Other Names: Snapper, chopper, tailor
Range & Habitat: U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coastal waters from Florida to Cape Cod; Atlantic coast of South America, Portugal, and Africa; coast of Australia
Identification & Biology: This silver-skinned school fish can weigh from 3 to 10 lbs.
Market Description: The edible skin is usually left on the flesh, which ranges in color from white to silver-gray. The meat is rich and fatty with a fine, soft texture and long flake. The flavor is mild on the day of the catch yet gains in strength a day or two later.
Sold whole, as fillets and steaks.
Buying Tips: Whole fish should look alive, smell fresh and clean, and be displayed over ice. Fillets should glisten. Keep the fish well iced until cooking (natural oils in the flesh turn rancid when the internal temperature of the fish rises). Bluefish does not freeze or travel well, and is best purchased locally when in season.
Bluefish, especially larger specimens (over 6 lbs.), have been associated with high levels of PCBs. Most are considered safe, although as a precaution it's a good idea to discard the skin and to remove the strip of dark meat that runs down the center of the fillet.
Recommended Preparation: First, remove the dark, oily strip of flesh that runs down the center of the fish, which can infuse the meat with a powerfully fishy flavor when it's cooked. Bluefish is excellent baked or broiled, or wrapped in foil and grilled over an open fire. If preparing whole fish, it's a good idea to marinate it. It's also well suited for roasting and pan-frying, and for stir-frying in flour-dredged chunks. Its rich meat smokes well. Bluefish is not recommended for stews, soups, or chowders, since the meat falls apart easily.
Substitutes: Striped bass, mackerel, mahi-mahi, Atlantic Pollock
Notes: Nicknamed "bulldog of the ocean," the bluefish is fiercely voracious and a popular quarry for sport fishermen. In the U.S., the season stretches from May to October along the northeast coast, and from December to April off the Florida coast.