Striped Bass are in season. Stripers, also known as rockfish, head south with the Labrador current, sorta the southbound lane of I-95 for the Atlantic, and hit the Outer Banks during the colder months of the year. Except the juveniles, who wanna build up muscle mass before making the trek up north, so they hang out year round, particularly around the bridge pilings at Oregon inlet, which is about as far south, well maybe to Ocracoke, as any of the stripers go.
And that's because most of them are heading to the Roanoke River, in the NE corner of NC, from whence they came. Really. Most return to their birthplace to spawn, or drop off the next generation. That happens in early spring, creating a fishing frenzy around Roanoke Rapids.
But for now, the stripers are schooling up close enough to the beach to be able to cast to them from the surf, or caught out in the suds of the inlets via boat.
- That means fresh stripers are in the fish markets.
- Scroll down for a delicious RECIPE from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK: Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands.
Quick Story. A group of friends and I were walking the beach at Kill Devil Hills one February afternoon, and happened upon a Fishing Frenzy. Big old stripers, two feet long, just littered maybe 100 yards of beach. About 30 fishermen were casting, over and over, into the surf, and hauling in over and over, these 20-something pounders. We overheard one guy say his buddy had called him when he saw the stripers breaking, or schooling, from where he was working on a new roof. Another fellow came running over the dune with his tie tucked into his shirt and dress pants tucked into his boots.
I said to one guy who was dropping his fish into his cooler, "This looks exciting."
"Ma'am," he says, a big old grin on his face, "I haven't had this much excitement ever in my life. Nothing could be better than this."
"Not even sex?"
"Ma'am, that lasts for only a minute. This has been going on for hours."
My girlfriends and I decided he needs to stick to fishing.
BAKED FISH with PARMESAN CRUST, copyright from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2009.
This recipe comes from Ruth Toth, the retired teacher/chef of the Cafe Atlantic in Ocracoke. It's one of the most popular items on her menu. She prefers to use puppy drum, but happily substitutes whatever firm fleshed fish is in season.
2 cups freshly grated or shredded Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup chopped green onions
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon hot sauce
4 large (4 to 6 ounces) fish filets, preferably puppy drum, flounder, trout or stripers (rockfish)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place aluminum foil over baking sheet or pan.
Mix all ingredients, except fish, together in a mixing bowl.
Spread cheese mixture evenly over filets, and place in oven. Baking time will depend on the thickness of the filets, but will take about 12 minutes for fillets 3/4 inch thick.
YIELD: 4 servings