Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Underappreciated pollock deserve a second look
By DICK PINNEY | June 18. 2017 12:56AM
Big offshore pollock would come into the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth by the thousands back in those days. You could stand on the bridges and watch their entrance as they surface fed on baitfish, making for quite a show of destruction!
But their appearance was well appreciated by the townspeople as well as the outsiders like me - although we lived on the outskirts of Portsmouth we were more oriented with the Greenland population as we lived within a stone's throw from the town line.
The Portsmouth "townies" would line the docks and bridges with all kinds of fishing gear but back then it was more a subsistence fishery than a sport. Crude hand lines were those you made yourself or purchased from Garland Hatch's Bait and Tackle (down on the docks) for, as we remember 25 cents. For another dime, Garland would fix you up with a few clams in the shell that we'd shell out as needed and use as very effective pollock (and whatever other fish) bait.
When these awesome runs of pollock up into the Piscataqua ended, we were really crushed but did find that we could line a bucket with much smaller flounder by using the same bait and techniques. But it was nothing like the incredible pollock fishing we had when we had it!
Fast forwarding to more recent times: we've hit the offshore pollock fishing pretty hard when out on a paid-for party boat fishing day, and although some on board were such codfish "finatics" who didn't match our enthusiasm about filling our bucket with the larger pollock, we happily had a wonderful batch of fish fillets as results from our efforts.
We don't know why pollock never got the respect they deserve, but it is probably the fact that their flesh is pretty soft compared with some of the other deep-sea fish and it is very much sensitive to the sun and heat of an open bucket with no ice coverage!
When caught and immediately placed in a shaded place with ice, pollock make for some very delicious eating and are quite easily filleted or, if you are not adept at that procedure, cutting the head and removing their guts will provide you the possibility of baking them with or without stuffing for the larger ones or pan frying their fillets or frying the smaller ones.
The larger pollock are great fighters if you are using a fairly light rod and reel set-up, and they are especially fond of shiny jigs. When possible that's the system we use when we're out on a party boat or a friend's boat, unless it's so crowded that the use of a jig causes too many line tangles.
They can be caught on most kinds of saltwater bait but they just love those big shiny jigs but also can be caught on the big saltwater bucktail-type flies. We like to use a combination of the right weight jig that will reach bottom without much bow in the line, and we've attached a couple of these flies (we tie our own) on droppers above the jigs.
When you're really into a school of hungry pollock it's not unusual to pull in two or three fish at a time, and that takes quite a bit of hard cranking and pulling to boat those fish!
Along with pollock, mackerel seem not to be that popular with a lot of the coastal anglers. But the Dickster has no problems with coming home with a bucket of iced-down mackerel, be they large or small. The small ones we cook whole, sans guts and heads. The larger ones we'll fillet and by cutting out the lines of small bone fragments on each fillet, we'll end up with four great pieces of mackerel fillet that are boneless and some delicious when cooked in salt pork renderings.
So we're promoting that our readers utilize some of the coastal fish that some people have never tried because of the onus placed on them that has been undeserved. By the short learning period it takes to remove the bones from these fish and also knowing enough to use plenty of ice to preserve the quality of these oft-discarded species, a whole new world of quality eating will ensue. Tell your friends and family that the Dickster told you!
Dick Pinney 's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com