FishingWild Recipes

Rockfish Tacos – Fishing for Bottomfish

Latest posts by Jordan Rash (see all)
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The Call

I am working from home on a Thursday afternoon, plugging away on a project. The grind of project management has me exhausted. Am I turning the wheels of bureaucracy, or is the bureaucracy turning me? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. 

I haven’t gotten outdoors for any hunting or fishing since the end of waterfowl hunting season, and I am starting to feel an edge. I’m irritable, tired, and my freezer is getting low on wild-harvested protein. 

A text message pops up from my good buddy Eli: You available Saturday for some bottomfish? 

“Bottomfish” is a catch-all term for species that dwell on or near to the bottom of the ocean. But, the “bottom” doesn’t necessarily “deep” as some species of bottomfish – such as lingcod, black rockfish, and kelp greenling – can be found shallow during the spring spawning season, around rock piles and jetties, and sometimes suspended in the water column above structure.

Excited, I check my calendar; it’s clear. I leap up from my chair, and bound upstairs to confirm with my wife. I plead my case – this will be good for me, I will be so much more cheerful, etc. – and promise rockfish tacos if I am successful. Promising a tasty meal after is always a good strategy. She acquiesces; the thought of rockfish tacos must’ve done the trick.

I hurry back down the stairs to my desk, pick up my phone, and text back confirming my interest and availability. We make a plan to get to the boat launch by 5am Saturday – a 90 minute drive from home on Puget Sound. We plan to target a variety of bottomfish, as well as set crab pots on our way out. And if there’s time, we’ll dig up some razor clams too. 

The Trip

Arriving at the boat launch in the inky darkness, I am greeted by the smell of briney water, the calls of a variety of gulls, and the distant, mechanical hum of the fish processors that line the bay. My compatriots arrive soon after, and we slip the boat – filled with fishing rods and crab pots, bait and tackle – down the ramp and into the bay.

We shove off into the darkness, making slow progress as we maneuver around the seemingly endless field of buoys marking commercial crab pots. We set our own pots just on the outside edge of the commercial pots, and make our way toward the fishing grounds.

Fishing is consistent. We’re picking up fish at a decent clip, but many are undersize and are returned from whence they came. We grind out a few greenling and black rockfish here and there while continuing to look for lingcod, an aggressive, toothy species related to greenling typically found between 24” to 32.” Some of these “lings” can even reach up to five feet in length! 

Relying on bathymetry, we identify rockpiles, dropoffs, and other underwater structure in our search. Finally, after about three hours of fishing, we find a spot where we start hooking up, and we quickly land several keeper lingcod as well as the last of our rockfish to round out our limits. With the ocean nearly flat as glass, we make a quick run back toward Westport on Washington’s Southwest Coast to pick up our crab pots. Each pot holds seven or eight crab, with each holding a couple legal crab each. Split three ways, we each have four Dungeness crab to bring home to our families. 

Jordan with rockfish

With the tide just about at low tide, we scramble to bring the boat back up onto the trailer, change into clam-digging clothes, and drive to the nearest razor clam beach. We are late to the show; much of the beach has been picked over by the hundreds of clam diggers enjoying a surprisingly warm and calm March day on the beach. But, we still manage several clams apiece, enough to top off my cooler. 

All told, I am bringing home a bounty of seven rockfish, two lingcod, four Dungeness crabs, and a dozen razor clams. I stuff my catch into my 65L Yeti cooler with a couple bags of ice, and make my way home. 

The Recipe

The next day, I make good on the rockfish tacos for my wife and two kids. My recipe for tacos is simple, and highly customizable depending on your tastes.

Serves: 4
Time to make: 50 minutes
Also works with: Any white fish


Looking for more easy fish recipes? Check out this Fish Fingers with Mashed Potatoes recipe by Justin Townsend!


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Rockfish Tacos

Recipe by Jordan Rash
0.0 from 0 votes
Course: Fishing, Wild RecipesCuisine: American, Mexican
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes
Cook Mode

Keep the screen of your device on

Ingredients

  • 2 -3 pounds of rockfish filets

  • Salt to taste

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 cup general-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne

  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • Oil for frying (vegetable, peanut, olive – I typically use vegetable due to allergies in our house)

  • 1 lemon

  • Soft corn tortillas

  • Taco fixings of your choosing

Preparation

  • Cut the rockfish filets into strips about an inch wide from dorsal to ventral sides of the filet. Be sure to remove bones if you observe any. Season liberally with salt, and set aside.
  • Crack your eggs into a bowl, whisk them quickly, then set aside.
  • In a third bowl, mix the flour, black pepper, cayenne, smoked paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder with a fork. Set a deep pan on your burner, and fill with enough oil to go about halfway up the side of the pieces of fish. Set the burner to medium-high heat.
  • Once the oil begins to shimmer, place your chunks of fish in the egg wash, then coat in the flour & spice mixture, and carefully set into the oil. Do not overcrowd the fish in the pan; you’ll be doing this in batches.
  • Cook the fish 3-4 minutes until golden brown, then turn and cook 3-4 more minutes on the other side. The fish is done once it is brown all the way around. Remove the fish pieces with a fish spatula, placing on a plate covered with a paper towel. Repeat until all fish pieces are done.
  • Cut your lemon in half, and squeeze some lemon juice over the fish. Fill your tortillas with a couple pieces of the fish, and top with the taco fixings of your choosing. I like corn, black beans, pico de gallo, avocado, sour cream, and cotjia cheese, but this is up to you.
  • Finally – and this part is critical – mix up some margaritas. Two parts tequila to one part mix, served on the rocks with salt. Cheers, and tight lines!

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Jordan Rash

Jordan is an outdoorsman and freelance writer based in the Pacific Northwest. He has spent much of his career working with landowners, Native American tribes, public agencies, and conservation leaders to protect and restore habitat and working lands benefitting communities and wildlife. Teaching his children about the outdoors and cooking meals centering wild game for his wife, family, and friends nourishes his soul.

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