Living on the salt marshes in Murrells Inlet offers the perfect opportunity to fish the tidal waters. The summer months are passing by much too quickly, and soon it will be hunting season, which will abruptly put an end to any fishing excursions. So, we set out on a warm late summer afternoon for some time on the water. After gearing up at Perry’s Bait Shop, we set out with two bait pails full of live finger mullets, mud minnows, and fresh cut mullet, hoping to catch some redfish or maybe a shark. I am always up for an outdoor adventure, and my hopes were high to reel in something exciting and perhaps make a fresh fish dinner!
A short boat ride to the jetties and the channel was exhilarating, as we sliced through the shimmering waters flanked by fluorescent green marsh grasses. The crashing waves at the jetties reminded us that the calmer waters were now behind us.
Fishing by boat at the jetties can be challenging, and we totally respect the dangers that lurk everywhere. The currents, along with the wind and waves kicked up by the heavy boat traffic can cause anchors to break loose, and boats can quickly end up impaled on the rocks. I always keep a sharp eye on the rocks and make sure we are not drifting slowly toward them. From experience, we feel this is the perfect spot, as a lot of bait congregates there attracting the big reds and other sport fish. We always get as close as we can but always with a margin for error in mind.
We rocked with the waves and the blaring classic rock music streaming from our radio as we settled in on what we thought would be the honey hole. We were excited when my hubby, Trippett caught a flounder and I caught a black sea bass soon after anchoring on the north side of the jetties. We had the jetties mostly to ourselves, with only a boat here and there that stopped by for a brief time. No one landed any fish that we could see. I was annoyed when I hooked up with a couple of toadfish, since they are horrible to have to take off a hook. We pretty much drowned the rest of the bait after that!
After a few hours, we decided to get on back to the house. Trippett, my “in-house photographer,’’ snapped a quick photo of me with my single quarry, and I was excited about making a nice fish dinner that evening with the flounder and the black sea bass. In order to make the most of our catch, I perused a couple of recipes for whole fish—head on—and was so excited to see how beautiful the presentation looked. We rarely eat flounder, so I was a little apprehensive about how it would turn out. Since I had cilantro and cucumbers in the fridge, I was excited that this salad garnish would really enhance the dish.
Trippett reluctantly set out to scale the fish, suggesting that he take me out to dinner instead. I kept enticing him with some great ideas such as grilling the fish and he said it was not worth lighting up the grill. I told him I would be happy to broil them in the oven, becoming even more committed to preparing a beautiful dinner. He came into the kitchen from outside with the cleaned fish and my eyes said it all. “Where is the head?” I yelled.
He looked at me with a blank stare and said, “You wanted me to keep the head”?
“Yes, that is the best part of the presentation,” I tried to explain. He just shook his head and said he was very sorry that he beheaded my fish. I was set on trying to make the most of my headless fish dinner, so I pressed onward. I was further irritated to find out that he had inadvertently deleted the photo of me holding my fish, leaving me with only a headless fish to add to my fishing blog post. Geez!
Broiled Flounder with Cucumber and Cilantro Salad
The preparation for the fish dinner was very easy! After a good rinse, I patted the fish dry. I placed them on a cutting board and cut three ¼-inch slits down to the bone. I prepared an herb marinade using minced garlic, olive oil, and a Mediterranean mix of herbs containing marjoram, oregano, red chili pepper, thyme, basil, and rosemary. At first, I thought it might not be a perfect mixture of spices for fish, but I was in an adventurous mood. I added some cracked peppercorns and rubbed the fish well. I put them in the refrigerator for 20 minutes while I prepared the salad.
In a medium bowl, I combined sliced cucumber, cilantro, and scallions with fresh lime juice, ginger, and olive oil. I seasoned the salad with cracked pepper and salt and gave it a light toss.
I turned my oven on broil at 450 degrees and placed the fish on a cooking rack in the oven. I peeked a couple of times since I was not sure how long to cook it. Twenty minutes later, it was perfectly cooked—flaky, white meat and beautifully browned herbed skin. I placed the cucumber and cilantro salad around the fish and it was ready to enjoy!
After a quick photo for my blog, we tasted the fish and were over the top amazed at how wonderful the flounder tasted. The Mediterranean spices perfectly accented the delicate sweetness of the flounder. The black sea bass was meatier, but the flavor was not as delicate as the flounder. Still, not a morsel was wasted, and we both have a much better appreciation for flounder. The salad went beautifully with the other fare, and a bottle of Sancerre paired perfectly. Though my fishing excursion was not as adventurous as I had hoped, my cooking adventure made up for it, and it was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with my favorite fishing buddy!
As appeared in the September Issue of Waccamaw Outdoors.
Maggie is a Realtor, Prois Hunt Staff Member and a hunting & fishing blogger. Her blog site is camo365.com and she welcomes new subscribers!