There are some really strange fish swimming around in the Gulf, many of which we anglers catch by accident now and again. With all three of these species we’re about to look at below, the common reaction is to gawk at them a bit, then shake them off the hook and watch them swim away. Who would dare eating such odd-looking creatures? If, however, you’d ever tried one of these, chances are that crazy-looking critter would go right into the fishbox. Because despite their awkward appearance these species are all quite tasty.
Toad Fish – You’ll hear toad fish described as ugly, slimy, disgusting, and scary. It’s true, these are some of the ugliest fish swimming around in the Gulf. They look sort of like a pile of mud with a huge set of jaws and molar-like teeth. Behind that massive head, however, on either side of the backbone there’s a strip of meat that will shock you with its excellent flavor. Cleaning them isn’t easy due to the abnormal amount of slime (try holding the head with a paper towel in your left hand, while you do the cutting from left to right) and the yield is low (think of them like catfish, where half the body weight is all head). Get over your initial revulsion, however, and you’re in for a tasty treat.
Sea Robin – How many times have you tossed a sea robin back over the side, without thinking twice? Well next time, force yourself to hesitate. Although few people ever try it, the sea robin’s meat is white, firm, and delicious. This shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise – have you ever noticed that this species is often mixed in where you catch flounder? That’s because they have very similar feeding habits and as a result, their meat really isn’t all that different.
Filefish – Here’s another creature that evokes a gasp when it is brought over the gunwale, but rarely gets harvested. That’s a shame, because filefish do taste quite good. Note their similarity to triggerfish, another odd-looking species which most anglers recognize as excellent table fare. Yup, you guessed it – filefish have a similar diet, and taste much like those triggerfish.
If you’re brave enough, bold enough, and hungry enough to give one of these weird-looking fish a try, we’ll bet you don’t regret it. And if there’s still any doubt in your mind, remember: almost everything tastes good, when it’s fried in butter.