Redfish, also known as red drum, are a common fish ranging from Massachusetts down to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
A favorite among inshore anglers for their powerful bull-like runs, it’s no secret they are fun to catch.
But, are redfish good to eat?
Which sizes are best for the dinner plate, and how do you prepare them?
Let’s explore this topic, and I bet your stomach will be grumbling by the end of this article!
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Table of Contents
- Are Redfish Good Eating?
- What Do Redfish Taste Like?
- Are Redfish Safe To Eat?
- Is Redfish Good For You?
- How To Clean & Fillet Redfish
- How To Cook Redfish
Are Redfish Good Eating?
Redfish are an incredibly popular fish to eat wherever they’re available, with a flavor and texture that lends itself to many different dishes and cooking methods. In fact, they are so tasty that at one point it almost resulted in their extinction!
For many years, redfish were fished commercially for the consumer market, in addition to being a very popular game fish.
They’re such a popular food item, that there are commercial redfish farming operations and they are even the state saltwater fish of North Carolina!
In the 1980s, redfish were made trendy by television cooking shows, particularly by Cajun Chef Paul Prudhomme.
In fact, his blackened Cajun redfish recipe became so popular, that it created a demand resulting in the decimation of the wild redfish populations! (Along with the use of commerical gill-nets).
After this, commercially fishing for redfish was banned at the federal level, and states enacted their own restrictions to protect what remained of the populations in state waters.
Today, redfish are thriving, and are still legally available to catch and eat for the recreational angler in many states.
What Do Redfish Taste Like?
The taste of redfish is most commonly compared to that of red snapper or black drum. Their meat is firm, moist, and mildly sweet, not too oily, and without any fishiness flavoring. When cooked, it’s very white and with large flaky chunks.
In the younger redfish, the raw meat will have a light greenish tinge, that gets darker as the fish gets older.
Are Redfish Safe To Eat?
Yes, redfish are safe to eat. Their meat and organs are non-toxic and they are not generally known to carry large amounts of environmental pollutants or toxins.
Furthermore, they are not inclined to harbor parasites or any diseases that can’t be dealt with by proper cooking.
Redfish grow very large, (up to 60 pounds and over 50 inches!), however the best eating size in the 18″-24′ range.
When they get larger than two feet, the meat gets tougher and tends to have a stronger fishy flavor, and the largest specimens can contain worms.
Since you will likely be eating younger redfish, a toxin accumulation is even less of a risk.
However, it’s always important to know your fishing area.
For instance, redfish in the offshore Tampa area often have mercury levels that put them in the “do not eat” category. But in most areas, mercury is not a concern.
Before you decide to catch and keep any redfish, always check the seasons and size limits where you are fishing.
In some states and regions, redfish may have a closed season. In other areas, you may only keep fish between a certain minimum and maximum size.
For example, here in Florida where I grew up, the redfish size limit is 18″ to 27″, and your only allowed one fish per person.
If you keep up to date on what’s going on in your waters, you’ll be fine!
Are Redfish Safe To Eat Raw
Redfish can be eaten raw, but I do not advise it. The meat is firm and does not have the same sashimi qualities as tuna or cobia.
Besides, they’re so delicious cooked, you won’t be missing out on anything!
Is Redfish Good For You?
Like many other fish, redfish are very healthy and fit quite nicely into low-calorie, keto, paleo, and many other healthy diet plans.
They’re very low in saturated fat and high in heart-healthy omega-three fatty acids. They are also an excellent source of vitamin A, B vitamins, folate, and many other essential minerals.
One filet contains around 235 calories, 0 carbohydrates, and over 35 grams of protein! Pretty much whatever dietary approach you take, redfish fits right in.
Since redfish tastes so mild, you can keep it really healthy because you don’t need to add any high-carbohydrate breading or batter to make it taste good!
How To Clean & Fillet Redfish
Redfish are simple to clean, but not easy. What do I mean by this?
Well, they are simple fish to clean because there are no special precautions you need to take. There are no pin bones to avoid, no large sections of fat or bad meat to cut around, and you really don’t even need to skin them if you don’t want to.
However, they are not necessarily easy to clean, because they have incredibly tough skin with large, thick scales. Cutting into the fish can be difficult and can easily dull your knife before you even get going.
Rinse and gut the redfish first. Then make a cut going diagonally from behind the pectoral fin to the spot where the head joins the spine.
To get through the skin you might want to use a serrated knife; some even use an electric knife! Using the same knife cut the skin along the line of the back, all the way to the tail. (This part takes some effort!)
Once this is done, remove the filet with your filleting knife, passing over the ribs, and remove any red meat you see. You can remove the skin or leave it on, depending on how you plan to cook it.
The throat of the redfish is a delicacy (especially in Louisiana) and is known by some as “saltwater quail”.
Starting behind the pectoral fin, cut into the hollow of the underside of the jaw. There is a really large chunk of thick meat that you can pull out of here.
How To Cook Redfish
Redfish is so versatile that it can be cooked any way you want. A common method of cooking is called “on the half shell”. Here, you leave the skin right on the filet. Put whatever spices, sauces, or toppings you want on the meat side, and throw it in the oven or on the grill.
Redfish on the half shell is especially good on the grill. You just sear the meat side, then flip it over and cook it the rest of the way with the skin side down towards the flame.
Leaving the skin on traps in the juice so you don’t have to worry about your redfish getting dry.
When your redfish on the half shell is done, just scoop the meat out of the skin like you are scooping out the center of a baked potato.
With the skin removed, redfish is fantastic fried in light oil with some spices and maybe a splash of citrus.
If you want to batter it or put it in a chowder or a stew you can, but it almost seems like a waste with such tasty meat.
Of course, if all else fails, Paul Prudhomme’s famous redfish seasoning – you know the one that was so popular that it almost ended in the demise of the entire species – can still be purchased and used today!
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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