for sure what caused this shift. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the sushi invasion over the last 10 to 15 years is as big a factor as declining limits in changing our attitude. Perhaps we just have a greater appreciation for our fish resources now. Whatever the cause, our behavior has changed. Fishermen show up at the table with knife cases and their own cutting boards. Fish throats are now a thing. Occasionally, I even see guys going very old school and scaling and gutting their fish so they can keep them whole. With the focus on product quality, here are a couple of science tricks to processing your fish that will help you get the best possible result. After all, you don’t want your five-star recipe turning out to just be three-stars when you serve it. Remember the concept of osmosis from high school biology? That is a big deal in having your fish, especially filets, be the best they can be. The osmosis idea is that water crosses cell membranes very easily and always moves from an area where its concentration is higher to where it is lower. All the fluids in cells have lots of minerals dissolved in them which reduces the percent of water. Those minerals are very important. Sports drink advertising makes a fuss about replacing 28 G U L F C O A S T F I S H E R M A N lost minerals that they call electrolytes. Fish have those electrolytes, too, and it’s a struggle for them to keep the balance of water to minerals just right. They must be either getting rid of too much water, or too much mineral, depending on whether they are in fresh or salt water. If they don’t, water either flows quickly into or out of their cells which kills the fish. That’s why so few species can live in both fresh and salt water, it’s a real challenge to maintain that balance. When you clean your fish, those cells have no defense against osmosis. Fillets sprayed with tap water immediately begin to take on water since tap water has a higher percent of water in it than cells do. That causes cells to quickly swell and burst. You may have noticed the edges of your filets turning a milky white after washing in tap water. That color change is caused by cells bursting and losing their fluids. Those fluids are what gives fish flavor, texture and moistness when cooked, or eaten as sashimi or ceviche. When the fluids are gone, so is you )ɕմՅ䁙и)QͥЁ݅Ѽ݅͠ȁ)ɕٕЁ͵ѥ́Ѽ݅͠)͠ͅЁ݅ѕȸQЁ́䁅)-ѡ!)ͥѡ݅ѕȁѡЁѡAѼ)ݕɔݥ)Ё͔́Ѽձ5᥍)ͅ䁥́Յɕ䁍͔ѼЁݡ)ԁх́ͅ)ՅЁ݅ѕȁݥȁݸ)͕݅ѕȸ%ЁͻeЁѼ͕ͅ)ѡȸ=͵ѥ܁ɽ́Ʌ)ͻeЁݡЁ)Ʌ́ɔͽٕ݅ѕȰ)Ё܁Սͼɕձȁх)ͅЁݽɭ́)5ɅɅѥ)ͻeЁȁ䁅ٕͅ)ѡȸ5Ёٔ)ѕ݅䁙ɽɥх)݅ѕȁ͔Ёхѕ́)ѡѕѥչ)ѕѥՉх́݅ѕ)ЁѡэՍ)ݽeЁЁ԰Ёѡ)ݽeЁȁѕ)ѡȸQ݅ѕȁ́Ё)ݡԁ݅)᥵մՅ䁙͠)՜ѱ݅ѕ)ݥѠѱͅЁݥɥ͔չ)͠)QЁ܁ѥ́ѡЁ$͡ݥѠ)͡ɥݽձeЁЁ)ݡɔȁѡхݥѠ)ɽи]ѕѥɹ)ѡѼ͡ѡȸ!ѕѡ)ɽЁ䁙Ёѥѡ݅͡ͅ)݅ѕȤѡѡ݅͡ѡ)她䁙ѥ!)ɽ́ȁѥѽЁѡ)݅́ɔЁɅѥѡɽ٥)Յ丁 ѡэɕɕ)ѡɅ屔ݡ́))͔她ѕՔQ)ɕ͠Յ䁍ɕѼ)ѕȵ̵ѕȁɥɽՍЁ݅)٥́՝ȁѼٕȁ)Ѽ䁽̸݅)9܁ѡЁԁɔɔѼ)ѡݥѠЁѡɕѕ)ȁѡ䰁䁵᥵饹ѡ)Յ䁽ȁэQɔ́Ё)Ё͍ѼаЁٔхȁɕձ)ɔݕݽѠѡи) )\\\T0$L $8 <