This post is also available in: Spanish

By Ilene Little

Five weird fish to catch and eat And some that might bite back

Just because you do not recognize a type of fish does not mean it is not edible. It probably just means it is not commercially harvested. If people do not see it in the grocery store, they tend to think it either cannot be eaten or does not taste good. Here are a few unusual catches that make surprisingly delicious eats.


Most people, unless they are hard-core anglers, do not even know what a triggerfish is. Unless you are snorkeling or diving, you are not likely to see one and while they are ugly, they are quite tasty. According to fish foodies, eating triggerfish is like eating steak. The meat is firm and white yet cleaning them is very labor intensive


A lot of people in Panama have not yet figured out that lionfish is edible. Not only is it edible, it is actually quite good. “Lionfish suffer from a reputation of being undesirable for eating, but it’s all about whether you have cleaned the fish properly before cooking,” says Adam Ledford, an avid sports spearfisherman and cook.

Hardhead Catfish

Another fish people usually just throw back when caught is the saltwater catfish.

“It is regarded as little better than chum,” said Ledford. “I cooked it up for a bunch of captains who enjoyed it though they had never eaten it before.” To prepare it, Ledford suggests gutting and fileting the fish, then wrapping the filets in foil adding equal parts butter, white wine and soy sauce and a little chopped garlic. “Put it in the oven ‘til done,” he says.

A World Record Pacific needlefish.

A World Record Pacific needlefish.

Needlefish –a fish that bites back!

Most people recognize a needlefish but have no idea they are edible. The needlefish is a long and skinny blue-fish that you often see on the surface of the water. They are great breaded in long strips and prepared like fish and chips. They also make great sushi since the meat is blue, adding a real visual pop to a plate. If you cook it, the meat turns white.

According to Ledford, “No fish is more likely to come back and attack you than a needlefish. With around 80 needle-sharp teeth in a mouth that can reach 18 inches long, care must be taken.”


Barracuda are the Doberman Pinschers of the fish family in terms of looking menacing. If you confront them underwater, they make eye contact and stare at you while their jaws open and close. Barracuda meat is white and flaky. People probably do not realize how much barracuda they are already eating that is sold as fish and chips.

Foodie tips for cleaning fish

What you don’t want to eat is the bloodline of pelagic fish. Pelagic fish are named for the depth of water they inhabit known as the Pelagic zone. Medium size pelagic fish include trevally, barracuda, bonito, mahi-mahi and coastal mackerel. The bloodline can be identified visually because it is a very dark shade of brown when compared to the rest of the meat on a fish. By all accounts, it is nasty to eat.

Barracuda “tiradito” with “ají chombo” and sweet garlic

*provided by Andres Lestienne, the gourmet chef at the Trump Hotel


160 grs Barracuda

5 grs “Ají chombo”

10 grs “Leche de tigre” (the marinade liquid from ceviche)

20 grs Garlic

20 grs Cream UHT

10 grs “Ají amarillo”

10 grs Spanish onion

2 grs Lemon juice

4 grs Hawaiian salt

3 grs Micro greens

2 grs Pepperoncini strings

10 grs Green spring onion

1 Edible flower

Barracuda “tiradito” with “ají chombo” and sweet garlic.

Barracuda “tiradito” with “ají chombo” and sweet garlic.


Blanch the garlic and “ají chombo” in boiling water six times, changing the water each time.

Blend separately, adding cream to the garlic and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Slice the Spanish onion, keep in water with lemon juice.

Mix the “ají amarillo” with “leche de tigre.”

Slice the fresh barracuda, roll and arrange on the plate.

Spoon the “ají chombo,” the garlic cream and the “ají amarillo” onto the plate.

Sprinkle with Hawaiian salt and sliced spring onion.

Decorate with the Spanish onion, flowers and micro greens.

Serve immediately.


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