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With seafood, man should not live by breading alone

Andy Hughes and George Turner with dinner -- fat, frisky fall rockfish from Thomas Point on Chesapeake Bay. (Angus Phillips for The Washington Post)
Andy Hughes and George Turner with dinner -- fat, frisky fall rockfish from Thomas Point on Chesapeake Bay. (Angus Phillips for The Washington Post)

Turner put the throttles up and off we sped. The Becky D and another iconic, old wooden Bay charter boat, Capt. Tilghman Helmsley's pretty Breezing Through, were locked in a tight circle just north of Thomas Point, having rounded up a school of rock. We joined the fray, put our lines over and soon were fast to keeper fish in the 20- to 24-inch range. The rock were fat and frisky, gleaming in the sunlight and all but shouting, "Bring on the panko."

Frying anything isn't particularly good for you, of course, but a golden crust on fresh fish seals the moisture in and brings out the flavor. It's a three-step process: First, dust the skinned filets in a light mixture of flour and Old Bay, then dip in a mixture of egg and milk, then dredge in a final coat of panko. Get the oil hot and fry the fish just long enough for the meat inside to go from opaque to white. How can you tell? Use a knife, dummy!

Some modern anglers no doubt will be outraged at people catching fish to eat them. The catch-and-release police are everywhere these days, promoting sport over food-gathering. Catch-and-release is much in the news lately as old-school meat fishermen and new-school sportsmen argue the merits of one vs. the other.

I've weighed in over the years with my view: That C&R, properly practiced, is the best thing to happen to fishing in my lifetime. For the most part, it gives anglers the thrill of the hunt without damaging the resource. Now the disclaimer: I'm not really a catch-and-release guy. I go fishing to catch a little mess to eat, and without that incentive I'd be unlikely to go.

Happily, there's room for everybody in the angling tent if nobody makes a pig of himself. But that's a big if.

Catch-and-release serves as model for other admirable behavior. "A friend of mine's wife is a compulsive shopper," Turner said, "but she's gone to catch-and-release. She goes out every day and buys three or four things, then a few days later she takes them all back."

No harm, no foul. Perfect.


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