Are Pinfish Good to Eat? You May Be Surprised!

Pinfish are an abundant saltwater species that can easily be caught in coastal waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Also sometimes called bream or sand perch, pinfish are usually caught and used as live bait…but what about eating them for a meal?

Are Pinfish good to eat? What do they taste like?

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about eating pinfish.

Table of Contents

Are Pinfish Good To Eat?

Although pinfish are perfectly ok to eat, many anglers will opt not to due to their small size. Pinfish have a mild flavor and are relatively easy to catch, but because they are so small and contain a lot of bones, many will say that they are not worth the work to make a meal.

Are Pinfish Good to Eat? You May Be Surprised!

In addition to their small size, pinfish have many small bones that can be extremely hard to remove.

If you do eat them, you will most likely have to wait for a larger specimen to eat or deal with the tiny bones as you eat them. 

Are Pinfish Edible?

Pinfish are completely edible and safe to eat, although they are not commonly viewed as a desirable food source. They are small, and most anglers opt to use them as bait to catch larger and more prized fish.

They make amazing snook bait!

What Do Pinfish Taste Like?

Many fish will have a taste similar to whatever their diet consists of and pinfish are no different. Pinfish eat crabs, barnacles, shrimp, and other tiny shellfish and marine invertebrates. This influences the taste and quality of their meat.

Due to their shellfish diet, pinfish have a very mild and semi-sweet flavor. The meat is soft, and best when cooked fresh. 

Are Pinfish Safe to Eat?

Pinfish are perfectly safe to eat. The main things you need to be aware of when consuming pinfish are potential parasites and the extremely small bones that are in the fish. Pinfish are subject to various parasites like any other saltwater fish so caution must be used to cook the fillet thoroughly.

Pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides) are a very bony fish and you could potentially choke on any of the small bones if they are not removed properly.

As long as you take the proper precautions with the preparation and cooking of pinfish, however, they are perfectly safe to eat! 

Are Pinfish Poisonous?

Due to their vibrant colors, appearance, and sharp dorsal spines running along their backs, many people believe pinfish to be poisonous.

Pinfish, however, are not poisonous. They can be safely caught, handled, and eaten without any worry. With a little bit of precaution around their dorsal spines, pinfish are essentially harmless and can be handled and eaten without worry.

Some anglers have complained of a stinging sensation when they are pricked by the sharp needle-like dorsal fins (hence the name Pin-fish).

However, this is not from poison or venom…instead, this is likely from salt, dirt, or other debris getting into the wound.

If you are ‘pricked‘ by a pinfish spine, wash the area thoroughly with soap and fresh water.

How Do You Clean a Pinfish?

Pinfish are extremely small and can be a little tricky to properly clean. You will need a few of them in order to make a good meal.

It is also easier to clean and prepare a pinfish if it is a larger specimen. The larger the pinfish, the easier to clean and the more meat you will get from it. 

I’ve caught big pinfish up to 8 inches long!

For larger pinfish, it is best to carefully fillet them. Start by making a cut from below the gill flap down to the belly of the fish. Make another shallow cut behind the head and along the top of the dorsal fin down to the tail. Slowly skim your knife over the bones and towards the tail of the fish until the fillet is released. 

For smaller pinfish, it is easier to fry or cook them whole instead of attempting to fillet them.

In order to do this, however, you must still remove the scales before you get started.

You will also need to gut the fish and remove the gills before cooking. 

How Do You Cook a Pinfish?

Pinfish can be prepared in many different ways. From frying to baking, their great taste gives you many different options when it comes to cooking. The meat is semi-soft with a mild taste, making it perfect for a variety of different recipes. 

One of the most popular ways to cook pinfish is to carefully fillet them and then deep fry them. Although the fillets are very small, 5 to 8 pinfish should be enough to create a decent meal. 

If you do not want to deal with small fillets, another popular cooking method is to bake pinfish. Follow these steps below.

  • Simply scale and gut each fish.
  • Place a layer of cut onions in the bottom of a foil-lined tray, and lay each fish on top of them.
  • Season each side of the fish with salt, pepper, and paprika. 
  • Place the tray in the oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Take them out and enjoy with some lemon or lime juice sprinkled over the top.  

If cooked properly the meat should easily peel away from the skin and bones with a fork. Just be careful of the small bones as you remove the meat from the fish!

Can You Eat Pinfish Raw?

In addition to being useful for a variety of cooked recipes, pinfish can also be eaten raw. Not only is the meat from a pinfish extremely flavorful and tasty, but the small fillet size makes it perfect for sashimi.

NOTE: Anytime you consume raw fish you run the risk of food-borne illness.

Those that have eaten pinfish raw often compare the taste of the meat to other fish like lane snapper, mangrove snapper or mojarras.

If you enjoy sushi, fresh pinfish can be a great species to add to your recipes. 

Can You Eat Spottail Pinfish?

Spottail Pinfish (Diplodus holbrookii) are a species of pinfish that look much different from the common pinfish that you most often see.

Spottail pinfish are larger, can grow up to 18 inches, and are brownish and gold in color. Spottail pinfish get their name from the large, dark spot on the base of their tail. 

Spottail pinfish can be great to eat. They taste almost identical to regular pinfish thanks to their diet of crabs, shrimp, and smaller shellfish. Because they are larger, you will also get much more meat off of a spottail pinfish that you can enjoy.

Growing up in Florida, I’ve been surrounded by saltwater my entire life…and I love sharing my passion with others.

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