Our favorite time of year has returned to St. George Island — redfish season! This fish is just as interesting as it is delicious, so we’ve rounded up some facts, and, of course, a recipe to celebrate.
Also known as red drum, channel bass, spottail bass (for the distinctive spots on the tail that look like eyes to confuse predators), or just simply red, redfish are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. They can live to be over 40 years old, and in the warm Florida waters, they can grow to be 45 inches long and over 50 pounds! Because of the popularity of redfish, the breed was almost fished out of existence by the mid-1980s. Thankfully, aggressive conservation measures have allowed the red drum to return and thrive.
This mild, flaky, delicate fish can be prepared a variety of ways: fried, sautéed, broiled, baked, or—our favorite—grilled. Due to the flaky texture of the fish, it has a tendency to fall through the grill, so try using a mesh screen. Another way to keep your dinner intact is to cook the fish “on the half shell”—that is, with the scales still present. You simply skip the skinning and cut two fillets from each fish along the backbone, then you’re ready to go. No clean up!
When paired with a fruit salsa, grilled redfish on the half shell is the perfect dish to get you in that island state of mind.
Also included are oven instructions for rainy days, and this recipe can also be used for redfish fillets, if that’s what you’re working with—just reduce the cooking by a few minutes.
Redfish on the Half Shell
6 redfish fillets, scales and skin left on
Italian salad dressing
2 large lemons, thinly sliced
1 large lemon, halved
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the fillets in a pan, scales side down.
Pour Italian dressing generously over the fillets. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes.
Remove fillets from the marinade, draining excess.
Sprinkle with a little with Creole seasoning.
Grill or broil.
On the Grill: Preheat an outdoor grill. Grill the fish for three minutes flesh sides down with the lid closed. We’re going for grill marks here. Flip the fish so that the scales are now on the grill, and place thin lemon slices along this fish fillets. Allow the fish to cook approximately 6-8 more minutes or until just cooked through. Check thickest part of flesh for doneness. Flesh needs to be opaque all the way to the skin. Squeeze the remaining half lemon over the fish. Remove from the grill.
In the Oven: Set oven rack to the center of the oven. Place thin lemon slices along the fish. Broil fish, skin side down, for approximately 20 minutes leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Check thickest part of flesh for doneness. Flesh needs to be opaque all the way to the skin.
Pineapple Mango Salsa
1 large ripe mango, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup fresh, chopped pineapple
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve. May be made a day or two ahead.