Louisiana’s coastal waters are home to hundreds of different species of fish (also known as finfish by LDWF). Our state ranks 2nd in the harvest of finfish in the United States (by volume, including menhaden). Eleven million pounds of saltwater finfish were landed by commercial fishermen in Louisiana in 2016, with a dockside value of $26.5 million (not including menhaden).
Fish is very perishable, and should be kept under refrigeration until ready to eat.
How to Store your Fish
Refrigeration: Before refrigerating a fish, wash it in cold water and dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel. Wrap it with aluminum foil or plastic wrap to further prevent air exposure and place on ice or in the refrigerator. Can usually be stored for up to 2 days.
Freezing: Fish that is frozen can last upwards of 12 months depending on how it was prepared. Once the fish is cleaned it can be placed in a plastic freezer bag with as much air as possible removed. You can also freeze the fish into a block of ice with only enough water to cover the fish. The ice block will prevent air from reaching the flesh of the fish.
Learn more about the main species of fish that we love to eat, not just here in Louisiana but across the country; click on a tab below.
Black drum, Pogonias cromis, is a commonly fished commercial species in Louisiana. Found throughout the Gulf, these fish are black or reddish-gray in color. Juveniles have vertical bars along the sides of their bodies that fade as they grow. The adults are commonly found on oyster reefs due to the powerful nature of their jaws and rounded teeth. This is the largest species within the drum family, potentially growing to over 100 lbs.
Black drum spawn between January and April, and are caught commercially year round.
Eating and Buying Black Drum
Once considered a ‘trash’ fish, black drum is making a comeback in restaurants across south Louisiana. While many prefer other types of fish, smaller black drum, when properly prepared and cleaned are an excellent choice. During the colder months, fish caught tend to be fattier and in better condition than when caught in warmer months (post-spawning).
Skin your drum, don’t just scale it. The skin is what gives this fish its “fishy taste”. The larger the drum, the coarser the flesh more comparable with chicken.
Smaller red snapper tend to migrate towards any sort of bottom relief or obstruction. As they get larger, they start to spend more time on more open bottom habitats. They mostly eat smaller fish including pipefish, snake eels, and anchovies with a secondary diet of king shrimp and sea lice.
Spawning occurs from late May to early October, peaking from June to August. Typically the most spawning occurs early in the evening. A prized fish by fishermen across the coast, NOAA Fisheries has placed significant constraints on the amount of fish that may be caught each year due to concerns of overfishing. Commercially, red snapper may only be caught by fishermen who have an IFQ (individual fishing quota) from NOAA Fisheries. They are allotted a certain number of pounds of fish, and may only catch that amount. Recreationally, the state is working toward state management of the resource—in 2018 Louisiana was allocated a certain number of pounds that recreational and charter for-hire fishermen could catch during the summer.
Eating and Buying Red Snapper
Makes excellent table fare and is prized by both commercial and recreational fishermen. It has a lean, firm texture with a mildly sweet flavor a slight pink tint. Snapper can be cooked a variety of different ways: baked, fried, broiled, poached, or grilled. The best seasonings tend to be simple, lemon, butter, and chili pepper.
Spotted seatrout (speckled trout), Cynoscion nebulosus, is a dark, silvery fish on top that fades to white towards the ventral side. There are spots on the top half of the fish that vary in number, with younger fish having more spots. The dorsal and tail fin are always spotted. Many times these fish have yellow pigment on the edges and within their mouths. The smaller trout eat small crustaceans, while the larger adults feed on small fish such as pogies and croakers.
Speckled trout occur in the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, ranging from Massachusetts to the Yucatan peninsula. During the spring and summer, these fish are found near seagrass beds of shallow bays and estuaries looking for something to eat. As the fall and cooler temperatures approach, they move deeper into bay waters and the Gulf of Mexico. Speckled trout are also found in dredged boat harbors and channels.
Speckled trout spawn from March through November and afterwards move into deeper, still waters as the temperatures drop. A favorite of inshore recreational and charter fishermen, they may not be taken commercially.
Eating and Buying Speckled Trout
Speckled trout are a very delectable, well flavored fish. However, it is very important to put the fish on ice immediately after being cleaned. The delicate trout meat quality degrades quickly if left un-chilled due to naturally occurring enzymes that deteriorate it. This fish is best when eaten fresh and not after being frozen. Most recipes suggest baking as the preferred cooking method.
Atlantic bluefin, Thunnus thynnus, is one of the largest and fastest swimming fishes in all of the world. Torpedo shaped, they are built for speed and endurance. Atlantic bluefin tuna have a metallic blue coloration on top and silvery bottom that helps with camoflauging within the water. The finlets are yellow in color. This species can be distinguished from other tuna members by the short length of their pectoral fins.
Warm-blooded. Found in cold northern waters as well as tropical Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean waters. They migrate far and wide most commonly from Gulf waters to the NE US shelf and the Sargasso sea. These migrations can occur mulitple times a year.
Atlantic bluefin tuna eat a lot. They feed on smaller fish, crustaceans, squid, and eels. They can also filter feed.
Spawning occurs in two locations, the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. In the Gulf, spawning occurs from mid-April and mid-June. In the Mediterranean sea, spawning occurs from June to August.
Bluefin tuna have the darkest and fattiest flesh of all the tunas. Its flavor is described as medium-full and very destinctive. Best served as sushi or cooked rare to medium-rare.
Atlantic Bigeye, Thunnus obesus, is an important food fish and prized recreational game fish. They can grow to be nearly 6 feet long and 400 lbs. Their bodies are streamlined for fast swimming with large head and eyes. Bigeye are countershaded which means their bodies are dark on top and silvery across the body with the first dorsal being yellow a darker yellow and the second dorsal and anal fins are more of a pale yellow. This species looks very similar to yellowfin tuna and is hard to distinguish without experience.
They feed near the top of the food chain, eating a lot of epipelagic and mesopelagic fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods.
Found in the open ocean of all tropical and temperate ocean waters with the exception of the Mediteraean Sea.
They spawn throughout the year, but most spawning occurs during the warmer summer months. Spawning occurs in open water close to the surface and is very temperature dependent.
Bigeye tuna are prized for sashimi. They tend to have a richer flavor than yellowfin with a high fat content. The meat texture is firm and meaty, best served medium-rare or as sushi. Over cooked tuna is tough and tasteless.
Atlantic yellowfin, Thunnus albacares, are a torpedo-shaped species with dark blue backs, yellow sides, and a silver belly. Their fins and finlets are bright yellow. They are considerably smaller than bluefin tunas, but can still reach close to 7 feet in length.
Yellowfin are epipelagic, meaning they spend their time right above the thermocline, in the top 100 m. They eat similar diets to other tunas including myctohpids, anchovies, sardines, pelagic crustacteans, and squid.
Yellowfin is often marketed as ahi. It is used mainly in raw dishes including sushi and sashimi, but is also excellent when grilled/seared rare. Yellowfin tuna is becoming a common replacement for the southern bluefin tuna due to extreme depletion.
The Atlantic pompano or more commonly known as the Florida pomano, Trachinotus carlolinus, is a silvery, flat-bodied fish, with a greenish-gray coloration dorsally and a yellowish coloration ventrally.
Common along Gulf beaches, these fish have a large range north from Massachusetts south to Brazil, inlcuding the Gulf of Mexico and Central America. They have been found in deep waters, but are commonly a coastal fish inhating inshore and nearshore waters. They are particularly fond of dark, turbid water. Preferred waters temps ranging from 82-90 degrees and preferred salinity range from 28-37 ppt. Commerical landings are made from Virginia to Texas, but most of the catch resides in Florida waters. Caught all year, but major fishery occurs March through May.
They feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and other invertebrates and small fish.
This fish is often times referred to as “the world’s most edible fish.” Its silvery skin is edible as well. The meat is firm and finely flaked with a sweet, mild flavor. With this fish being so easy to eat off the bone, people tend to prepare it whole. The fish can also be halved lengthwise making two filets. The best was to cook pompano is to broil it with lemon and butter.
Gag grouper, Mycteroperca microlepis, is a brownish-gray fish with brown worm like markings on the body. There are dark lines that radiate from the eye and fins are dark in coloration as well. The bottom of the cheek has a serrated spur which differentiates this species from the Black grouper. These fish can reach up to 36 inches in length and average around 20 pounds.
Gag groupers can be found in brackish to marine coastal waters. Inshore on rocky and grassy bottoms as well as offshore. They are common along the rocky ledges along the eastern Gulf.
The larger gag grouper feed primarily on smaller fish, crabs, shrimp, and cephalopods. The juveniles feed on small crustaceans found within the shallow grass beds.
Groupers all start as females and then will change into males at a certain size or age after having completed a few spawning seasons. They spawn from December to May peaking between February and early April with the full moons.
Grouper is a very tasty fish. It has a mild but distinct flavor, somewhere in between bass and halibut. Some people think gag grouper is the grouper of choice due to firmer meat and higher yield, even though gag grouper on the market is still called black grouper. The most popular way to cook grouper in the south is blackened, but it is quite versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways.