I’ve been asked plenty of times how to catch cutlassfish (also called ribbonfish or hair-tail), but what’s funny is that I get asked even more about what to do with them. People take one look at these long, skinny, toothy critters and don’t know if they should eat them, use them for bait, or just shake them off the hook. Well, they do make a great bait – but they make an even better meal!!
First off, cleaning them is uber-easy. Just lay the fish flat, and slide your fillet knife right along the backbone from head to tail. Then be sure to trim off any fin or rib bones. Don’t worry about the scales and skin, because they don’t have scales and the skin is micro-thin to the point that you can’t even notice it when you eat them.
Next pick your topping. I like crab imperial the best, but you can also use shrimp sauce, white wine sauce, or any other relatively thick topping that goes well with fish. Then lay the fillet skin side down, and slather the meat with it.
Next, starting at one end, roll the fillet into a pinwheel. When you reach the end you can slide a toothpick through the pinwheel to hold it together, or just line the pinwheels up in a baking pan with the ends of the fillets against the side or each other so they don’t come unraveled.
Now bake the pinwheels at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes. Give them some added flare by pouring a bit of imperial topping (a 50-50 mix of mayo and egg yolk beaten into a froth), then hit the broiler for just a minute or two until it browns on top.
Give it a shot, and I’ll bet you never use cutlassfish for bait again – because those crazy-looking fish will be destined for the dinner table.