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The Sport Fishing Capital of the World

Ben Sargent

In this week’s episode of Hook, Line & Dinner, I’m heading down to Islamorada, FL — the Sport Fishing Capital of the World. I’m not after just one type of fish; I’m trying to catch them all.

The key to cooking your fresh-out-of-the-water fish is to keep it light, simple and whatever you do, don’t over cook. A lot of resorts and charter companies with fishing programs offer it up as “catch and cook”. You do the catching, they’ll take care of the cooking. In most cases, I wouldn’t let them near my fish. They don’t often follow the aforementioned keys to cooking great fresh fish. The fish ends up tasting like it came from a freezer, or it comes out drowning in a thick, gloopy sauce that masks its fresh flavor.

This is not the case at Lazy Days in Islamorada, Florida. Chef Lupe has been cooking fish at this restaurant for years, and transitioned from busboy to the proud owner.

Chef Lupe Ledesma

“If I didn’t learn how to cook fish after all these years and all this hard work, it would have been a waste of time!” Lupe says.

Lupe understands and appreciates Florida fish better than anyone I’ve met, and can get a customer to try a fish they otherwise would disregard. As a fisherman, he also knows the pride that comes with bringing in a catch. He sticks to the principles of cooking fresh fish, and he did up my mackerel as good as any I have ever had. I had my doubts when I saw him loading slices of Provelone cheese on my fillet!

Islamorada Style Mackerel Recipe

“Islamorada-style! You will like it,” he said proudly.

Islamorada-style fishing is basically fishing on steroids. The actual fishing leaves you physically wiped out. I had veins popping out of my head during most of the episode as I tried to reel in 1500-2000 feet of line. What you don’t see, though, is the  2-hour battles that would end with the fish winning. Never had I ever worked so hard to finally, in the last 5 minutes of battle, have my line go completely slack.

Ben Sargent

That’s how it  goes out here. You want to scream with frustration but are so tired, you can’t.

Recipes in this Episode

Tune in to Hook, Line & Dinner tonight at 8pm ET to get a taste of all the fish Islamorada has to offer.

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