By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer email@example.com It’s open season for stone crabs–Florida’s signature seafood delicacy– through May 15, 2016. But …
Seafood, Catch and Eat It at Guy Harvey Outpost St. Pete Beach
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost Travel Journalist
[St. Petersburg Beach, FL.–] Few pastimes are more rewarding than eating fresh fish from the ocean that you have just caught yourself. And Guy Harvey Outpost, a TradeWinds Beach Resort on St. Pete Beach, makes it easier than just about anyone to achieve that supreme satisfaction.
Captain Tim Kehoe, Senior Outfitter at the Outpost, will tailor your stay to include your choice of fishing adventures among about 50 local charter skiffs, bay boats, sport fishing yachts, and party boats ranging from 22 feet to more than 50 feet long. Then you can have your catch of the day prepared however you like it at the Outpost’s RumFish Grill, or at one of several local restaurants on the beach. My vote goes to RumFish– more on that later.
Last week, I travelled to St. Pete Beach and fished on the 51-foot party boat Miss Pass-A-Grille with Kehoe and his dad Ted. Kehoe regularly sends Outpost guests to fish on the boat because of the skills of veteran captain Randy Coffman and his friendly and helpful crew members Hunter and Alex. The Miss Pass-A-Grille is popular with both tourists and locals because the crew treats everyone like an old friend and REALLY wants everyone to catch fish. Plus the boat’s mascot– Coffman’s chocolate Lab Diesel– is really cute. (I kept threatening to kidnap him.)
To keep the odds forever in our favor, Kehoe brought a couple aerated bait wells on board full of live scaled sardines (pilchards); Spanish sardines; pigfish; pinfish; and shrimp. The boat provided limitless buckets of cut sardines and squid.
When all 39 passengers had climbed aboard, Coffman issued a call to action: “Let’s go get bloody!” And we sure did.
It’s grouper season in the Gulf of Mexico through Dec. 31, and the Kehoes and I were determined to catch a couple gag and red grouper for dinner. Coffman pointed the boat about 12 miles offshore to some limestone ledges about 45 feet deep frequented by those and other tasty reef species.
Arriving at the first ledge, anglers caught a few grunts and porgies before the fishing slowed down. Coffman had just cranked the engines to leave when Tim Kehoe’s stout bottom rod bent double and his reel’s drag began to squeal against whatever was straining it.
“Fish ON!” everyone screamed, and Coffman quickly stopped the boat.
After a brief struggle, Tim began to gain on the fish and pumped and reeled it steadily toward the surface.
The crowd of anxious anglers shouted with delight (and probably a little envy) when it turned out to be a 25-inch gag grouper. Believe me, a television fishing show couldn’t have scripted it any better. And somewhat surprisingly, Tim had caught it, not on a live bait, but on a slab of grunt fillet! Talk about keeping hope alive.
You would think the fishing trip couldn’t get much better after that, but the entire group enjoyed bountiful bottom fishing the rest of the day: more grunts and porgies; some triggerfish; red and scamp grouper; a nice hogfish; a couple of Spanish mackerel; and a small yellowtail. Kehoe even added a 20-inch red grouper that he caught on one of his live pilchards.
The huge catch kept Hunter and Alex busy cleaning for several hours at the dock, but Tim delivered a portion of our filleted grouper and grunts to Chef Aaron Schweitzer at RumFish Grill to be prepared that evening.
Unfortunately, neither Tim nor his dad could make dinner, so I had all that fish to myself! I just left the preparation up to Schweitzer’s imagination, which turned out to be a very good decision indeed.
I started out with pan-fried grunt accompanied by fresh limes and remoulade sauce with a side of pickled vegetable relish. I haven’t eaten grunt in years, and never knew it could be so tender and tasty. The grunt was followed up by more grunt– this time cooked scampi-style with a tomato-lemon-caper sauce. Even better than the first course. And one of the most enjoyable aspects of eating at RumFish is the ambience between courses: watching snapper, jacks, drum, and many others swimming around in the huge aquarium that takes up the restaurant’s entire rear wall.
But Schweitzer saved the best for last– blackened gag grouper with an orange cream sauce and pineapple salsa over jasmine rice and spinach. As I was snapping photos of the presentation, I caught some envious looks from neighboring diners. Then I dug in. As appetizing as it looked, it tasted even better. I gobbled every last bite!
You too can enjoy this angling and culinary adventure. Or make up your own. To make a reservation, go to the GuyHarveyOutpost.com!
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling, camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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