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Rock Out 

Fish cake appetizers

Fish cakes are one of my all-time favorite appetizers. You can make them with just about any fish but I prefer locally caught black rockfish (which are sometimes also sold as "black snapper"). This recipe is simple, incredibly tasty and always a big hit at parties. Just make sure you eat one of them right as you serve them or chances are you will miss out. When I bring rockfish cakes to family and friends, the whole batch is usually gone within 15 minutes.

Rockfish season on the North Coast is open all year to shore-based anglers and divers. However, the boat fishing season lasts only from May 15 through Oct. 31 (and a valid fishing license is required). Rockfish are an abundant and sustainable local fishery; so pursuing this species is a great opportunity to get out with your friends or family for a little fishing fun — with a high likelihood of success.

If you are interested in rushing out to try your luck with hook and line over the weekend, try the charter boats that run daily out of Trinidad Bay or Crescent City. On a calm day, the north and south jetties of Humboldt Bay can also yield sizable fish. If you are not an angler, you can support this local and sustainable fishery by buying fresh caught boneless rockfish fillets from our local grocers. Just make sure you ask for the freshest fillets and double check that the fish were caught in our North Coast waters.

Rockfish Cakes

Serves 6 as appetizers.


2 rockfish fillets (approximately ½ pound)

1 egg

½ a potato, mashed

¼ cup diced red bell pepper

¼ cup shredded carrot

¼ cup diced green onion

½ cup panko bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt to taste

Canola oil for frying

1 lemon cut into wedges

Cut the rockfish into ½-inch cubes and blanch them in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the fish as it cooks so it does not foam up and boil over. Next, drain the water and put the cooked fish into a large bowl. Add the mashed potato, green onion, carrot, pepper, panko, egg, garlic and spices, and mix thoroughly. Divide the mixture and form 6 patties, 2 inches in diameter and about ½ inch thick. Heat a little oil in your favorite cast iron skillet and fry the patties over a medium-high flame. When the fishcakes are golden brown on both sides, they are ready. Serve these delicious treats while still warm with lemon wedges, malt vinegar and tartar or cocktail sauce, like the one below.

Simple cocktail sauce

If you are not a mayonnaise lover (which I absolutely am not), swap out tartar sauce for this easy to make cocktail sauce.


12 ounces ketchup

1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon horseradish paste

1/3 teaspoon salt

Hot sauce to taste

Blend all the ingredients in a bowl until completely mixed. Serve with your prized fish cakes and enjoy.

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Kevin Smith

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