This week I received an interesting question from a group taking a tour – “Why don’t you serve Flying Fish on the tour? Isn’t it a “Catalina Thing”? What’s the deal with them?”
So here’s your answer:
Flying fish (or gliding fish) have populated the seas for quite some time. The oldest known fossil of this type of fish was found in Asia and was dated at nearly 235 million years old! They are a great bait fish and are loved by seals, sea lions, marlin, tuna, swordfish, pelicans and fishermen all over the world.
The species that flocks to Catalina’s coastal waters every year when the water warms up are some of the largest. The Cypselurus californicus can grow up to 2 lbs in size and measure just under 2 feet in length and width (when its “wings” are spread). They are amazing to see when they fly, err, glide over the ocean. The best way to do this is to hop aboard the Blanche W – a 1924 wooden hulled boat that was designed specifically for this tour. This boat has been running tours every summer since ’24, with the exception of World War II. It boasts two large WWI spotlights (one of which is shown here) and there is always a chance that a fish will land in the open-aired boat. Inevitably, when a fish lands in the boat, someone asks if they can take it home and cook it up for a late-night snack.
Small bones, a squishy consistency and an oily skin may not make this the most appetizing choice for most Americans, however in Barbados, the flying fish continues to be a local staple. There are several Barbados-style flying fish recipes out there, but this one seemed the best (i.e., the most spices and veggies):
Flying Fish Barbados Style
- 8 flying fish fillets
- 1 small onion, grated
- 1 small green pepper, chopped
- 1 blade chives, chopped
- Thyme and parsley
- Salt and pepper
- Few drops of lime juice
- 1 egg beaten
- Oil for frying
- 2 limes, wedged
Mix the seasoning ingredients and spread over the meaty side of the fish. Leave for about 1 hour. Dip the fish into the beaten egg and then into the breadcrumbs. Fry gently in a little oil for about 10 minutes. Serve with wedges of lime. Feeds 4 to 6.
No one on Catalina Island has made the jump to serve flying fish at their restaurant. When there are so many other good fish in the sea, sometimes it’s best to let the flying fish be.