About Bill Blue
Bill Blue was born and raised in SoCal and grew up sportfishing and surfing with his dad. When he got to Morro Bay in the 70’s, he was interested to try out life as a deckhand on a commercial boat, but it took him quite awhile to convince the locals to hire an out-of-towner. One day he finally got the call to get to the boat that evening at midnight, and Bill has been fishing continuously ever since. For a long time, he maintained a second slip in San Francisco to make the most of the Dungeness fishery, but these days, he stays close to home. Bill is so calm, patient, and professional. We love working with Bill!
About the Black Cod Fishery
The Santa Barbara Black Cod fishery uses deepwater longline gear. Longlining uses a main line with smaller lines attached loaded with baits separated at regular intervals. The main line can be placed near the bottom of the seabed by applying weights for Black Cod and Rockfish, or near the surface for fish such as Albacore Tuna and Swordfish. Surface longlining is prohibited in U.S. waters due to interactions with sea birds and mammals. ‘Deep-set’ longlines don’t have that problem, and are encouraged as a gear type because it can be a low-impact alternative to bottom trawling.
Seafood Watch green-lights longlined Black Cod and Thornyhead as a ‘Best Choice,’ but gives a Yellow rating to Grenadier because they have not gathered the information they need to fully evaluate it, due to the fact it is rarely found in the marketplace. But, it is highly abundant and nearly untargeted, so we are not worried
Santa Barbara has about a dozen active black cod fishermen, all with very small boats that zoom out to distant fishing grounds far off of Point Conception, in about 2000-3000 ft of water. This fishery only began ~10 years ago, when the price of Black Cod started to make it worthwhile. The Thornyhead that come up are kept alive and sold to a premium market, mostly targeting Chinatown in San Francisco and other Asian restaurants with live tanks. Selling your catch live is the best way to get a premium price, and so be able to make a good living as a fisherman without needing to take too many fish out of the ocean.
Cooking Tips and Tricks
Beware, this fish has many ‘pin bones,’ curved little bones that run along the fish's centerline (see picture below). You will not find them in the narrow end (tail).
To remove pin bones:
Option 1, after cooking - gently prod the widest end of the cooked fillets with a fork under bright light to discover them and pull them out with your fingers or tweezers before you start eating. If you cook your fish until it browns on top, the tip of the pin bones will begin to char and rise out of the meat, making them really easy to see. You won’t find any toward the tail (skinnier end).
Option 2, before cooking - Lay fillet skin side down. Take a very sharp knife and run the tip along one side of the center line to feel for the pin bones (see image below). Once you have an idea of their location, make a extremely narrow V-cut along the centerline of the fish to excise just the center strip of meat with the pin bones in them. Press down hard with the tip of the knife to cut fully through the skin. The idea is to cut a center sliver, containing the pin bones, out of the fillet before cooking. You may wish to then cut your fillet in three pieces, separating the left and right halves you created from the triangular tail.
This applies to baking, broiling and pan frying black cod:
- rinse and pat the fillet dry
- rub with oil and salt
- place on oiled baking sheet or into a hot skillet skin side up
- flip with a spatula to skin side down halfway through cooking (this should keep the skin from being left behind on the pan when you plate).
One more note about 'shrinking' fillets - Because of the high oil content, black cod can be baked 15 to 25 minutes without drying out. If you like a firmer, roasted preparation, you will want to cook it for about 20 minutes. How long you cook the fillet is a matter of personal preference, but note that the longer you cook it, the more the fat will run off, decreasing the final weight of your fillet! We suggest using a marinade with a bit of sugar (think brown sugar, maple syrup, or orange juice) and finishing under the broiler for that caramelized goodness!
Pictured above is a recipe from Sea Forager's website, submitted by one of their CSF members.... looks delicious, right? Of course there is always the classic Miso Black Cod recipe or you can check out our BC recipes here.