Salmon Grouper: The Fisherman Chef’s Guide to Bocaccio

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Salmon grouper, also called bocaccio, is a polarizing fish for fishermen and chefs alike. Many believe it to be a trash fish not to be kept or eaten. Others think it’s a delicious sport fish.

This quick guide will tell you everything you need to know about catching, cooking, and eating salmon grouper.

About the Salmon Grouper

Sebastes Paucispinis is the scientific name for the salmon srouper. Bocaccio, Grouper, Tom Cod, and Slimy Grouper are other comonly-used names.

Salmon Grouper are part of a category of fish known as “Rockfish.” Unlike regular grouper species (here’s a link to an article we wrote about eating grouper in general), the bocaccio is much debated as a dinner choice.

Found in the Pacific Northwest, salmon grouper is one of the bigger Rockfish as they can grow up to three feet long and can live to be 45 years old.

Salmon Grouper is listed as an endangered species. Conservation efforts have been in place for years to help keep this Rockfish plentiful.

How to Catch Salmon Grouper

Catching any Rockfish is pretty much the same technique. Once you find where the salmon grouper is located, it’s not that hard to put some fish in the boat.

You can catch salmon grouper using bait or lures, bait being the superior choice. Either conventional or spinning tackle will work fine.

Plastic lures like scampi tails, metal jigs, hooks dressed with material like bucktail, octopus type lures, or even pieces of squid are appealing to the salmon grouper. Live bait works the best, like anchovies or sardines.

Salmon grouper are not picky eaters; they will generally go for many different types of bait.

Like any bottom fishing effort, you’ll want to make sure you have enough weight to keep your bait at the bottom.

And if you want a more sporty experience, you might get lucky and find salmon grouper in the shallows. The deep is still a more likely scenario though.

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Releasing the Fish

As a deep-dwelling fish, the salmon grouper is susceptible to barotrauma. This occurs with a rapid change in pressure and damages the fish tissue. It is common for salmon grouper to get barotrauma when you reel them in.

If a fish has a swim bladder, they can be susceptible to barotrauma, especially if they get hooked deep in the water.

If you catch a salmon grouper that you want to throw back, you should become familiar with ways to help them swim back down and survive. If the swim bladder inflates, they will not be able to descend, which will cause them to die and be left floating around in the water.

You easiest way to vent the fish for release is to pierce the swim bladder with the proper tool. If you don’t have a specific tool, a de-barbed hook will work just fine.

Are Salmon Grouper Good to Eat?

Experience with eating salmon grouper and whether it is a palate pleaser is an individual adventure. It is described by many as, “good eating,” with lean, soft, juicy meat with a mildly sweet flavor and nutty accent.

Some people have described salmon grouper as having a nasty smell that does not go away with cooking.

Another observation by most fishermen is that salmon grouper often have small rice-shaped worms in the meat. It is true this is quite common.

Either way, the wormy or smelly fish should not be eaten.

Overall, the consensus is that salmon grouper is delicious when you have the right one, and it is correctly prepared.

How to Clean Salmon Grouper

To begin cleaning your salmon grouper for cooking, you will need a filet knife and a skinning knife. Filet the fish assuring you have removed all the bones without wasting any of the flesh. You should glean beautiful fillets from the salmon grouper.

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You need to remove the skin because this type of fish is one that should be prepared without skin.

The head will have a lot of meat in it that you will not want to waste. You can boil the head and when it’s nice and stewed down remove the meat.

Cooking Salmon Grouper

Before cooking, it’s a good idea to brine your salmon grouper. To keep your fish from falling apart and also to prevent patches of white albumin that you may have noticed on cooked fish, soak it for ten minutes in one tablespoon of sea salt per four cups of cold water.

Brining will prepare the delicate fish to be used in a wide variety of recipes.

Salmon Grouper has many options that cover several cooking techniques. It’s an excellent choice for fish tacos or Asian recipes that require white fish. It can be fried, baked, sauteed, or broiled.

Grilling is a little tricky for salmon grouper because it is quite flakey. Soaking it in brine does help to hold the fish together, but you’ll still need to take some care. You can serve this fish over pasta, incorporate it into a bouillabaisse or use it in a traditional ceviche.

A Quick Salmon Grouper Recipe

A refreshing and quick recipe with a 20 minute prep time and 25 minutes in the oven can be on the table in less than an hour.

Try this One-Dish salmon grouper.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 6oz Salmon Grouper fillets
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon each, garlic & onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon peppersalt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced dill
  • 2 sliced lemons
  • 2 sliced onions
  • 1 teaspoon butter cut into small pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F or 200 degrees C.
  2. Cover the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish with the spinach and place the salmon grouper on top.
  3. Add the tomatoes halves around the fish and then pour the vegetable broth in.
  4. Using all the seasonings on the ingredient list, season the fish.
  5. Add the lemon slices and onion slices in single rows over the fish.
  6. Dot the butter around the top of the other ingredients.
  7. Place aluminum over the dish and bake in the preheated oven until fish flakes easily, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
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Sides That Pair Well

If you get stumped when it comes to deciding on side dishes to go with your salmon grouper, one of the best side dishes for fish are simple steamed and grilled vegetables. Roasted or mashed potatoes, angel hair pasta with a creamy or lemon sauce, lettuce or kale salad, or quinoa are also good choices.

Salmon grouper is so versatile that anything you pair it with for dinner or lunch will be pleasing to eat.

If you want to add wine to your table when you have this lovely white fish, you could select a Moscato, American Pinot Gris, French Sauvignon Blanc, White Zinfandel or Pinot Noir.

The perfect wine will depend on what spices and flavors you are using in your recipe and side dishes.

Conclusion

Salmon grouper is a tricky fish, but it shouldn’t be totally dismissed as a fish to eat. As long as it’s clean and free of worms, it can be just fine.

I wouldn’t bother keeping any bocaccio if I had plenty of other fish in the boat. It’s probably not worth the trouble unless you’re really wanting some extra meat.

If you do keep salmon grouper, make sure not to combine it with other fish in plastic bags. It has a tendency to pass along its smell to other fillets and that’s not something you want when mixing in higher-quality fish.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>