Gulf Coast Fisherman Magazine Vol 39 No. 1 - Page 34

“Blackened what?!!!”, he retorted, turning crimson. “Listen, I’m not helping anyone further popularize a seafood dish that’s likely to destroy every redfish in the Gulf, and you shouldn’t either!” I BLACKENED WHAT?!!! n the decade of the 1980’s, Paul Prudhomme, a famous New Orleans chef and restaurant owner, came up with an idea for a seafood presentation - BLACKENED REDFISH that inadvertently nearly wiped out redfish stocks in the northern Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional on Paul’s part, just one of those unexplained fads that took on a life of its own and quickly became a national craze. I remember former Bait Hook Editor Dan Bowling’s take on the subject when he and a pal, returning to Brookhaven, MS from a fishing trip to the Louisiana marsh, stopped at a New Orleans restaurant for lunch. When his friend suggested they try “blackened redfish”, Dan reportedly blew his top. “Blackened what?!!!”, he retorted, turning crimson. “Listen, I’m not helping anyone further popularize a seafood dish that’s likely to destroy every redfish in the Gulf, and you shouldn’t either!” If that sounded like an exaggeration, it certainly wasn’t. Jumping on the bandwagon that was currently sweeping the nation, commercial fishermen using spotter airplanes and huge purse seines were busy removing tons of mature redfish from the Gulf daily on a round the clock basis. On a trip to Louisiana’s Chandeleur Islands during this period of uncontrolled slaughter, I witnessed purse seiners at work firsthand. They were methodical and deadly, much like their menhaden industry brethern, only these were not “pogys” they were scooping up but big breeding size redfish. It was spellbinding to watch and at the same time sickening. But all things eventually pass, and now it’s only a sordid chapter in fisheries history. Thankfully, surviving redfish stocks rebounded nicely, and despite the horrific DeepWater Horizon oil disaster in 2010, redfish appear to be abundant throughout their range. 34 G U L F C O A S T F I S H E R M A N While blackened redfish has a certain mystique to it, there are plenty of other Gulf species that lend themselves well to the “blackening process.” Among them: speckled and white trout, southern king whiting, red snapper, grouper, striped bass and maybe best of all, though not a saltwater fish, farm raised channel catfish. If you haven’t tried blackened catfish yet, you’re in for a culinary treat. Some Lesser Known Gulf Goodies Stingray - After you’ve stopped laughing, try to remember if you’ve ever had “Ocean Scallops”. They are stamped out of ray wings and it says so right on the package. And, stingray wings, skinned, marinated, and baked, make wonderful fish tacos. Lookdown - Until Hurricane Elena struck Alabama and Mississippi in 1985, no one knew much about odd lookdowns. This weird storm stalled off Tampa, Florida for several days and brought with it huge quantities of lookdowns and gag grouper. Related to jacks and perhaps pompano, the relatively small lookdowns are considered an excellent food choice. Striped mullet - While valued as baits for everything from trout and flounder to tuna and tarpon, in my opinion mullet have a much nobler purpose. In Mississippi, popeye mullet are called “Biloxi Bacon” and ٝ[