A Fish Story – In Search for Blue Fish & Stripped Bass on Cape Cod

We have spent our summers on Cape Cod ever since we were kids and we loved to fish. Our family always thought that we should have the talent to be geat fishermen because my grandparents came from Gargano on the south of the Adriatic Cost of Italy, and my grandfather was a fisherman (pescatore). We stayed in a big house with my aunts and cousins and my father and uncles alternated days off during the week to join us. My family was in the food and restaurant business and the markets and restaurants were open 7 days a week at that time. We waited for them to arrive and prepared for our fishing trips to the Cape Cod Canal. We would come home from these trips sleepy, smelling of bait, no fish and disappointed but not deterred. After all, our grandfather was a fisherman; we must have inherited this passion from him.

We went to every bait store searching for the right bait. We talked to anyone who could give us fishing secrets or lures that were a sure thing. We paid attention to the tides and set our alarm clocks so that we were at the suggested fishing spots at the exact time the fish were running, and we caught no fish. Later when we older we bought a sailboat and continued the same routine, maybe this was the answer. We had tried fishing off the canal docks, off the rocks, on the beach and we bought all kinds of fishing poles and gear. We would see all the other boats pulling in the fish, the fish leaping out of the water all around us and still no fish. Then my brother decided the sailboat wasn’t the right boat and bought a Boston Whaler. This was surly the answer and the ritual went on and still no fish. I remember he caught a flounder and a bluefish once and this was a great occasion with photo’s and excitement and a grand fish dinner. I have to say that we had lobster traps and were much more successful catching more lobster then we could eat so not all was lost. There were summers when we decided we would catch everything we ate during a weekend. We were great at clamming and carried home buckets of steamers, little necks and mussels. We made calms on the half shell, chowder, pasta with clam sauce, calms casino, stuffed mussels, grilled, boiled, baked, stuffed lobster and pasta with lobster sauce, but no fresh grilled fish. We just couldn’t understand it, what was the problem after all we must have the gene; our grandfather was a fisherman in Italy how could we miss.

The next generation continued this search for the answer and was about to give up. My brother-in-law Peter and my nephew Nick experiencing the same curse went fishing one day and met up with a man who had caught several huge stripped bass. As usual they befriended him and he told them how to make his special lure. As we all laughed at them and said, “Oh here we go again” out they went searching for all the components and proceeded to make this new, magic lure. With trepidation mixed with a lot of hope they headed out to Nantucket Sound. They not only tackled the curse, they have been catching huge blue’s and stripped bass ever since, they broke the curse!

As all this was happening I went to Vieste, Italy searching for information about our grandparents. I was in a state of shock when I noticed his profession in the documents I found. He was not a fisherman but a shepherd (pastore). We should have been raising cattle not fishing. This just goes to show you how the translation of a word can effect your whole life. Our family being mostly 1st & 2nd generation Italian-American never learned to speak Italian and translated the word incorrectly. Well so goes the fishing talent that we thought we should have inherited.

We had a great time in our search for the big fish, and thinking our grandfather was with us, probably he was laughing at us. The most wonderful stories, laughs and memories of our efforts might not have been the same fun. It is like being told that Santa doesn’t exist and not being upset. Being together as a family on Cape Cod in the summer was the best part.

Grilled Whole Fish In Foil

Recipe Summary
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

1 18 lb. Fresh whole bluefish, striped bass, cleaned and gutted
1 large orange, skin and segments
2 fennels with stems
Salt & pepper to taste

Other things needed
2 large pieces of foil or parchment paper

Scale and gut the fish and wash it inside and out. Salt and pepper the inside and outside of the fish.
Lay out enough foil or parchment paper large enough to place the fish and eventually covering it with another piece of foil to form an envelope. Lay the fish on the foil.

Remove the skin of the orange and separate the orange segments. Cut the fennels into thick slices including the stocks and leaves.

Salt & pepper the fish outside and inside the cavity. Stuff cavity with the fennels, orange segments and orange rind.

Place another piece of foil over the top and crimp the edges of the foil to form an envelope.

Place the fish on a hot grill or in the oven. If grilling the fish turn it over after 10-15 minutes. And grill it for another 10-15 minutes. The time depends on the size of the fish. Puncture the fish in the thickest part with a knife, if it is done it should go through easily. Don’t over cook as it will dry out.

Remove it from the grill and carefully open the envelope. Remove all the fennel and oranges.

Remove the head and tail and fins on the top and bottom of the fish. With a sharp knife remove the skin on one side pulling it gently away from the flesh. Make a cut down the center and cut the fish into segments removing them with specula. If the fish is done the flesh will come off the bone easily. Turn the fish over and do the same to the other side.

Serve the fish with fennel and orange salad. Make a simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice.

NOTE: Other fish can be prepared in this manner such as salmon, trout etc.



~ by Patricia Turo on August 2, 2010.

2 Responses to “A Fish Story – In Search for Blue Fish & Stripped Bass on Cape Cod”

  1. Great story! Keep them coming!


    • Great to hear from you. We had a lot of fun all of us anxiously waiting to go fishing. It is nice to see that someone is has finally broken the spell. I think when you and I especially think of those days, this is probably the one activity that we cherish the most. Glad that Paula and the kids are enjoying all of that fish. I look forward to some of it when I come up in October. Hope I get to see you between then and January.


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