The 5 Tastiest Tropical Fish

Chris Atkins

Beyond the thrill of stalking your prey, adrenaline of a spirited fight, and beautiful scenery. One of the greatest perks of angling is being able to eat fresh fish at the end of a successful day. Few things can top the experience of dining on something that was swimming freely just a few hours before. That’s especially true for saltwater anglers, who battle with fish that make up some of the most coveted seafood dishes around the world. Gaff to grill, hook to fork, Vitamin Sea. Whatever you call it, few things make hardcore anglers salivate quicker than fresh fish. Below are the five tastiest that we find in Central American waters:

Chris Atkins

1) Yellow-fin Tuna

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that yellow-fin tuna is at the top of our list.  Tuna meat is sought after all over the world. Be it blue-fin, yellow-fin, or big-eye tuna. This rich, red meat is packed full of protein and is naturally delicious without any preparation.  For that reason tuna is the most commonly used fish in sushi. It’s so good you can even eat it raw with nothing but soy sauce and wasabi.  A favorite for topwater anglers on spinning tackle. It’s hard to match the utter chaos of a tuna feeding frenzy with diving birds and spinner dolphins for as far as the eye can see. Found in nearly every ocean around the world, it’s no wonder tuna is a delicacy on almost every continent you visit.

Our Favorite Meal: Fresh sashimi the same day you catch it – ideally while you are still on the boat!

Preparation Tip: Tuna meat tends to lose some of it’s natural flavor and bright red color after freezing. So try to enjoy as much as possible while it’s fresh!

What you might need: Turn that tuna into delicious sushi with a Sashimi Cook Book

Chris Atkins

2) Wahoo

Wahoo are one of the fastest fish in the ocean and possess razor sharp teeth. That combo results in a lot of broken leaders and missed fish.  Once you get one to the gaff, you’ll enjoy the pink-white meat, which is no doubt some of the tastiest in the sea.  Wahoo are found in tropical oceans worldwide, but they seem to show up in Central America from May to November. The tried and true method to catch wahoo is speed trolling rapalas rigged on wire leaders, as these fish don’t do anything slower than full speed.

Our Favorite Meal: We love wahoo in steak form. Then they can be seasoned and cooked just about any way you like.  Marinate them in soy sauce, garlic & butter, or just plain old salt & pepper. You’ll love it no matter how it’s cooked.

Preparation Tip: Whatever you do, DO NOT overcook this meat. Overcooking fresh wahoo can turn it from one of the tastiest fish in the sea, to something that is rendered nearly inedible.

What you might need: Can’t have wahoo steak with out some seafood seasoning

Chris Atkins

3) Mahi-Mahi (aka Dorado)

Mahi-mahi, or dorado as they are called in Central America, are one of the recognizable and popular gamefish in the world. A worldwide favorite, they sport beautiful green, blue and yellow coloring, show off acrobatic jumps, and have delicious white meat inside. Best of all, dorado are one of the fastest growing fish in the ocean. They reach sexual maturity in just 4-5 months, so they’re also a very sustainable gamefish. Dorado are often found in bunches around floating objects like tree trunks, old fishing nets, or large patches of sargassum grass.  Large adult bulls and cows can be caught when trolling for billfish in the deep water.  Here in Central America dorado is often cooked blackened, grilled, or ‘al ajillo‘ with garlic, butter, and lime. But they also make for great ceviche.

Our Favorite Meal: Dorado ceviche is always tasty. But when we catch one, our first thought is fish tacos.

Preparation Tip: Often times when you catch one mahi, you catch a ton. If you are going to make ceviche, you should do that with the fresh fish. The frozen fish can be used for tacos or curry months down the line.

What you might need: Nothing makes taco prep easier than a taco holder stand

Chris Atkins

4) Snapper

Snapper are one of the most wide-ranging fish on this planet.  They can be found in every ocean in the world. They’re usually close to shore near islands & reefs, bottom fishing in several hundred feet of water, in brackish water near mangroves, and even several miles up coastal rivers.  There are over 100 species of snapper in the world. The one thing they all have in common is being delicious! Here in Central America, red, rock, mutton, mangrove and yellow-tail snapper are the best eating.  The grand-daddy of them all, the mighty cubera snapper, is a favorite for inshore and light tackle enthusiasts. However, because of their slow reproduction rate and long lifespan, more fishers are practicing catch-and-release on cuberas.

Our Favorite Meal: If you are into visuals it may not be your thing, but nothing is more mouth watering than a whole fried snapper. Fried snapper with coconut rice & beans is a favorite along the Carribean coast and I promise you’ll dream about if afterwards.

Preparation Tip: Snapper are famous for having thick scales that get everywhere. Descale them at the dock or on the boat. If you do it at the kitchen sink, I guarantee you’ll be finding scales for days.

What you may need: A chef’s arsenal isn’t complete without a solid nonstick skillet and cover set, especially if you’re going to fry up some fish.

Chris Atkins

5) Grouper

Grouper wisely leaves the beauty contests to the mahi and billfish of the world. Still, most anglers agree that Grouper offer some of the most tender white meat you can find on a fish.  Blackened grouper is a favorite from the Gulf of Mexico through Central America. It’s one of our favorite fish to use in ceviche for its soft white meat and easy filleting.  There are several kinds of grouper found in Central America. The most common are snowy, yellow, and broomtail with the occasional goliath grouper making an appearance a few times a year. If you are fishing for grouper, you’ll no doubt be bottom fishing in several hundred feet of water near reefs, wrecks, or other structures that show up in a depth finder. They won’t jump or make spectacular runs on you. However, any fish that is swimming straight down while you reel straight up for a few hundred feet is going to make you earn your meal.

Our Favorite Meal: Blackened grouper is always a winner. But our favorite grouper meal is ceviche. It’s so soft and tender you can hardly notice the difference between the avocado or fish.

Preparation Tip: Grouper is another fish that freezes well. So even if you aren’t eating it fresh, grouper makes for a great sandwich or fried fish meal later on.

What you may need: Ceviche requires fresh lemon juice. Lemon lime squeezers are very handy, and they quickly become one of your favorite kitchen gadgets.

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About The Author
Chris Atkins | Central America Fishing Trips

Chris Atkins

Chris grew up in Kohler, Wisconsin, but has been living in Costa Rica since 2005 where he now runs and owns Central America Fishing, a travel agency offering customized fishing vacations to Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and Guatemala. Chris has traveled to six continents and 23 countries, fishing and hunting along the way, but Central America is still his favorite region of the world. If he's not working, fishing, or traveling, you can find him at his lake cabin in northern Wisconsin. If you want to plan a fishing adventure of a lifetime, contact Chris today - or at the very least check out his photos on Facebook. Chris Atkins | Central America Fishing Trips

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