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5 Fish OG Spearos Think Are Yucky But Shouldn’t Be Overlooked By New Spearos (Because They Actually Taste Good)

Not all spearfishers should be trusted with their culinary opinions.

Quickly after posting a few videos on YouTube and Instagram where I experiment with preparing different local reef fish, the barrage of comments spewed in. “Eww, that’s gross.” “Barf.”  Yet, when I challenged them in private messages, most reluctantly said they either hadn’t tried the fish or the one time they did – it wasn’t great. I thought this was odd. Just because you couldn’t make it taste good doesn’t mean that others could make it taste good.

Thankfully, you’re coming into diving with a beginner’s mind. Here are five fish that when prepared correctly, will help reduce pressure on other fish species while producing great-tasting meals.

Halfmoon Perch

Halfmoons make for delicious sashimi if properly bled and rested for a few days in the fridge.

Also known as blue perch, these fish are plentiful and tend to be found in the kelp or along rocky reef structures. When patty hopping for yellowtail, it’s not uncommon to see schools of them mucking about.  They aren’t particularly difficult to shoot and tend to stay within range even when you’re lining up for a shot. 

My favorite ways to prepare:

  • Dry-aged sashimi
  • Blowtorched skin (fish chicharrones)
  • Asian-style steamed fish over veggies

Opaleye

If there is one fish old-school divers love to hate it’s the opaleye. Good! More for us.

The cousin of this fish is popular in Asian cuisines, but this one is a fine substitute since it’s a plentiful local fish. They get a bad wrap because their guts will violate your nostrils due to the kelp. Therefore, it’s best to gut them after shooting. This flushes out the cavity with salt water, saving you from any foul stenches. This fish has a unique texture – you’ll either love it or hate it. It’s best to let it rest in an ice water slurry for a few days before filleting.

My favorite ways to prepare:

  • Poke
  • Asian-style steamed over veggies

Sargo

Sargo is arguably my favorite fish to eat in our local waters.

I bet if you did a blind taste test of sargo against white sea bass, more people would rank sargo as tastier. Blasphemy, I know. The white meat has the perfect flakiness and holds seasonings and sauces well. If you get a chance to dive into a school of Sargo, you’ll be mesmerized. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and see them roll-deep in schools of hundreds. They’re not always around, but I have seen them up in Malibu and down in Baja California Sur on the Pacific side.

My favorite ways to prepare:

  • Grilled
  • Pan-fried
  • Asian-style steamed 

Corbina

I don’t hear divers targeting corbina often, but they’re missing out.

This is the prized fish of surf anglers here in SoCal. Growing up surf fishing, they’ll leave your reel screaming and your heart racing as you try to bring them in on light gear.  Most guys catch and release this fish. A while back, I was curious and took one home to cook up. Holy cow, they’re delicious! Spearing them is a bit weird since they hang in the sandy bottom shallows near shore. When you’re going bug diving at night, you’ll tend to spot good size ones in about three to five feet of water.

My favorite ways to prepare:

  • Grilled
  • Baked

Zebra Perch

If you were on a desert island and had to choose between zebra perch or dying of starvation, most OG divers would choose death.

I’m fully aware that not all fish are worth eating. In fact, I thought zebra perch was one of them. That was until I took world-renowned chef, Daniel Holzman (author of Food IQ) out spearfishing. He’s a seafood specialist but hadn’t worked with zebra perch before. He proceeded to whip up one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever had. That just goes to show that it’s not the fish, it’s the chef that dictates a good meal.

My favorite ways to prepare:

  • Grilled
  • Baked

Don’t bother sharing these fish on social media. It’s not worth the ridicule. Simply enjoy practicing with them in the kitchen. It’s better for the ecosystem to ration which species we take to lessen the pressure on fish like sheephead.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing and spearfishing enthusiast. He's been fishing since he was 5 years old in the backcountry of Yosemite for trout and in the surf near his home in SoCal. Over the past 4 years, he's been spearfishing up and down the coast of California. He started Cast and Spear to help inspire others to get outside and chase their dream fish. Notable catches include spearing a 65-pound white sea bass, large grouper, and yellowtail down in Baja. When he's not in the water, he's usually fishing from his Gregor Baja aluminum boat or inflatable Takacat catamaran.
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