As the great Jimmy Buffet once said in the song “The Coast is Clear,” “They’re closing down the hangouts, the air is turning cool, they’re shutting off the super slide, the kids are back in school” That song rings true to me at this time every year. There is still some fishing to be done and you can do it without all the crowds.
The red drum are stacked up in the inlets and the speckled trout are for sure on the feed in the surf and in the creeks. Mirrolures, VuDu shrimp and gulps will get the job done for the specks. The reds can be caught with gold spoons and-or cut bait if you are so inclined.
Since my fishing report is rather scant, I thought I would talk about my second love, which is preparing seafood. Yes, Yes, Yes, seafood is easy to cook but so many people do it so wrong. Many people think of cooking seafood the same way you cook anything else, but the flavors of most seafood are just too delicate to be cooked long or with too much seasoning. Shrimp for example: Most folks buy shrimp and cook them way too long or with too much liquid. The truth is when a shrimp is introduced to boiling water, 2-3 minutes is all that is needed to achieve doneness. I have seen old timers boil shrimp for 20 minutes and then wonder why they are rubbery. If you want a really good boiled shrimp, try and boil them in their most natural state. If you can get shrimp with the head on for goodness sake do not head them before cooking and for sure do not shell them unless it is a must for a recipe. Leaving heads and shells on help to keep flavors and moisture inside assuring you will have a tender very flavorful shrimp. I will boil my shrimp for about two minutes and then plunge them into an ice bath to halt the cooking process. I even do this if I want hot boiled shrimp but I pull them out of the ice bath while they are still warm.
Oysters are another seafood people tend to mangle. I cooked some mighty fine Stump Sound singlets last night, and I cooked them two ways: I steamed some and roasted others. The roasted oysters were far superior in taste than the same steamed oysters. I did not just willy nilly toss a big load of oysters into a fire. I laid them out over coals on a grate. As soon as I see one starting to spit it gets removed. I think the steam washes away taste and roasting concentrates the flavor. If you must steam them, do so with as much steam as possible and as high a fire as you can manage. When you see the first one open count to 20 and remove all of them. If one doesn’t open easily you can always hit it with a little more steam. Some people prefer well-done oysters, which I cannot comprehend; but to each his own. I prefer to slurp oysters rather than chew them. Check with your crowd and ask who likes their oysters well-done and humor them.
Fish is a seafood that people overcook a lot as well. Fish needs to be cooked hot and fast. Think stir fry. Get your oil as hot as you can without smoking (every oil has a different smoke point), and drop the battered fish in. When you see golden brown crusts remove the fish. If you fry anything properly there is not much oil left in the food once it is removed. You want moisture in the fish to be pushing out all the time. When moisture is escaping oil cannot penetrate. If you fry anything too long all the moisture escapes and allows oil to seep in resulting in greasy food. Lastly, do not drain your fish on paper towels, newspaper or anything like that. Use a metal rack. Paper products will just keep the oil close to the fish as it cools allowing it to penetrate. A metal rack on the other hand will allow any excess oil to drip away and not stay on your crust.
Until next week — tight lines and fair winds.
Capt. Chris Medlin is a third-generation tackle shop owner and charter captain. He makes his home on Topsail but loves fishing all over. Most of the time you can find him at East Coast Sports in Surf City or just contact him through his website at Eastcoastsports.com.