What’s the Best Fish… and which Fish Suck?

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One fish makes the table and another makes good fertilizer. There’s some fish that angler’s prize, yet others they avoid like the plague. Taste is not the only factor fishermen consider when forming their fishy preferences.

Salty seafaring anglers believe the sight of flying fish is a sign of good fishing ahead. It’s the same way with the ocean sunfish or mola mola. Old fishing superstition suggests terrible fortune to those who capture mola for consumption.

Don’t misconstrue an angler’s perception and think taste isn’t high on the list. It is, but an angler might see the best fish as something else entirely. They also have to struggle with fish that suck sometimes to put a better fare on the table. Take a stroll through this compilation that includes four fish anglers consider the best. Finish up with three other species that just plain suck.

Best fish, for several reasons…

Bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna

When it comes to searing tuna on the grill, no other fish matches the exquisite flavor of bluefin tuna. Just a dash of salt and pepper is all you need for seasoning and light cover of olive oil. Get that outside layer to cook over high heat in seconds flat, serve it up, and listen to the compliments roll in. bluefin tuna is so tasty that the species population is falling dangerously low. Both Atlantic and Pacific bluefin tuna now enjoy strict protection limits from U.S. Fish & Game.

Losing bluefin tuna would be a true loss. They are one of the most highly adaptive species in the ocean for handling different water conditions. It’s kind of a bummer that recreational anglers suffer due to commercial over fishing.

Striped bass


Chesapeake Bay rock fish, aka striper, makes a great main dish. It takes a place on an angler’s best fish list for more practical reasons. Striper live in both freshwater lakes and coastal saltwater regions. Anglers catch them all over the United States, including both Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Striper offer a light fillet that is delicious on the pallet and they grow. Imagine the fillets that come off a 20-pound freshwater or 40-pound saltwater striper. Striper, or striped bass, make the grade because you can fish them nearly anywhere. They provide a tasty meal and 1 fish can feed the whole clan.

Opah fish
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Opah (moonfish)

An age-old fish found almost exclusively in warm South Pacific Ocean waters is creating a big craze. Opah, or moonfish as many anglers know them by, are a beautiful saltwater species. It’s quite common to find them floating in lazy style near a drifting paddy of kelp.

Once in a while, they will take an angler’s live bait. Being a large round species, they put up a good fight but the fillets off the fish make it all worthwhile. A strange fish to fillet, the weird pattern of cuts yields to a sharp knife and proper technique. Some of the world’s top chefs hail Opah meat as the best resemblance to steak that lives in the ocean.

School of sardines


How can such a small fish make it to the top of such a big list? It’s not the size of the fish that matters, it’s the size of the fish it can catch. Live sardines are like dogs to fishermen because they can qualify as best friend material. Getting a healthy batch that has time to settle and cure can pay dividends to the offshore angler.

Sardines are very hard for game fish to resist. If any fish serves a better dual purpose it’s hard to find. Bring a few cans of lightly salted sardines with crackers for instant heart healthy energy.

Now, fish that suck OR put a rock in your gut…

Spinner shark
By Jean-Lou Justine (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Spinner shark

Sharks cause fear and with good reason, but the spinner shark is just plain nasty. They’re not a fish that cause people to swim for their lives, like the great white. Fact is, an angler would rather deal with a great white any day than these pesky monsters.

They strike when recreational fishermen battle large species like tuna or swordfish, and they can ruin a commercial catch. The miniature spinner shark comes up from the deep and latches onto your catch with razor sharp teeth. Once a spinner shark takes hold they twist until the flesh comes off, leaving a small hole in your prize fish. Imagine what happens to your prize fish when a whole school of spinner sharks attack.

Every once in a while, these terrible creatures will molest a surfer or swimmer. Spinner sharks aren’t likely to eat you whole, but their bites can still be life-threatening.

Baltic herring

Baltic herring

The Baltic herring isn’t really a crappy fish on its own accord. It’s what those Swedish folks do with it that truly sucks. Surströmming is what they call it and many think it’s the foulest food on earth. Swedes make it by catching the Baltic herring in brackish water of the North Baltic Sea. They round them up in spring just before spawning begins.

Here’s where things get uglier. They add a touch of salt to keep the herring from rotting, then they leave it out. The can doesn’t close on Surströmming until it undergoes this process, and then it ferments some more. Even opening a can of Surströmming can force empty the strongest of stomachs.

Silver carp
By Magiccity (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Silver carp

These suckers will ruin the waters you grew up fishing in. They’ll also jump right out and hit you in the face. It’s like adding insult to injury. Silver carp belong to a list of Asian carp species that are a problem in U.S. waters. Their introduction back in the 60’s and 70’s was an effort to control algae in ponds, but the carp spread quickly. Entire regions of the Great Lakes are now in trouble because Asian carp decimate the food supply.

Silver carp are the ones that startle and jump when a boat propeller passes by. Show up to find your favorite fishing hole void of life, then get knocked out flat as you try to leave the area. Go ahead and say this fish doesn’t suck.

Any questions?