You catch it, they'll cook it: Local restaurants serve up anglers' fresh catches

Jacob Fuller
Chef Andi Bell at Boshamps describes a feast he prepared from fresh-caught mahi and wahoo delivered by local anglers.

After a long day on the water, there may be nothing more satisfying than enjoying the spoils of all that hard work.

Several local restaurants, including Boshamps, Harbor Docks, AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar, Dewey Destin's and Fisherman's Wharf, are located right on the harbor and fully welcome anglers to bring their own fresh fish and choose how they want it cooked.

"We'll do up to a pound per person," said Kevin Lephart, manager at Dewey Destin's. "If there are a number of people in their group, we'll do it family-style, where we do a mixture of fried, grilled, blackened or whatever they want."

Prices at the restaurants vary depending on type of fish, and how the diners want it prepared. Most stay within a similar range, from $6.99 for an eight-ounce filet to $12.99 per pound, and always with some sides included.

The most common fish to come in straight from the boats are various snapper — vermilion snapper is popular year-round as is red snapper when in season — and king mackerel. There are few exceptions to what most restaurants are willing to cook up.

Chef Andi Bell at Boshamps said he's only once turned away an angler's catch.

"Somebody tried to bring some shark in here one time," Bell told The Log. "There just wasn't any feasible way to cook it. I forgot what kind of shark they brought in, but it was tough, it was chewy. I didn't want to put my name to it."

Some of the restaurants advertise more than others to attract anglers coming straight from the boats and bringing their fish, such as Fisherman's Wharf, which proudly displays a banner reading "We Cook Your Catch" on the Harbor-side of the restaurant.

"As far as I know, we've done it since the restaurant's been open," said Fisherman's Wharf manager Nick Emerzian. "It's just what we do. You can't get any fresher than that."

AJ's gets the word out by providing Lucky Fisherman cards with the slogan "Cook Your Catch" on them to local charter boat captains to give to their anglers. With the card, anglers get a discount on their food. Tracy McCraw, AJ's director of marketing, said there is something special about eating a fish you caught after a day of hard work and play on the water.

"You've already had you’re adventure. You're tired from fishing," McCraw told The Log. "Instead of having to go through the worry of having to do a little bit more work, just come over to the restaurant and drop off the bag of fish that you want prepped."

Most restaurants require customers to bring the fish already filleted. AJ's accepts whole fish, and prepares a special presentation for those who dine in.

"We'll scale and then we'll score it, to where you cut it different ways so the blocks of meat come out," AJ's restaurant manager Keith Waters told The Log. "When we take it out in the dining room, there's definitely a 'wow' factor."