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Eating wrasse

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Well-Known Member
Apr 28, 2014
Seeing so many wrasse down here in dorset I must admit to being very tempted by trying one. A few things for me to consider if anone can shed light- are the bigger (3lb+) ones firmer textured? Can they be cold smoked? Suggested cooking methods ie bake whole, fried fillets, curry or stew or soup. Please help.
The wrasses I'm familiar with, family Labridae, all have firm white meat and taste excellent, but the taste is extremely mild. Might be too mild for cold smoked. We call the most common one the "fish for people who don't like fish". Outstanding most any way you want to cook them
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i quite like rass although its is a mild flavor, boney and quite small flaky fillets. i just fry the skinned fillets in a bit of butter and finish with a sprinkle of salt. the one thing you MUST do is wash the slime off them as soon as they are dead otherwise it will taint the flesh.
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3lb is probably just about worth eating. If you get them too small they'll be mainly head, guts and bones and the flesh likely watery. Yes, bigger wrasse (which will be Ballan Wrasse in the UK) have more solid flesh with nice big, firm flakes. Down in Cornwall, I was fortunate to get a couple well over 5lb (maybe 6 /7/8lb) - wish I'd weighed them now as I found out later they were in record territory - we cut them into big, meaty steaks (salmon-style, cutting across the strong, thick, spine - these were big, hefty fish) and BBQ'd them, wrapped in foil with butter. The flesh was firm, with big flakes like a very thick piece of haddock. It surprises me that people have such low opinions of them - often having never eaten them - they seem as good any fish I have eaten and far better than anything you'd find in a supermarket. On average, I only take one wrasse a year, usually specifically for bouillabaisse (tomato & fish stew). The head/guts/bones are good for fish stock (sort of peppery) or raw as bait in lobster pots or for chum.

I would think you can smoke anything - the overriding flavour left at the end will, as usual, probably be smoke (like kippers)! :D Mind the smoke doesn't make you sick (I think Pav had a bad experience when he first tried it).

Yes, all of the above sound good/viable ideas - try them & report back! My mother-in-law, a very accomplished cook, made a particularly good bouillabaisse a few years ago. I think she cut the fish (wrasse and probably mullet &/or mackeral) into large chunks first and quickly pan fried them before adding them fairly late to the tomatoes, herbs, olive oil, etc.

BTW For most fish dishes we like to include some or all of the following: Fennel (which, like several other herbs, has an aniseed flavour - in fact every part of the fennel plant has this flavour and can be used, from root, stem to leaf & seed), garlic, olive oil, butter, black pepper.

We also found adding the following good esp. with stir fry (in addition to the above): ginger, mace, mustard, soy sauce. Esp. with freshly caught fish, yum!

BTW they say that all wrasse start off as female and change gender as they grow bigger, such that all of the very big ones are male.
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Female changing to male is pretty much universal in the family Labridae. Sounds like your wrasse and my wrasse are the same family.+
Not many folk spear wrasse, you wont win any brownie points for killing them!
I always feel that it's pretty unsporting to shoot wrasse as they are bold, brazen fish and will almost immediately swim right up to you. If everyone took them then I imagine they'd be be annihilated very quickly.

I've never actually tried them
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I guess, as there are less and less more suitable targets each year, people will start shooting them in numbers!!
More like underwater pets that a sporting proposition.
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I guess, as there are less and less more suitable targets each year, people will stat shooting them in numbers!!
More like underwater pets that a sporting proposition.

Yes, I like to see the wrasse, big, dumb, lovable creatures. Remind me of my ex girlfriend!
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They have a reputation on the mainland UK of being inedible - which might be why they are more prolific than more prestigious/more sporting species - perhaps because, years ago, Britain was blessed with an abundance of other fish to choose from. Not so any more.

Although not much sport, the larger ones do make decent eating, and wrasse are relatively plentiful (less so the really big ones though - the males). But a fish to take only in moderation when you have a specific plan/recipe. Typically for me that is about once a year (didn't take one last year), usually specifically for bouillabaisse, which I enjoy.
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Wrasse are very slow growing, they are not pelagic fish but territorial.
It would be easy to diminish the stock, were it not due to the terrain they prefer.
Wrasse like rock & weed, not so easy for commercial fishermen to harvest from!
However they might be not so common as you might think, unlike free swimming fish that live in vast areas of ocean, wrasse congregate near the shore line.
Ballan wrasse are indeed edible ... you make your own decisions as to whether to kill them or not.. it is not against any law!
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With my accuracy percentages I think I would be personally hard pushed to harm any species no matter how localised!!! Seriously though am keen to try a sizeable one and give it the culinary respect it deserves, and all things considered will take only a couple a year, if they taste good enough.
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Oh yeah, best way to cook - as is very well documented on the forum - place two fillets of wrasse ( that has just taken you one hour thirty minutes to clean skin and de bone) between two house bricks. Place the sandwich on a hot BBQ & cook for a few hours.
Throw away the wrasse and eat the bricks :)
Oh yeah, best way to cook - as is very well documented on the forum - place two fillets of wrasse ( that has just taken you one hour thirty minutes to clean skin and de bone) between two house bricks. Place the sandwich on a hot BBQ & cook for a few hours.
Throw away the wrasse and eat the bricks :)
That is very nearly the same recipe for when someone shoots their first Canada goose.
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Perhaps because of the (ill-deserved) "inedible" reputation, I notice south coast lobster/crab potters often use wrasse to bait their pots. Might also be because it is cheap, readily available and/or effective.
It is because it last for ages in the pot, fish like mackerel last less than a day, fish like wrasse last for 3-4 days.
Most professional potters use 'frozen reds' or similar, it is a mix of frozen small tough fish like gurnards or bream.
I think this type of bait comes from by catch from trawlers where it is allowed to be landed.
Wrasse get caught in pots very frequently and inevitably end up as bait!
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Took a large wrasse home this weekend, didn't weigh it but I guess it wold have gone 4-5lb and was shot at approx 10-12m down. Filleted it in the normal fashion without trouble once the thumbnail (sized and thickness!) scales were off, and was quite pleased with how thick and meaty the flesh looked. I cut out the row of fine pin bones which gave me 2 long loin style thickish fillets plus 2 from across the ribs. I was told that you'll have a job to get fish finger sized fillets, but to be honest it yielded more meat than the 3lb bass next to it. Cooked very simply to give it a real test shallow fried with butter and well seasoned with a dash of lemon to finish. My own opinion is that it's not dissimilar to a small pollock in texture and flavour, very light flavour and delicate texture. My honest opinion is that it's ok and no better or worse. Would I shoot another? Probably, but maybe to only end a 'dry spell' or something!
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You may notice that wrasse don't struggle much when captured but, tend to look at you pleadingly with their lovely big eyes!
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Foxfish, I've got a very vague idea you're not keen on shooting wrasse!! Regarding the fight after the shot well it was shot right in the head and down there about 30ft at the end of my breath hold so was keen to get back to the surface therefore didn't notice much what happened after. We ate (amongst other things) the other fillet cooked on the BBQ in a foil parcel with olive oil, chilli and lemon and were happy with it, overall score 5/10. BTW Mrs pointandhope stipulated before the last trip "pleeeeease no more mullet! Can't you get something else?" I reckon she might be glad of a filthy stinky mullet next time! Maybe I should bring home a big sweaty conger and dress it on the kitchen table,then she might beg me for more wrasse.
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On that subject, The Shotgun Chef offers this recipe for any wrasse you might spear off the Cornish Coast.

Cornish wrasse with spring onions, cream and white wine
July 16, 2014 · by theshotgunchef · in Country life, fishing, Lifestyle, Non-game recipes, Recipes. ·

Wrasse with white wine, cream and spring onion

Beautiful wrasse from the bay

While spear fishing in Cornwall a few weeks ago I managed to bag myself a very large rainbow wrasse. Wrasse are not a fish you will find on your fishmonger’s slab as they are rarely found in open water. Instead they spend their time gnawing on barnacles and mussels on rocks and cliffs close to shore. This means that trawlers and day boats cannot catch them. The teeth of wrasse are incredibly hard and strong and you can often hear a rasping sound as they gnaw at their food when you’re diving or snorkelling near to where they are feeding on the rocks.

Here’s a fantastic recipe for rainbow wrasse with spring onions, cream and white wine sauce. This recipe will also work wonderfully with sea bass, if, unlike me, you don’t happen to have a spear gun and be next to the Cornish Coast!

Rainbow wrasse with spring onion, white wine and cream

Serves 2

I large wrasse or seabass (around 750g)
1 knob of salted butter
5 spring onions
1/2 glass white wine
1/2 pint single cream
Salt and cracked black pepper to season

Descale and fillet your fish. Melt a large knob of butter in a hot frying pan. When the butter starts to bubble, place the fish, skin-side down on the pan for around 5 minutes until the skin has turned crispy.

Throw in the chopped spring onions, white wine, and turn the fish over so it’s flesh-side down. Cook for 2 minutes and add the cream. Simmer for 1 more minute, until the cream thickens. Serve on a plate and drizzle the remainder of the sauce over the fish. Season with salt and cracked black pepper.