Taking advantage of island life means not only enjoying the water for relaxation and sporting purposes, but also for the fish and seafood bounty it provides.
The waters surrounding Long Island teem with delicious creatures this time of year. From the Sound, east around the forks and back west where the island meets the Atlantic, ‘tis the season for seafaring food. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s website (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor) boasts a wealth of information regarding fishing regulations, size and catch limits, as well as seasonal data, so fishers can see exactly what is available on the offshore menu.
In-season fish this time of year include fluke (sometimes called summer flounder), scup (more commonly referred to as porgy), striped bass and black sea bass. Of course, there are plenty of other fish available year-round, as well as some fresh water offerings on and around the island, but for this column, I’m going to focus on saltwater, seasonal catches.
An old idiom says “all fluke are flounder, but not all flounder are fluke.” It’s best not to get too bogged down in the specifics—just know that fluke is in season through Sept. 21, with a limit of three per reeler. This flat bottom-feeder is best prepared broiled with a lemon-butter sauce. Fluke flesh is white and mild, extremely delicate in flavor and texture. For anyone who doesn’t want their fish to taste like fish, this is your catch.
Porgy is one of the island’s most plentiful fish and as such, the limit is 30 per reeler through Dec. 31. Out of all the fish in the sea, Long Islanders need to take advantage of the abundance of porgy. Used as bait for bigger fish, porgy is often overlooked, especially at local restaurants. The flesh is sweet and mild, but the true jackpot is porgy skin—which gets nice and crispy when pan fried or grilled. Porgies do have a lot of bones, so it is difficult to fillet in a way that strips the fish of the most meat as possible. That is why whole preparation is the best way to enjoy porgy.
Marine-water striped bass is limited to one per sea customer and the season runs through Dec. 15. When caught in the wild, striped bass are much bigger than their farmed counterparts, if you can catch one, expect a haul of meat. The fish is moderately fatty, with rich flavors and large, firm flakes. A chunk of wild striped bass is perfect for grilling, as it’s strong enough to hold its shape and develops a crisp crust.
Black sea bass is seasonally tri-tiered: June 27 to Aug. 31 (at three fish per fisher), Sept. 1 to Oct. 31 (at eight fish per fisher) and Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 (at 10 per fisher). This is another fish that is best prepared whole, perhaps pan roasted with herbs, fennel, lemon garlic and capers.
When you shove off on a fishing trip aboard a party or charter boat, most crews will scale, gut and clean your catch to your specifications. If you want it filleted, they’ll do it—and if you want the head and body to remain intact but the guts removed, they’ll happily do that as well.
But if you go fishing out on your own, be sure to read up on the different ways to clean each species, as not all fish are created equal.
Again, this is only a small sampling of what Long Island’s many bodies of water offer, but it is a good place to start when you’re in the mood for a “reel” good meal.