Thursday, October 16, 2008


the blues
I read this fishing column, by Captain Morgan, fairly often and it's never clear to me if it's a real "news" column or if he pays to publish it -- after all, every column ends with what is essentially an ad for his business.

Nevertheless, he makes an interesting point in this week's: bluefish are way abundant in Long Island Sound, they're not bad to eat and food prices are rising, so instead of always practicing catch-and-release, try catch-and-eat or catch-and-give-away-to-someone-who-would-appreciate-it. And you can keep 10 a day:

So the next time you’re out and about hooking into pound-for-pound one of the best fighting fish, before releasing it, check over your shoulder or think of a neighbor. It wouldn’t hurt to ask if anyone would like to take it home for the table. Certainly, in this—the year of the bluefish—there are plenty of fillets to go around, and then some.


Anonymous Bryan said...

I think the good captain was a little remiss in not mentioning the NYS DOH health advisory for bluefish in LIS: eat no more than one meal per week.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Great point, Bryan, and who knows why I missed making it myself. Like striped bass, bluefish are contaminated with PCBs.

Captain Morgan is in Connecticut but the advisory is even more stringent there than in New York -- eat no more than one meal per month (except for snappers, or small blues, which have no PCB contamination issues).

You can cut and past this url to read the Connecticut guide; scroll all the way down for "Special Advice for Long Island Sound" --

The guide, by the way, is called "If I Catch It, Can I Eat It." A wag from the Health Department who spoke at the Citizens Summit last March joked that it could also be called, "If I Eat It, Can I Catch It?"

12:07 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Funny, I just checked on CT advisories, too. I was aware of some PCB issues in the Hudson and some of the polluted inland rivers, but didn't think it that extreme in the open waters of LIS or near the Atlantic. I guess for pregnant women and other high-risk individuals, fish consumption should be limited - although I can say the same about beef as well (hamburger with E. coli can kill people!).

As for mercury, Blue Fish are in the middle of the range of concentrations but much lower than King Mackerel, tilefish, shark, and swordfish. There is a debate among scientists about whether the benefits of eating fish, such as the Omega acids, outweigh the amount of ingested methyl mercury.

For oily, fatty fish such as blue fish, the idea is to cut out the dark meat by the lateral line, dispose of the innards, and chop off the belly meat. This significant;y reduces both the PCB and mercury content of the fish, since those pollutants tend to concentrate in fat.

Myself, I'm not making babies anymore, so I eat all the fish I can get. I've almost eliminated red meat - which I consider a heck of a goal. And please don't get the scientists to tell us what's in fish when you BBQ or smoke the stuff - I'm sure the numbers would kill you at three paces. -sam

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Here's a fish-eating anecdote: A close relative recently had a blood test that included mercury. She ended up getting a letter from the local DOH which completely freaked her out. Presumably, her doctor or the lab was prompted to report the result to the DOH.

I don't remember the exact mercury level, but she was just above the level that would be a real concern if she were pregnant or of child-bearing age. She's a little beyond that age, but the letter didn't provide any of that background. Apparently, the DOH sends it out to all women who get flagged for mercury.

Now, the level of mercury that triggers such a letter is well below the level that would be considered mercury poisoning, but again, the letter didn't go into all that detail. So now, she's worried that she needs to have her kids tested.

After phone calls to DOH and web research, she calms herself that it wasn't a real serious situation. Her web research turned up the fish advisories. Her husband is a sport fisherman and brings home lots of blues. She also eats sushi regularly. Coincidentally, she had a bluefish meal a few days before her blood test.

She gets another test a week or so later and her mercury level was fine (detectable, but very low).

Was it the bluefish? Was it the sushi? Was it necessary to send out that letter? We don't know.

Sam asks a very good questions: Do the health benefits of eating fish, particularly locally-caught fish, outweigh the risk from PCB and mercury in adults?

And Sam, kudos for your new diet. Unfortunately, I find myself going in the other direction. Although seafood is available (and catfish is everywhere), I can't drive a mile without seeing grazing cattle, and they're not dairy cows. Beef is everywhere and I've found it very hard to resist grilling a good skirt steak.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Rick said...

Just a quick comment here: Don't take any more bluefish than you plan on eating fresh. Bluefish really doesn't freeze well, and when one thaws it's a lot less appetizing as when it was fresh. Just because they're relatively abundant is no reason to waste them.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

That was funny Bryan - do you snoop on my blogs or what? If I ever do cow again I think I'll find a young one that was organic / grass fed and split it 4 ways because it is rather expensive for the good stuff - I'm talking meat that hardly needs a knife. That last fajita meat I had could have been used for road paving!

Back to the fishies, it is true that fatty species like mackerel and blue fish do not freeze well at all. The trick is to kill the fish quickly, drain its blood, and ice it down to 31 degrees as soon as possible. I use a hammer handle, no hammer heard, so dispatch the fish right between the eyes. Then I make a cut under the gill area with a small knife, which ruptures its main arteries. After a short time, toss the fish on a mixture of ice and water like a slurry and clean the decks because blood is slippery. This is how grade-A tuna is treated because bad preparation increases lactic acid and a really foul taste in the fish.

This is not for tuna but with fish like the blues, fillet and skin them as quick as possible and be thinking of what you're going to do with the scraps. Any red meat and belly meat is discarded. This cuts down on the pollutant content of the fish, as well as its nastier off-tastes, very quickly.

Fish soup or blue fish broiled in sweet butter, paprika, and lemon isn't too darn bad if you do it right.

Following these and some good sanitation rules, all the sudden "trash fish" like mackerel and blue fish will taste wonderful.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

I love eating bluefish.
I freeze 6 lbs on Sundays and have almost all the meal I need for the week. I freeze 11" - 12" individuals, are they a Mercury Risk?

9:50 AM  

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