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Bluefish has gotten a bum rap. Unjustly maligned as too strong and, well, fishy, it is in fact a fine eating fish. It is also one that must be eaten right after it's caught or, after careful cleaning, cooked within the next two days.
Because blues are mightly swimmers and long-distance migrators, a fish caught off the coast of Rhode Island today, might have been scaring up schools of baitfish off the coast of Africa last week. Blues have jaws of steel and rows of sharp teeth. They are popular sport fish because they are great fighters and travel in large schools that can suddenly appear anywhere on the Eastern seaboard.
Fishermen are especially fond of blues at this time of year because the fish have grown to optimum fighting weight: as large as18 to 20 pounds. The perfect eating size is 5 to 10 pounds, though I will gladly clean and eat any size blue that is given to me. Unfortunately, many fisherman don’t want to eat the fish they reel in, and I have too often seen them thrown into garbage cans near the shore. What a shame!
After skinning a bluefish fillet, you must cut out all of the red, oily line that runs the length of fish. You are left with one fat fillet and one thin one. Oddly enough, applying mayonnaise to bluefish actually takes away the oily taste that offends certain picky eaters. I like to mix mayo, mustard, hot smoked paprika and lemon juice and smear it on the fillets. Season them with salt and pepper, grill them, and you have a special treat. As a variation, push the hot coals to one side, throw a large bunch of hardwood chips over them, put the bluefish on the cool side of the grill, cover and let it slowly cook to a rich smokiness. This is bluefish at its best.