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canberra, south coast & snowy mtns with rob paxevanos
Rob Paxevanos
Dated: 9 March, 2012
Is the humble slimy mackerel much more than a baitfish?

Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0691 written for the week of Wednesday 7/3/2012

The Slimy Mackerel-Bait Fish, Table Fish or Both?

Most southern saltwater anglers have at one point or another been reeling in loads of slimy mackerel and immediately thought to themselves ‘great bait’. Disregarding them as a table species is par for the course, but have many of us got it wrong?

I have put then on the camp fire when starving with reasonable results. I also tried the commercially available pickled versions, and have had them in various Japanese dishes, all with surprisingly good results. But like most anglers, when I catch them, the first thing I still think is: ‘fresh bait’.

My horizons were broadened on this topic while having a fish off the T Wharf down on the Clyde River with fish monger Harry Giatris from ‘the Bay Marlin’.
We started to catch a few slimys on the high tide, which happens a lot at this time of year, and Harry starts bleeding them and putting them in the ice bucket I had reserved for the ‘table fish’. When I broached this with him he simply said “keep fishing” and continued with this bizarre behavior before disappearing over to the shop to get his filleting knife.

Upon his return he grabbed the bucket and started to fillet the slimys into perfect little sides placing them on some paper towel to dry before packing up the gear and heading over to the shop to finish whatever it was he was doing with my bait!

It turns out he was using them in an old Greek recipe his father Dennis had passed down to him a few years ago called Pasto, which means cooked in salt.
He gets a large tray covered with about an inch of rock salt and lays the fillets flesh down on the salt, covers the first layer with an inch of salt and repeat the process with another layer of fish and salt.

From there Harry put an old heavy recipe book on top of the last layer of salt pressing down on the mix to help the salt dry and cook the mackerel. The tray was then placed in the fridge on a slight angle to let the juices run down away from the flesh.

A week passed and Harry was exited to show me this mix he had made with some fresh chopped chillies, cloves of garlic and a large jar filled with cold pressed olive oil.

He placed a few fillets of the now dry cooked slimy fillets into a jar followed by some of the garlic and chilli followed by more fish then more garlic and chilli and finally covered the lot with olive oil to help preserve the mix.

Harry gave me the jar and told me to keep it in a cool dry place but not refrigerated, and then try some in about Ten days’ time. Ten days! The wait was killing me!
Upon opening the jar you are met with a very Mediterranean aroma, the kind you would get walking into an old style deli. I squeezed on some fresh lemon as recommended and the taste-extremely nice if you’re in the mood for something with some tang and kick! If you like the more common pickled fish type recipes-you’ll love this!

The dish goes very well as a snack or entrée washed down with a cold beverage of choice. As Adam says-Kali Orexi

You will be pleased to hear that Slimey Mackerel are plentiful in the warmer months; a catch is all but guaranteed.

If you don’t know how, in the estuaries and bays a little burley is very helpful and a size 6 long shanked hooks tipped with pilchard bait or some catcher rigs will do the trick.

If they are bubbling everywhere, like they often do, especially around the headlands and out at sea, a small metal lure or better still a small lightly weighted plastic cast through the school is great fun. Using 6 pound leader or less is the secret. Larger thicker schools showing on the sounder can be jigged on larger bait catcher type rigs. Catching 6 at a time is the norm here, especially at the moment!

I will still be catching them for bait, but will be putting some aside for Pesto now I have a taste for it. Best of all, using this very abundant bait fish as food takes pressured off less prolific harder to catch species. And that tastes good too!

See you on the water

Rob Paxevanos

Rob Paxevanos Fishnet Pro Angler

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