The fall of 2017 has presented a few challenges for fishermen in the Carolinas, but fishing has been good when the weather has allowed. Uninvited visitors Irma, Jose and Maria, plus some fronts rolling off other tropical systems, made the waters rough at times, but fishermen are persistent and made trips when possible.
One of the allures of fall fishing off the Carolinas is wahoo. Typically, there is good wahoo fishing in the spring, but it goes wild in the fall, easily world-class. The run might be longer than in some areas, but double-digit catches are common, and that’s a serious calling card. Lots of citation-size fish are caught in the fall, including handful that approach or surpass 100 pounds. With those kinds of catches, participation in the fishery is growing.
Hunting is good, too, but with warm weather often lasting until at least Thanksgiving, many fishermen enjoy fishing as long as they can.
In addition to being fun to catch and providing a lot of fillets, wahoo are excellent table fare. They are one of the fishes whose meat doesn’t get stronger with size, so the 100-pounder that wore out a fisherman on the Winyah Scarp tastes as good as the 30-pounder that tried to steal a king mackerel live bait on Chicken Rock. Wahoo are white meat and light tasting, without the oils of many of their mackerel cousins.
Yes, wahoo are members of the mackerel family, but somehow, they got all the superlatives. The only thing they are missing is being closer to the inlets. Occasionally some follow bait inshore and are caught closer in, but they are creatures of the edge of the Continental Shelf ,and it’s a long ride.
But when the downrigger releases and a 50-wide begins howling like a king mackerel reel, the ride is forgotten. Catching several wahoo in a day will tire even an experienced fisherman, but it’s a good tired. They’re usually larger fish, too and they fill a fish box pretty quickly.
Skewerless wahoo kabobs
This is a recipe designed primarily for my FireDisc Cooker, a portable device that reminds me of a grill or a wok, even if it really isn’t either one. It’s actually more like a plow disc — hence the name. Some folks call them “cowboy woks” as a term of endearment.
Powered by propane, the burner is in the middle, and the middle-bottom of the disc gets plenty hot enough to fry. An area just outside the middle is hot, but less than the middle, and the outside edge is warm, so you can finish off one item or keep it warm while something else cooks in the middle.
This recipe is a natural for the FireDisc. It can also be done in a large, cast-iron pan, but it is more difficult that way and doesn’t seem to blend the flavors as well. I have never cared much for woks, but I’m slowly learning that the rounded bottom has its purpose.
If you’ve cooked shish kebabs before, you know threading things onto the skewers is a pain, and sometimes veggies split and meat droops. That doesn’t happen when you cook them skewerless. You don’t have to soak wooden skewers and you don’t burn your fingers picking up a hot metal skewer. I believe the flavor is better, too, as you keep stirring the ingredients back through their natural juices rather than the juices dripping off and potentially causing flame-ups.
I’m certain that if you give this a try, you will eat it again. It’s easy and fun to cook, plus it’s tasty and that’s an excellent combination to enjoy a cool fall evening on your deck or patio.
1 1/2- pound wahoo fillet
1 medium sweet onion
1 pack assorted color baby bell peppers
1 packs fresh mushrooms
2 zucchini squash
2 yellow squash
1 2-liter Dr. Pepper (You won’t use all, but a smaller container often isn’t enough.)
Coarse ground black pepper
Chipotle chili pepper powder (salt may be substituted)
Texas Pete Sabor Mexican hot sauce
Buttery flavor non-stick cooking spray
Remove skin from wahoo fillet and separate into the two loin muscles and the belly and back meat. Slice the loins into medallions approximately 1/2- inch thick and trim the back and belly pieces into approximately 1-inch lengths.
Pour an inch of Dr. Pepper into a quart Zip-Lock bag and add a few drops of Texas Pete Sabor sauce, then shake to mix. Put the wahoo pieces in the Zip-Lock bag and squeeze out the air. If the Dr. Pepper doesn’t cover all the wahoo, add more and squeeze the air out before sealing. Shake the bag to mix if you add more Dr. Pepper.
Wash and cut the veggies into sizes appropriate for putting on a skewer. Pour an inch of Dr. Pepper into a gallon Zip-Lock bag and put the chopped veggies into the bag. Squeeze the air out and make sure the Dr. Pepper covers the veggies. Add more Dr. Pepper if needed, then squeeze the air out and seal. I also add some Texas Pete Sabor sauce to the veggies, but that is personal preference.
Allow meat and veggies to marinate in the Dr. Pepper for at least 2 hours. Pour off the Dr. Pepper and spread the meat on one pan or tray and the veggies on another. Sprinkle meat and veggies with black pepper and chipotle chili pepper powder to taste. Salt may be substituted for the chipotle chili pepper powder.
Spray pan liberally with buttery flavor, non-stick cooking spray. Pre-heat pan to medium. Sauté veggies until they begin to wilt. Onions will turn opaque. With the FireDisc Cooker, move the veggies to the edge, which isn’t as hot, and add the wahoo in the middle. If cooking this in a cast-iron pan, you will need to remove the veggies to cook the wahoo. The wahoo is thin and will cook quickly. Only a minute or two is needed per side. Be careful not to overcook it. Stir the wahoo and veggies together for one last sizzle and serve immediately.
This is pretty much a meal in itself. If you would like to add bread, I would suggest something light and crispy. Once you try this, you’ll find it hard to believe there are ever leftovers, but occasionally there are. I tried some leftovers with blue corn tortilla chips and it was good enough I’ll remember to try it again.