Slimy Mackerel, Cooking the bait.
  |  First Published: December 2014

Called slimy mackerel in Australia, they are found all over the world. In Australia they are considered arguably the best baitfish available for many target species, but are seldom thought as table fare. However, in many places they are revered as an eating fish, particularly in colder waters.

The secret to cooking mackerel is to remove two boneless and skinless strips of flesh from each fillet. One strip from above the bloodline, the other strip from below the bloodline.


Getting prepared: two slimy mackerel fillets and a slimy mackerel alongside for comparison.


To remove the bones, make an incision down to (but not through) the skin above the pin bones and bloodline (which run the full length of the fillet). The line of pin bones that run the full length down the middle of the fillet will remain attached to the skin. Then turn the knife outwards and cut the flesh away from the centre and remove the strip of fish flesh from the dorsal part of the fillet.


Next remove the rib bones from the belly half of the fillet.


Now skin the bottom half of the fillet. Using a blade longer than the fillet you can skin in the opposite direction to normal. Make a cut into the flesh below the pin bones and then cut the flesh strip away from the remaining skin and pin bones, ensuring that you have no bones in the strip that is intended for the table. The remainder should now be the skin with a row of pin bones still attached.


Two mackerel strips (one from the upper section of the fillet and the other from the lower section of the fillet) on the right ready for cooking. Note that the rib 'flaps' make good bream baits and the flesh and skin left overs make good berley.


This recipe is a concept rather than a rigid amount of ingredients.

The seasoned flour consists of plain flour mixed with a generous amount of salt and pepper. The mackerel fillets are coated in this mixture and then sautéed in a little butter until almost cooked through. Don’t overcook as the mackerel as it will continue to cook in the pan when removed from the heat.

I remove the fillets from the pan and add chopped herbs to the butter in the pan. This herb buttery mixture is then spooned over the cooked mackerel. I have used chives in the photo for this recipe, but you can add almost any herb of your choice. The robust oily flavours of the mackerel will team with most herbs; my favourites are thyme, coriander or chives.


To serve, place the mackerel fillets on a plate and spoon the herb butter sauce over the fillets. A squeeze of lemon lifts the tastes in the dish.

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