Eric Anthony Rodriguez

Eric Anthony Rodriguez

This past week I was able to catch my own seafood from the Gulf of Mexico in both North and South Florida. There are few things I enjoy more than being out on the water in a boat. Being able to bring home some food to eat while I am outside enjoying nature is an added bonus. Nothing tastes better than fresh seafood that one has caught and prepared for himself.

My week started in the Lower Keys. When I lived in Miami, I had taken many trips to the Florida Keys. One of my favorite keys was Big Pine Key. It is far enough away from both Miami and Key West to feel like it is not a tourist trap. There are many excellent fishing areas on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides of the island. On Tuesday, I went to one of my old fishing spots to see if it was still as loaded with fish at it used to be.

The tide was coming in and the wind was blowing the same direction as the tidal flow. I set out a block of chum in the bag hanging from the side of my boat and started to cut some bait. On my first cast, I caught a mangrove snapper big enough to put in the cooler. In the next 30 minutes or so I caught more than my limit of keeper-size fish. I caught very few undersized fish and I did not catch any other types of fish while I was there that morning. When I started to retrieve my anchor, there was a large school of mangrove snapper still waiting to be caught behind the boat. It is good to know that that particular fishing spot is as good as it ever was. I am sure I will be back again some day to try my luck again.

Later in the week, I was back home, and I decided to see how the scallops are doing in our area this year. I was not disappointed. After putting in the boat at Keaton Beach, and idling through the channel past the pier, you could see the fleet of boats just south of the last channel marker. There were easily a hundred boats in this one small area not far from shore. After a couple of stops and a considerable amount of swimming, we had caught just about our limit.

After removing the tasty morsels from their shells and putting the meat in a freezer bag, I wanted to be sure I did not have any bags of scallops from last year in the freezer that needed to be eaten. To my surprise, I found a bag of scallops from 2017. My children were hesitant to eat them after their 2-year cooling off period. They were afraid the meat would have freezer burn. After a careful inspection, I declared the scallops did not even have a freezer tan and proceeded to sauté them in butter, lime juice, and white wine. The 2017 vintage scallops were delicious. Their time spent in my freezer below the frozen pizza and waffles did not affect their edibility at all. I am not sure how long scallops can be kept safely in a freezer, but two years is most definitely not the upper limit.

Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at miamistyle8@gmail.com.

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