Bill Hohepa says…..

Everyone thinks the old maomao are the scourge of the sea.  They’re the sooty shear waters of the underwater world.  Yes in some circumstances I think they’d be right, like when you¹re using pillies for bait and they’re eaten off the hook by maomao before they even get anywhere near the bottom.

There are basically 3 types of maomao:

  • the pink maomao
  • the blue maomao
  • the grey maomao, which is similar to the blue only they¹re a greyish colour and smaller.

They swim about in very large schools, and are usually found around rocky structure, and deep water pins.  Swimming with them most of the time are trevally, yellowtail mackerel, and blue mackerel.

My old friend Joe Piripi called maomao Œeyefish’ because you invariably catch them in the eye.  I don’t know why that is, but my guess is this.  They’re very smooth and well shaped.  The only indentation on them is the eye socket.  So as they dart around the pieces of bait, so the point of the hook accidentally catches them as they swim past close to it in the eye socket, so they¹re caught in the eye.Either that or they come up to the bait for a closer look, and look too closely opps!  They are very easy to catch, and if you’ve got the kids on board they they’re going to have a lot of fun catching maomao.  The blue maomao I think are the best to eat, so get the kids catching them.  I’ll give you my recipe below.

The best idea really is just take some sabiki baitfish flashers and put a small strip of bait on the hooks.  It best to limit the string of hooks to 3 otherwise huge tangles when 6 maomao come up.  A light rod and reel is best, the line needs to be no bigger than say 3kg.

Another use for the old maomao is for bait for that moocher snapper.  As I said above, soft bait like pillies and bonito just gets picked to death by maomao and other picker fish like leatherjackets. So why not use maomao itself for bait.  I can tell you the pickers certainly leave them alone, but if there’s a moocher snapper
around he¹ll certainly have a go at your maomao bait.

The way to prepare the maomao for moocher bait is this.  Dispatch the maomao by ickying it. Then lie the fish on the bait board on its side.  Cut off the top fins from a line just above the fish’s eye. Then cut the same piece from the underside.  You’re now left with a sort of strip bait.

Stitch the fish up with 2 x 10/0 hook like you would a pillie, one in the head area, and the keeper hook around the tail area.  If you¹re in deeper water, add a ball sinker to the side of the bait with a couple of half hitch knots.  Send this bait down so it’s on the periphery of where fish are biting.  Nothing will touch this bait except that big moocher, because it’s as tough as old tough things.  So there you go, another old Billy Ho trick.

Now cooking the fish… There are a couple of ways I like to do this.  The first and simplest is to treat the blue maomao like a flounder.  Funnily enough, flounder is the closest flavour I can compare maomao with.  They’re pretty much the same texture as well.

So recipe number one.

  1. Gut and scale the maomao and cut off the head (You don’t have to though) and then salt it liberally.
  2. Place in side down in a pan of either melted butter, or olive oil and cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. Flip it over and do the other side.
  4. Then serve.

You’ll be surprised how close to a flounder it is.  My next recipe is even better.

  1. This time fillet the maomao; you’ll be surprised just how thick their fillets are.
  2. Take out the gut cage bones and the centre bones and skin it.
  3. You need about 4 good-sized blue maomao for this if you’re feeding a family of say four.
  4. Salt both side of the each fillet, then lightly flour the fillets.
  5. Heat a pan so it’s really hot. This recipe needs no oil in the pan; just a hot pan is the key.
  6. Once the pan is hot place each fillet into the pan and lightly brown each side.
  7. Once all the fillets are just that nice light brown colour it’s time for the next stage.  Take about a quarter cup of brandy and pour over all the fillets.  Brandy is best, but any alcohol with do, whiskey, rum, gin but brandy is best.
  8. Next have a cup of cream ready to pour over all the fillets, once the flames have died down.
  9. Turn the heat down at this point and simmer them for about 12 minutes, or until the brandy and the cream have joined together to a caramel texture.
  10. Once the caramel texture is there, its time to serve the fish.  This recipe is best on a bed of rice.
  11. Use the brandy caramel in the pan as the topping sauce over the fillets.

After trying this fish dish, I don’t think you¹ll be throwing too many blue maomao back.  The maomao must the blue type though for this to work best.  The fishing at the moment is excellent particularly in and around the harbours.  Find a bit of current and you¹ll catch as much as you want.

Any comments are welcome…eye fish? and cooking them in brandy?..can’t beat em smoked or just plain fried.

ARNZx

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