Anglers Journal

Catch It, Cook It

I cooked the first fish I ever caught. I was in my 20s, on vacation in the Florida Keys. The weather was crazy cold: in the 30s. Lying around in the sun in Margari-taville wasn’t in the cards. With nothing better to do, I took a drive from Big Pine Key to Marathon. A sign caught my eye: “Party Boat, Grouper, $9.”

Why the hell not? I thought. Fishing would beat shopping for Hawaiian shirts and conch-shell jewelry, which appeared to be the most robust local industries. I plunked down nine bucks and, a few hours later, found myself hooked up to a 35-pound grouper. He wasn’t a big guy by grouper standards, but he was big enough for me to take the $54 pool. Not a bad haul for my maiden voyage.

Back at the motel on Big Pine Key, I followed the captain’s instructions: dredge the thick fillets in flour, then buttermilk and eggs, then a finishing coat of crushed cornflakes. The grouper fried up beautifully and went down deliciously, assisted by the coldest martini I could muster.

I was hooked. Fishing pretty much took over my life. Shortly thereafter, when I was excused from my job at I began to write about the outdoors — mostly fishing plus a little hunting. I’d cooked ever since my teenage burger-flipping-and-pastrami-steaming days,

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