Striped bass, or ‘Striper’ season opened June 25th in Massachusetts. Striped bass is highly prized by anglers for its size and for its fight on the line. Its tender, flavorful flesh pairs beautifully with fresh summer produce. This combination of fun, challenging fishing and good eating make striped bass one of Massachusetts’ most popular game fish.
Historically, the striped bass population has fluctuated widely. Striped bass spawn in Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware River or the Hudson River and from there migrate as far north as the Bay of Fundy in Canada. Attempts to conserve the species have resulted in heavy regulation: Striped bass caught by commercial fishermen must be 34 inches long and can only be caught with hook and line gear. The season’s length is determined by quota (a limit on the total catch for the region) and during the season commercial fishing is only permitted two days per week. Commercial fishermen are allowed between 2 and 15 striped bass per day, according to what kind of permit they hold. Recreation fishermen may keep striped bass measuring more than 28 inches, but are limited to one per day.
Striped Bass with Lemon-Caper Tomatoes
1 ½ - 2 lbs Striped bass filets
½ Cup olive oil
Salt & pepper
2 ½ - 3 lbs Heirloom, garden, or other good quality tomatoes
1 Tablespoon capers, drained
1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Zest and juice of one lemon
¼ - ½ Cup chopped fresh parsley, basil or a combination of the two
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a non-stick, oven-safe skillet or a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the flesh side of the filets and season both sides with salt and pepper. Coat the skillet with about 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and sear the filets, skin side down, until browned (1-2 minutes.) Finish cooking in preheated oven 5-10 minutes, until cooked through and flesh appears opaque.
Mix remaining olive oil with lemon zest and juice, garlic, and capers. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice tomatoes into thick slices and shingle onto a serving platter, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle tomato slices with lemon-caper dressing, reserving some dressing to pass at the table. Alternatively, roughly chop tomatoes (or halve cherry or grape tomatoes) and toss with dressing in a wide, shallow bowl, reserving some dressing to pass at the table. Lay fish filets, crispy skin side up, atop tomatoes and garnish with parsley and/or basil. Serve reserved dressing alongside.
Crusty bread and local corn on the cob would be delicious with this dish.