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Help with Local South Florida Fish

I'm spending some time in South Florida this winter. While I am relegated to using an electric (coil) stove, I do have access to a (gas) outdoor grill.

I'd like to experiment with grilling local, non-farmed fish, but coming from NYC, the names on offer at the local fish market are mostly new to me.

There may be others, but so far in the local category, I've noticed cobia, snapper (which type is best?), mahi-mahi, pompano, swordfish, and grouper.

Any tips on what to look for when buying these fish?
Which of them should I put at the top of my list to try?
Any favorite simple recipes for outdoor grill, or indoor cooking?

Many thanks!

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  1. where in South Florida r u located?

    I live in S. Broward cnty

    u may also search on Miami/Ft. Lauderdale board-

    1. Hi, I've been fishing S. Florida waters since 1968 or so.

      In terms of the snapper if they are Red Snapper they were probably caught in the gulf or northern Florida, in the south what you catch most is Yellowtail Snapper, Mangrove Snapper and Mutton Snapper. The one I've seen most often in markets is Yellowtail which is highly regarded among fishermen. They are generally sold whole not in fillets.

      You would probably want to grill them in one of those fish baskets they sell for grilling smaller fish. I like them fried.

      Mutton snappers tend to be quite a bit bigger, 5 pounds or so. Mangrove tend to be too small to be commercially viable.

      Cobia and Swordfish are both really good and sold in steak form which makes them good for grilling. Cobia are caught in all Florida waters, so are a lot of Swordfish.

      Grouper usually comes from the gulf and is my favorite fish for eating but generally expensive these days. It has very large flakes which makes it firm and probably suitable for grilling or frying.

      Mahi is the same Mahi they catch all over the world, nothing special about Florida Mahi.

      Pompano is a highly regarded fish but I have never thought it was anything special, member of the jack family. Imo not worth the market price.

      If you can find some fresh Yellowtail Snapper that's what I'd go for because it's something you don't see much up north, I like them fried myself (I like all my fish fried), figure one fish per person. They aren't terribly expensive.

      If you want to grill rather than fry I'd go with Cobia just to try something different, everyone has had Swordfish.

      1 Reply
      1. re: redfish62

        That's really helpful, thanks so much!

        I am in Palm Beach County, but willing to travel for good food!

        Just curious..how would you recommend frying the snapper..dip in seasoned cornmeal?

      2. This is a good primer http://www.visitflorida.com/articles/...

        Best idea? Ask the fishmonger (assuming you're not at Winn-Dixie....) -- they'll know the best ways to prepare the fish they're selling.

        1. I love grilled grouper. Red snapper is great grilled as well (that's the snapper we get on the Texas Gulf). One of the best grouper's I've done is as a substitute for the Barramundi dish in Barbecue Bible - fantastic. Pompano is also excellent.

          1. (which type is best?)....


            There's only one way to find out....and that's to try each one and decide for yourself....Trusting any suggestion, including mine, does not take your personal preference into account.

            with that said....


            Lemon or Grey Sole...pan sautee or fried

            1. For my money; the hands down best fish to grill is a whole, head on, Red Snapper (the most counterfeited fish in the world), get one that is 12-14 inches long.

              2 Replies
              1. re: kengk

                The minimum size for recreational catch in Florida is 16", probably the same for commercial, if someone sells you a Red Snapper that size you are getting something other than a Red Snapper.

                1. re: redfish62

                  I was guessing at the size my favorite restaurant serves. They are a "red" snapper and seem to run much larger than any Vermillion snapper I've ever seen.

                  Captain Anderson's PCB.

                  Just looked it up and the commercial limit is 13".

              2. Grilling is great but don't overlook a pan saute with many of those selections. Snappers can be delicate depending on the flake size.

                Since you're in S. Fla go for more local snappers over Red snapper. Yellow tail, mangrove also called gray snapper and mutton. Cobia is a wonderful fish texture wise. Would hold up well to grilling as well as pan saute. Wahoo is also a fantastic fish and would hold up to many cooking methods. I also like Mahi and yes it can be found in many parts of the world but it still a great fish.

                Also try some of the fish in a ceviche. Very popular in S. Fla.

                11 Replies
                1. re: scubadoo97

                  More great info...many thanks once again.

                  We almost never see mahi mahi in neighborhood fish markets in NYC; I'm sure that there are fish mongers who have it, but it will be new to me. It is a wild fish, correct? I did try mahi in a restaurant last year (Max's Harvest, Delray Beach) and liked it very much, so will put that near the top of the list, along with the cobia and snapper and grouper! I was kind of dismayed at the local produce here so fish may prove to be a bright spot!!

                  There seems to be a decent fish market not far from me--Frank's, near #95 in Boynton Beach...I stopped in to take a peek a few days ago and they seem to have a wide selection, so will begin there.

                  1. re: erica

                    Yes, mahi is a wild deep-water (pelagic) fish.

                    With all very fresh fish, I prefer to KISS. Grouper and mahi get grilled, more-fragile fish gets a quick dip in flour and sauteed lightly in a little butter.

                    The only exception is a fried grouper sandwich with a slab of good tomato -- bring that one on any day.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      dont forget stone crabs are in season. if you find yourself in the keys key largo fisheries great place to buy fish and just opened a casual resturant as well great fish sandwichs


                      1. re: sunshine842

                        I am guessing that KISS is a simple cooking method but would you please elaborate?

                        Stone crabs are a must. How would it be best to sample top quality specimens? (Back home my fishmonger sells cooked stone crab in season; do fish stores here do that?) A trip to Joe's in Miami sounds like an essential excursion..when does the season end?

                        I'm guessing they are easy to prepare at home..?

                        1. re: erica

                          Keep It Simple Stupid = KISS

                          sautéed with a little white wine and maybe some fresh parsley…perhaps a little garlic in olive oil/butter.

                          by the way, smoked cobia makes an awesome cold salad (prepped like crab salad).

                          i like my grouper fried, but have also prepared it in a lovely fresh tomato, onion, bell pepper wine sauce, too. a veracruz sauce is nice.

                          a new discovery for topping a simply poached white fish -- microwave poach/steam in olive oil, a bit of thyme, a splash of white wine…then when done, top with a fresh mango salsa (which is now easily available in grocery stores).

                          1. re: erica

                            (alkapal has the KISS right)

                            Find yourself a good seafood shop, pronto -- sorry I can't help in PB County - never lived there!

                            But look in the yellow pages...then trek down there and take a look around (and a sniff around...a good seafood market smells clean like the sea, not funky and dead-fishy)

                            If you're in So Miami, Golden Rule Seafood on South Dixie Hwy is one of the best I've found ever.

                            1. re: erica

                              Stone crabs are always sold cooked, don't know why.

                              I got treated to Joe's once, it was really good but I probably would have enjoyed it less had I been paying.

                              1. re: redfish62

                                It's my understanding that if the claws aren't cooked immediately the meat will stick to the shell.

                                1. re: kengk

                                  Only 'cause I watch TV (Andy Zimmern), but apparently the claws (meat) begin to deteriorate as soon as they're harvested. To save them from spoiling (and allowing shipping), they go from the boat to the cooking process.

                                  1. re: porker

                                    Crabbers return with their days haul of fresh claws about 4:00, and they are placed in a large wire basket, weighed, and immediately boiled. Crabber then gets paid by weight, claws are sorted by size and boxed as soon as they cool and are then refrigerated. Uncooked claws are not much to look at - hardly any color. The meat sticks to the shell after they have been frozen, so fresh fresh is the way to go, for flavor as well.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      We were at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami 2 weeks ago. They had a sign in their take-away section explaining why you'll sometimes get meat sticking to the shell. Of course I can't recall the wording (and so their reason), but they were basically assuring the freaked-out customers that their claws were never frozen.

                      2. Oh my. You are in for a treat if this is all new for you. Fried Yellowtail is awesome. Trying to decide which snapper is best ....Good luck. They are all fantastic! ;)
                        Cobia grilled or fried makes a killer sammich and I'll add a hearty +1 to Scubadoo's suggestion of Wahoo which is killer cut into steaks and grilled. A very "meaty" fish.
                        A local florida fish that doesn't get enough love....Gray and Gold tile.
                        Happy sampeling and try to go fishing if you can. There's nothing like catching your own even if you surfcast for Pompano or Blues.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: TraderJoe

                          To be honest, I'm not sure many people can tell the difference between some of the snappers in flavor. Maybe texture due to flake size

                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            I caught my own yellowtail and mutton snapper a few weeks ago in the Keys. Side-by-side I couldn't tell the difference in taste. This was a bit of a surprise since the locals seemed to prize the mutton over other snappers.
                            But then, I live in Canada and rarely eat these fine fish.

                            1. re: porker

                              I have eaten quite a few and really wouldnt be able to tell them apart in a blind tasting

                            2. re: scubadoo97

                              Mangrove, Mutton and Yellowtail are very similar. Red snapper is much firmer and very distinct especially on the larger fish and for me quite different than the others. I've never met a snapper I didn't like. ;)

                          2. Stone crabs are scarce and extremely expensive this year. Jumbos are about $35/lb, colossal $46/lb, retail. If you want a good stone crab fix, it's most economical to buy them in a fish market and enjoy them at home rather than pay the marked-up restaurant prices for the same item. Most places that sell them also sell the usual mustard dipping sauce, but that is pretty easy to make.
                            While you are here, don't overlook the wild caught Florida pink shrimp.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Veggo

                              mmmmmm Key west Pinks and don't forget Rock shrimp!

                              1. re: Veggo

                                This is all very exciting! Thanks to all who responded so generously!

                                Looks like a good primer on local shrimp:


                                Looks like there is a stone crab shortage this season with prices even higher than in previous years:


                                1. re: Veggo

                                  I can't imagine having stone crabs if you have to pay for them yourself, for $35 you could buy a lot of lobster instead.

                                  1. re: redfish62

                                    and me? I love stone crabs -- I can do stupid things for lobster,, too, especially spinies, but I'd be a bigger fool for fresh stonies.

                                    (of course, I don't turn down much of anything that swims in saltwater...)

                                2. Lot's of good selections here Erica but...I saw two wonderful fish at Wholes Foods Market today that are not mentioned here. Yellow Eye Snapper and Hogfish are two of my absolute favorite fish. Although both would be too delicate to grill directly they would be excellent grilled "en papillote" style.

                                  Also, this Francese recipe works very well for hogfish... http://recipesrandycooks.com/2011/01/...

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: LiveRock

                                    Hogfish is a very prized fish, usually caught by spearing which accounts for the high price.

                                    Yellowtail Snapper, I think their eyes are black.

                                    1. re: redfish62

                                      Oh yeah, forgot about Hogfish. Always a treat if fresh and not as common due to the method of catching.

                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                        In Mexico, these are my absolute favorite. Whole fish, scored, fried. Veracruz or crunchy garlic sauce on the side. They are called boquinette there. Ominously, I have noticed far fewer of them over the last 20 years there.

                                      2. re: redfish62

                                        Yellowtail and Yellow Eye Snapper are two different fish.

                                    2. triar seafood on Mckinley St. in Hollywood has excellent fresh fish-

                                      1. Look for pink Florida shrimp. Wild caught usually in Key West. We used to have rock shrimp in the shell. That fishery got decimated. You can still find them sometimes, ask your better fish mongers

                                        1. My son & I cooked a whole pompano wrapped in banana leaves on the grill...we brushed it in olive oil and rubbed it down in blackening seasoning. It was delicious!

                                          1. If you see scamp grouper, grab it and do a simple pan saute. It's my favorite FL fish.
                                            A couple of other favorite (and simple) recipes:
                                            Mahi with Thai coconut sauce. I often just use a little Sriracha in place of the jalapeno.


                                            Marcella's baked fish with potatoes (you can do it with almost any fish, just may need to adjust the time). I use thyme in place of rosemary, because I like it better


                                            One of the best fish dishes I've ever had was a whole pompano in an Indian restaurant in Orange Park... I'm not sure how it was cooked. It was coated in spices with crispy skin and delicious, flaky flesh. I went home a bit hungry that night because everybody else at the table attacked it and they'd all ordered super spicy dishes I couldn't eat! :-)

                                            1. If you are looking for where to buy fresh fish, Triar Seafood in Hollywood is great. You won't find fresher fish. They are on McKinley Street and their number is (954)921-1113.

                                              1. Wanted to report back on my first attempt at cooking local fish. I bought a 1-lb or so filet of red snapper (the only snapper available) at Captain Frank's in Boynton Beach. Unfortunately, the gas grill had a last minute crisis, so I breaded the filet with seasoned cornmeal and pan fried in a mix of ghee and olive oil. Except for the fact that I forgot to score the skin side, so it seized up, the result was quite delicious..I loved the meaty, clean flavor of the snapper! Served it with mashed white sweet potatoes and a sort-of-salsa made from pineapple, avocado, oranges, red onions, and Urfa pepper, tossed with oil and lime juice.

                                                Will keep my eyes out for yellowtail snapper, cobia, and some of the other fishes mentioned above.

                                                I should mention that the folks at Captain Frank's (Boynton Beach Blvd, just east I=95) are supremely lovely. I hope to do much further experimenting with their product in the near future.

                                                Please continue to offer your tips, and easy recipes. MAny thanks! erica

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: erica

                                                  If they're half the seafood market people are saying they are, they'll have a big stack of printed recipes, and they'll be glad to give you more ideas if you ask.