Eat from the Sea: Footprints in the Sand

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I am a connoisseur of all things seafood from fish to crustaceans and oysters to octopus. I’ve tried them all and honestly can’t think of anything I don’t like. Oh, there is the fact that I much prefer a raw oyster over a cooked one, and calamari (squid) must not be overcooked., but all-in-all I enjoy all edible things from the sea.

Footprints-in-the-Sand-FMB-ColumnStone crab claws returned to our restaurants in the middle of October and they are one of my favorites. I like all kinds of crab, but I have to put stone crab at the top of the list. The flavor is mild and delicious and when dipped in that special mustard sauce (Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant’s version is my favorite) it’s like seafood heaven on earth.

Something I find very interesting is that stone crabs are actually a renewable resource. When they are harvested from the crab traps only the claw(s) that meet the minimum size requirement are removed and then the crab is released to grow another one. I can’t think of any other bounty from the sea with this remarkable trait.

Eat-from-the-Sea-FMB-Rob-Modys
Fresh mangrove snapper. Photo by JoNell Modys.

While I enjoy eating fresh-caught fish, my feelings about catch-and-release have changed over the years, especially after a career of guided fishing charters. I’m a firm believer in legally keeping what you’d like to eat in the next day or two, but I feel there’s no need to fill the cooler and the freezer with fish that may or may not be eaten.

Conservation is a must. The number of anglers in Florida has increased and their ability to find and catch fish has also improved thanks to social media and modern electronics. The newest fish-finders have the amazing ability to not only spot fish, but they can show the size and location on the bottom even under rock overhangs and crags. The time it takes to learn the science of fishing is getting shorter and shorter.

Wife JoNell and me, Platter of Fish. Photo by Alex Dolinski.

I love to eat fish. All kinds of fish. The bland white meat species are OK, but I much prefer something with its own flavor. My favorite is pompano. The taste is unique with a buttery flavor that I love. Grilled is the way to go with just a hint of seasoning and a squeeze of lemon when served. Wow, I just salivated while writing this.

For those of you that are new residents or visitors to Southwest Florida I’m sure you’ve noticed that grouper is on virtually every restaurant menu. Yes, it’s good and without question a must for some folks, but we have other fish that are caught from our local waters that are delicious and in most cases only served here. While not on every menu every day be sure to keep an eye out for specials of fresh cobia, tripletail, tilefish and hogfish. In my humble opinion all of these rival or surpass grouper, especially hogfish. If you like snapper of any kind you must try it.

Shrimp is king here. Yep, you guessed it, our commercial shrimpers harvest literally tons of them from the Gulf waters and they are served in most of our seafood restaurants and sold in seafood outlets. Our local shrimp are called pink shrimp or gulf pink shrimp. Be sure to read those menus and signs carefully before buying or ordering. Our local shrimp tastes a heck of lot better than those shipped in from overseas.

My favorite way to eat shrimp? All ways! Steamed, fried, scampi, battered, grilled… I’m beginning to sound like Bubba from Forest Gump. Well, after all it is shrimp and they taste good just about any way they are served. Keep your eyes open for the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival coming up March 14-15, 2020. If you like shrimp as much as I do you don’t want to miss it.

Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman, retired spin & fly fishing guide and host of REEL Talk Radio on ESPN 99.3 FM every Saturday morning. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association. Capt. Rob also shares his fishing knowledge in a series of fishing classes at Bass Pro Shops.