May 2017
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

Offshore Saltwater Fishing – Family Fun and a Fantastic Feast

A charter boat trip makes for a great vacation excursion and can fill your cooler for a delicious seafood dinner.


(From left) Cason, Rolley Len and Jason Kirk with the lady fish, rock fish and white snapper they caught in the Gulf off Panama City Beach.

Jason packed a cooler with sandwiches made of peanut butter and wild turkey salad. Below the sandwiches were oranges and drinks. Ice was crammed in every open crevice of the cooler. All four of us had on sunglasses and sunscreen, and had taken our motion-sickness pills. It was spring break and Jason and I were taking Rolley Len and Cason on a charter fishing boat into the Gulf off Panama City Beach.

Taking your family on a charter boat can be a great experience because there is a crew whose job it is to make sure everything goes as well as it can. When you get to the first spot, your equipment and bait are set and ready to go. On our trip, as soon as a person yelled, "Fish onboard!" deckhands sprang into action to help get the fish. They also supply the equipment and help keep up with what you catch.

Deckhands also know all the fishing laws and regulations. They can tell you what is legal to keep based on the season and the size of the fish. Having them available to assist you means you can focus on having fun with your family instead.

This excursion was the kids’ first time deep-sea fishing and mine, too. Going miles out from shore is very different from being on a pier. For one, most trips on a charter boat last anywhere from four to 12 hours; so you really have to be ready to commit. If you or your children get seasick, tired or even bored, the boat doesn’t turn around and head back to the marina.

No matter what happens at sea, the end result is worth the time and commitment. After almost five hours, we returned to the marina. Once we unloaded, we saw we had brought home enough ladyfish, rockfish and white snapper to feed the four of us and my parents with plenty left over. Not only did we take home memories of the trip but we also brought home our next meal straight from the Gulf of Mexico. Jason usually fries fish for us, but here are a few recipes that include fresh seasonal options such as lemons, zucchini and herbs that are perfect to try this summer.

For information about Florida saltwater fishing laws and regulations, visit Saltwater Fishing Regulations.



4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
12 ounces snapper fillets
2 Tablespoons dry white wine
1 cup zucchini, diced
1½ Tablespoons shallots, minced
1 teaspoon oregano 
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tablespoon basil (chopped if fresh)
2 teaspoons lemon juice 

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to pan. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper over fish. Add fish to pan and cook 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove fish from pan and keep warm. Add white wine to skillet and cook until liquid almost evaporates. Add zucchini, shallots, oregano, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Sauté 3 minutes or until zucchini is tender. 

Combine zucchini mixture, tomato, remaining salt, remaining oil, basil and juice. Toss gently and serve with fish.



2 lady fish, cleaned and cut into 2-4 pieces
1 radish
½ cup grated coconut
4 teaspoons tamarind (used in Indian and Mexican dishes)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
4 dry red chilies
3 whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cup water, divided
1 teaspoon cooking oil
½ cup onion, choppe

1 Tablespoon Turmeric powder
½ Tablespoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon salt 

Mix marinade ingredients and spread over the fish. Let it marinade for at least 30 minutes.

For fish and gravy
Cut radish into 2-inch-long pieces and boil in a small saucepan. In a grinder, combine coconut, tamarind, turmeric powder, red chilies, peppercorns, coriander and ½ cup water. Grind until it makes a thin gravy. In a large pan, add oil and sauté onions until they brown. Add fish to skillet and cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes. Pour gravy into the skillet and stir. Add ½ cup of water to skillet. Stir and add radish. Keep covered and allow it to boil for 10 minutes more.



5 cups fresh spinach
2 (6-ounce) fillets rockfish
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, minced
¼ teaspoon garlic powder 
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 lemon slices
2 onion slices
1 teaspoon butter

Preheat oven to 400°. In bottom of a 2-quart baking dish, layer spinach. Lay rockfish on top of spinach. Place halved tomatoes around fish. Add broth. Season fish with dill, garlic powder, lemon pepper, onion powder, salt and pepper. Place lemon, onion and butter on rockfish. Cover dish with aluminum foil. Bake until fish flakes easily, about 20 to 25 minutes.


Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.