A variety of edible sea fish live in and around the inner Hebridean islands surrounding Octane’s remote expedition bothy. Here follows a simple guide to identification, catch methods and habitats for the following local fish to our shores:
Bass, Clam, Cod, Coley / Saithe, Crab, Dab, Haddock, Hake, King Scallop, Ling, Lobster, Mackerel, Mussels, Plaice, Pollack, Salmon, Scampi / Prawn, Sea Trout, Shrimp, Sprat, Whelk, Whiting, Winkle
Most of these fish can be caught using a simple rod and line from the rocks, hand-line from kayak, by lobster pot or simply by foraging the coastal shores.
However they are sourced they are eaten ocean fresh** via OCTANE’s 8*
Dicentrarchus labrax. Bass is so far only an optimistic Hebridean island rumour with confirmed catches reported further south (Luce Bay + more recently Loch Ryan). A predator ambush fish that hides in weeds with firm white flesh caught from estuaries, open beaches + reefs close to shore. Spinning or plugging, peeler crab, rag worm
Cancer paguras. Nocturnal predator, robust oval reddish-brown colour carapace with characteristic ‘pie crust’ edge. Feeds on molluscs, crustaceans and dead fish. Found on course, mud and sandy grounds and lives in cracks and holes in rocks in shallow water to 100m. Mature specimen may reach 25cm, commonly known as the edible crab
Venerupis decussata. Collective term for large family of marine bi-valve molluscs that live on the ocean floor at shallow depths. In Britain term is used to describe those found burrowed in the intertidal zone soft substrate (clay, muddy sand, gravel). Found 6 – 12 inches below intertidal zone sands. Can be collected with bare hands but a spade or rake is easier on your nail varnish, if you’re that way inclined.
Gadus morhua. Long tapered body of sandy browns + grayish greens with barbell on chin, cod is a resident in deep water and wrecks but rare from shore. Bigger fish appear autumn / winter. Summer boat fish with crab + mussel bait. Mild tasting dense moist white-flaked flesh, smaller fish known as codling. You’re clearly not British if you haven’t eaten it fried in crisp flaky batter.
Coley / Saithe
Pollachius virens. Best early spring, coley is caught with feathers or fish strips over wrecks. Also known as saithe, it is a white fish alternative to cod + haddock with blue tint long tapered body. Smaller fish caught round coast throughout year
Pollachius pollacius. Spin sand eels or float fish rag worm. Hard fighting. Pollack is a small relative of the cod, has large eyes – sight hunter, ambush small fish from cover, shore rocks + wrecks. Often confused with coley.
Limanda limanda. Smallest of flatfish, clean sandy or shell grit bottom. Over 1lb dab classed as specimen. Often caught two and three at a time with shrimp, crab or sand eel
Melanogrammus aeglefinus. Dark lateral line and distinct thumbprint mark behind head, above pectoral fin. Boat offers best chance of catching haddock, stays deep 40m+. Good smoked, mild tasting dense succulent white-flaked flesh, feeds on invertebrates
Urophycis tenuis. Elusive tubular shaped predator found in deeper water on continental shelf June-Mar, boat caught. Of the whiting family, Hake is sleek silver bodied with long, sharp teeth, big eyes + dark thin lateral line. Flaked white flesh, more subtle flavour than cod. Embarrassingly Brits don’t know what to do with it and the catch goes to the Portuguese, Spanish + Italians who love it but equally don’t know what to do with a Fish Finger
Molva molva. Ferocious predator (wrecks + rough ground), ling has a long slender eel shape body with green brown marks + white belly. Related to cod. Baited pirks from boat, likely to catch while hunting cod or conger
Scomber scombrus. Beautifully muscular bullet shaped body. Summer shoals round coastline and offer fun on light tackle. Marked with blue, green, and silver flashes. Mackerel has firm flesh, is fast swimming. High Omega-3. Also makes good bait for larger fish
Pleuronectes platessa. Bright orange or red spots on darker topside, plaice appears around the coast early spring into summer to feed on peeler crabs from shingle or sandy bottoms. Smooth skin with tender white and subtle flavoured flesh much loved by restaurateurs, eat fresh as flavour fades quickly. Spots also fade, good indicator of freshness
Merlangius melangus. Small fish of cod family, silver grey body with rounded belly. Whiting is a tenacious feeder taking most baits autumn through winter. Fish over 1lb taken from shore, boat for better size. Overlooked fish like coley, good fillets
Nephrop norvegicus. Also nephrop, Norwegian lobster, langoustine, Dublin bay prawn or scampi, pink orange in colour with lobster body shape. Adults emerge from burrows at night, feeds on worms + dead fish. Kidney shaped eye hence Greek root name (nephros – eye, ops – kidney)
Trisopterus luscus. Relation to cod (also known as whiting pot), unfussy scavenger eats marine worms, small fish, crabs and prawns. Seen by many fishermen as a pest that steals bait. Identified by a barb on lower jaw and a longer one protruding from under gill area
Homarus gammarus. Also known as the common lobster, a clawed lobster that can grow to up to 60cm. One claw, usually the left, is for crushing and the other sharper claw for cutting and tearing flesh. Blue in colour and turning pink when cooked, the lobster is a highly esteemed food. Mostly caught in lobster pots baited with octopus or cuttlefish, minimum landing size of 87mm. Females with eggs should always be returned to the water
Nephrops norvegicus. Known also as the Norway lobster or Dublin Bay prawn and langoustine is a slim orange pink lobster emerging from burrows at night to feed on worms and meat scraps on the ocean floor. Scampi’s first three pairs of legs bear claws. Kidney shaped eyes gives the animal its name (nephros – eye, ops – kidney)
Pecten Maximus. 15cm fan-shaped shells, one rounded one flat. Scallops sit half exposed in sandy or gravel beds to filter water when feeding, can swim to evade. Dive to catch. Translucent off-white muscle meat wrapped with bright orange roe –white, sweet and extremely tender when cooked
Littorina littorea. Also periwinkle. Uni-valve sea snail with dark greenish iridescent colouration and blunt rounded shape, Winkles are 10 pence piece size with ribbed spiral shelves similar to snails. Juicy meat, sweet flavour, chewy texture found in intertidal zone. Not to be confused with dog whelk with less pattern and small groove located on inside of shell lip
Buccinum undatum. Sandy colouration, course ribbed, found on soft bottoms in sublittoral zone, sometimes in the littoral fringe at low tide. Whelks do not survive in low salinity of intertidal zone unlike winkle. Trapped in pots using dogfish bait. Not to be confused with smoother shelled red whelk or almond whelk (Neptunea antiqua) poisonous to humans, found in deeper waters
Loligo forbesii. Red, red or brown with fins 2/3 of body length. Squid occupies deep waters and seabed, shallower waters at night to feed. Squid are commercially netted but using lights at night to attract, can be line caught. Males trapped on bed using pots baited with live female squid
Salmo trutta. Sea trout is a brown trout that has migrated to the sea for the abundance of food, returning to fresh waters to spawn. Colour change occurs at sea and the fish adopts a silver white which turns brown again when in fresh water, also known as finnock in Scotland. Sea trout will congregate where fresh water flows into the sea
Mytilus edulis. Seawater filtering Bivalve mollusk found in intertidal zone attached with a ‘beard’ (byssal threads) to rocks in the intertidal zone. Mussels are dark blue to black asymmetrical wedge shaped shell, longer than it is wide. Located on exposed rocks with good tidal stream, often with fresh water mixed, should only be taken from clean waters away from human habitation
OCTANE offers gastro wilderness expeditions – employing OCTANE’s 8* methods of sourcing wild food for the pot, we eat the world’s best food, OCEAN FRESH**
*OCTANE’s 8 is our philosophy – we believe our travelling guests, being closest to the world’s wildest fresh foods, might quite like to eat the world’s wildest fresh foods. 1) We line fish, 2) we lobster pot, 3) we spear fish, 4) we sea forage, 5) we land forage, 6) we deer stalk, 7) we seed the sea, 8) we seed the land
**OCEAN FRESH – the term fresh fish is of course relative. On the high-street, at supermarkets and in city restaurants fresh fish really means days old so, when patiently waiting for your number to be called at the fish-counter, be ready to ask where your fish is from and how many days ago it was likely caught. Supermarkets invent terms to suit their needs and, as a discerning consumer, it really is your right to challenge nonsense. At Octane we have therefore made a new, differentiated and entirely transparent definition – OCEAN FRESH. Simply put, it means caught and eaten same-day.
See OCEAN FRESH in practice – with the post ‘Drive-by calamari’ – ocean fresh calamari caught, cooked and served in under an hour with a gunard ceviche of all things.