The Jacksmelt - An Underrated Coastal Catch
Continuing my habit of honoring overlooked and underappreciated fish, today's featured piscine is the jacksmelt, a long, skinny, silvery fish found all over the San Francisco Bay and its environs (I first made its acquaintance while fishing near the Berkeley marina). It ranges from Baja California in Mexico all the way up to Oregon, and is frequently caught on piers and jetties or while surf fishing.
While they're not huge fish (the longest ones get up around 17 inches) they put up quite a fight for their size, and they're not at all shy about jumping on your bait. I caught several of them on anchovies, but I'm told they'll bite on blood worms, pile worms, and lots of other things; the excellent Pier Fishing in California site has recommendations on different rigs and baits you can use to catch them.
From a culinary perspective, they're not the finest fish you'll ever eat - they have quite a few bones, and not much meat on them - but they're not bad breaded and fried, and I suspect you could grill or smoke them with some success as well. Some people use pickling brine to dissolve or soften bones in particularly boney fish; pickled herring is a good example, and I know it's done with shad too. So maybe pickled jacksmelt is worth a try as well.