Are Redfish Good To Eat?

In short, Yes, Redfish are good to eat. But, you may want to focus on redfish smaller than 24 inches or so. Redfish are a very popular  with anglers across the Southeast. Overall, It’s a great food fish and can be prepared in many different ways. 

In the 1980s it was legal to commercially harvest and then sell Redfish. It became a very popular fish at restaurants. 

Blackened redfish in Louisiana style became all the rage. Then, worries about the population being adversely affected took center stage. Sportfishing organizations lobbied to have reds declared a game fish and given protection. 

By 1988, Florida and 5 other states had made it illegal to sell Redfish.

Since then redfish have become a common and sought after game fish throughout the southeast.

Saltwater anglers enjoy catching Redfish. There are even fishing tournaments that feature redfish. Many anglers are very enthusiastic about cooking their catch. There are even restaurants that will cook your catch for you.

Redfish Distribution 

Redfish  also known as the  red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) is found in the Atlantic Ocean. It ranges in the north from about Massachusetts to Florida in the south. 

It is also found in the Gulf Of Mexico and in northern Mexican waters.

They are related to the black drum and can often be found in similar locations. Redfish have also been known to interbreed with the black drum to produce a hybrid species.

Redfish Habitat

Redfish inhabit shallow waters. You can usually find them in shallow bays in water that can be inches deep. Of course, they also enter deeper channels as well. 

They are common in saltwater grass flats. There they hunt after small baitfish and crustaceans. Soft mud bottoms where they can dig for crabs are also good locations.  They’re generally bottom feeders, but will rise to the surface occasionally. 

Redfish can also survive in freshwater and have been known to swim up to several miles upriver.

Redfish are a dark red or orangish color near the top of their body. The coloration fades to a white color as you progress to the bottom of the body. They also have a dark spot at the top of the base of the tail. Some redfish have more than one black spot. It’s very rare for a redfish to not have a spot. 

Redfish are a highly valued sport fish. They are very popular with inshore saltwater anglers.  Their predatory nature means they can be caught with typical bait and lure choices.

Redfish Taste

Smaller Redfish less than 24 inches will be the best tasting. They will have a mild flavor with a semi flaky texture. It will not be super flaky.

Many who enjoy Refish compare it to the flavor of Red Snapper. Avoid larger specimens as their meat may become tough and take on a more fishy flavor.

Some connoisseurs say that redfish has a mild sweet flavor. 

Of course, much depends on how you prepare and cook. 

Some like to make sure they trim off any dark meat left over from bloodlines. But many cook redfish fillets without any additional trimming.

Blackened redfish is an extremely popular recipe. However, redfish lends itself to being baked, or grilled as well.

Preparing Redfish

When preparing redfish, filleting is the most popular option. Being a more oblong fish, redfish lends itself well to this preparation.

You can go with the standard filleting procedure or you can try redfish on the half-shell. Redfish on the half-shell means that the skin and scales have been left on. 

Before you start the process of filleting a redfish, make sure you have a very sharp knife on hand. Filleting a fish with a dull knife can lead to a disgusting mess.

Also, having a thin bladed knife is useful. The bending of the blade helps you flatten it against the cutting surface.

Before you start filleting a redfish, I recommend you gut it first. To gut the fish:

1. Insert the knife in between the pectoral fins.

2. Run the knife down to the vent.

3. Open the body cavity and remove the guts.

4. Discard the guts or save them for chum.

To fillet a redfish, you can follow the standard procedure listed below:

1. With the knife perpendicular to the fish, make a cut behind the gill plate. Cut down through the meat until you hit the spine.

2. Turn the knife 90 degrees so that it is now parallel to the cutting surface. The blade of the knife is now pointing towards the tail. You’re ready to cut towards the tail.

3. Proceed cutting with the knife running down the side of the spine. Cut towards the tail. Try to get as much meat as possible as you cut back towards the tail.

4.Right before you get to the tail stop. Flip the fillet over so that the meat is now facing up. 

5. If you’re planning to cook the fillets on the half shell, you can just cut the fillet off the tail. You’re done.

6. For a regular fillet, you now have to cut the skin and scales off. With the fillet facing you, make sure the meat side is up and still attached at the tail.

7. With the knife parallel to the cutting board, you’re trying to slide the blade between the meat and the skin. This can be the trickiest part. Make sure to keep the blade straight. Sometimes if the fillets have a curve in them, it may cause the blade to cut through the meat.

8. Starting at the tail, place the knife between the meat and the skin and start sliding it towards the other end. As you do this you can slowly move the knife towards you. As you look at the top of your knife hand, it will be a pulling towards you motion.

9. Continue cutting across the meat until you cut the whole fillet off the skin.

You’re done. You should now have a redfish fillet. Make sure to inspect the fillet for any bones that may remain.

Cooking Redfish

One of the most popular  ways to cook redfish is to blacken it. I’ll provide that recipe below. But remember, if you don’t like blackened recipes, which can be nice and spicy, there are many other ways to cook redfish.

Grilled redfish is a great recipe. All you need is a fish grilling basket like the one here. You can put the fillets in the basket and then grill them for a couple of minutes on each side. 

You can do this over a charcoal or gas grill to get that nice grilled flavor.

The basket will help keep the fillets together and help you turn them over easily.

Blackened Redfish Recipe

Ingredients:

1 tsp. sweet paprika

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. freshly ground white pepper

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 (6 oz.) 1/2-inch–thick fillets skinless, boneless Redfish.

Combine paprika, salt, cayenne pepper, black and white pepper, thyme, oregano,  onion and garlic powders, in a small bowl.

Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat.  Turn on the fan, open windows or consider doing this outside on a grill. This will prevent smoke from accumulating indoors. 

In a medium sauce pan melt the butter on low heat.

Coat the Redfish fillets with the melted butter.

Then, coat them with the seasoning mixture. 

Place the fillets on the skillet. 

Pour 1 Tbsp of butter over the fillet. 

Cook until bottom of fillets appear charred.

Turn the fillets over.

Pour 1 Tbsp of butter over fillets.

Cook until fillets are done.

Conclusion

Redfish is a delicious fish. But since commercial harvest is illegal, you will have to find a source for them. This is a great thing. You’ll catch your own or enjoy fresh caught redfish from an angler friend.
Enjoying fresh caught fish that’s sourced via hook and line is a great way to have seafood and protect the environment from over harvest.

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