Praise for Sea Robins

We’ve been getting an unusual number of reports this year of anglers encountering very aggressive sea robins. Earlier this week, OTW Editor at Large, Gene Bourque, found a school of robins so thick and aggressive that he could barely get his Hogy soft-plastic bait past them in order to get to the stripers. A couple have even attacked topwaters. A couple weeks ago, Andy Nabreski had one attack a Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil, and just this morning, we got an email from Steve Banchand of Pocasset, MA about a sizable sea robin that attacked a Fishin’ Magician Skid Stik.

This big sea robin took flight after Steve Banchand's topwater lure in Buzzard's Bay this week.

Some folks consider sea robins “trash fish” – ugly buggers that steal baits meant for more desirable fish and not worthy of a spot on the table. I think sea robins are in truth quite beautiful; just look at this photo of a sea robin, with its beautiful butterfly-like wings and striking orange coloration.

 

Sea Robin
Ugly? No way, the sea robin is a beautiful fish with remarkable adaptations including a head covered in bony plates and finger-like "feelers" that can root out food items from the bottom.

 

And despite their reputation, sea robins are quite delicious. Inspired by the “Quit Talkin’ Trash” article in the December 2010 Issue of OTW, we cooked and ate a sea robin last year, and it was fantastic — better than fluke or sea bass! The meat is a little darker and firmer than the pure white flesh of a sea bass, but the flavor is delicious. When you filet a sea robin, you will get one piece of meat from each side of the tail. They make perfect “fish fingers” for frying or oven baking. Here’s the basic fried fish recipe we used:

Sea Robin “Fingers”

  • 6 fillets per person
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of seasoned flour (salt and pepper, or Old Bay if you prefer)
  • 1 cup of Panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)

Rinse the fillets, roll them in the seasoned flour to coat. Dip the fillets in a dish of milk and then immediately coat them in panko. The panko should stick to the  milk-soaked flour coating. You can then fry the fingers in an inch of peanut oil or bake them in a 425-degree oven (place them on a wire rack to keep the coating crispy).  Delicious with tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

Catching Sea Robin
Sea robin make surprisingly good eating for anglers that can overlook their "garbage fish" classification.

38 on “Praise for Sea Robins

  1. steve

    A friend caught a big sea robin on the surface with a large floating plug in the rip off of Waquoit last week. Wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it myself.

  2. Jim Odowd

    I used to get them on the old 7″ Rebels years ago
    In the Cotuit area fishing for schoolies. They gave
    a pretty good fight with those big pectoral fins.

  3. dave

    i watched a bunch of sea robins pushing bay anchovies onto the beach saturday night. They were all over where i was fishing.

  4. zach

    I was fishing the south side last week from shore and between me and my buddy we caught at least a dozen on Hurley sand eels and Deadly dicks.

  5. Jesse

    i caught the biggest sea robin I’ve seen on a rubber shad near popponesset bay last weekend.

  6. Ryan

    I caught have a dozen of them last week with a castmaster while jigging off Dennis. The only time I managed to get my offering past them I ended up with a nice sea bass.

  7. chuck

    me and a buddy were trolling pomponestt beach trolling with a squid pink and silver and ended up with 3 of them

  8. Fred Lilienkamp

    I caught a large Sea robin on a squid strip last year near Devils Bridge, while going for sea bass. This was after reading the OTW article on “trash” fish. I thought I’d give it a try. I filetted the sea robin and fried the fillets like I would for sea bass. I thought it was not as sweet as sea bass and a little coarser texture than sea bass. However it was not bad and certainly very edible!
    I think with a bit more creative cooking, they could be better. I would keep a big one again and try some experimentation with it, possibly a marinade. Does “Pops” have a recipe for these in his cookbook? If he does, I might have to buy it. I keep asking for his cookbook for Christmas, but my family just ignores me.

  9. Zach Cappellini

    I was spearfishing one of my tautog spots recently and the sandbar outside the rocks was covered in them, I could’ve speared tons of them very easily too, you can get pretty damn close. Wish I had known they’re good eating

  10. Tim

    How about a video showning how to fillet a sea robin?

    I tried once and broke a cheap knife in the attempt.

    Thought it would be easier, like a goose fish, but I was wong.

    Maybe i will try again if i get a really large one…

    1. Glenn Rosenberg

      try taking the wings off then pull the skin off from cut the head off pull the skin off all the way to the to the tail then bake in the oven in butter and oil at 350 for 30 min or in till brown make shore you baste

  11. matthew king

    was clamming over the weekend and had some fish popping on top around us. turned out to be some BIG sea robins chasing bait on top blitz style. never seen that before!!

  12. Lawrence Raynor

    a
    A friend and I went fishing at the River.
    walk dock in.
    bradenton,
    fL today, and he caught a Sea Robin. He had never seen one so was quite amazed. I didn't know it was edible. Next time I shall keep it!

  13. Pat Perreault

    Caught two Sea Robins at Bass river today, a nice size blue and a 37″ Stripper. Was quite a day….,

  14. David C. Dunn

    Caught 6 sea robins and 1 fluke off mouth of Westport river on 8/27/14 at high tide. Sea Robins ended up in the garden…had I known you could eat them, I would of had a fish fry. Next time I’ll give it a try.

  15. Triple H

    I was fishing in Port O Connor Texas in the bay on a really muddy bottom I caught my robin on Gulp Nuclear Chicken it is a really good bait I recommend it to all!!!!

  16. Josue S

    I caught them fishing in Miami off Bear Cut in Key Biscayne, they put up a decent light tackle fight. I hrew them back, but now that I know they can be eaten and are tasty, to the cooler.

  17. Kris Keckler

    Sea Robins are not very good to eat. You need to leave them in the ocean and I will take care of them for us.
    They are too hard to clean, and none of you want to eat them.
    Just kidding, I will never throw a see Robin under 14 inches back again

    1. Debbie

      Back in the late sixties I would fish with my pop in Avalon nj . A little spot he would call “patties hole ” in the back bays . Granted we were flounder fishing with minnows and I was always the lucky one who caught the sea Robbin , every time out . Waste was not in his vocabulary so theses robin roe was great fried in butter with scrabbled eggs in the morning . That was all I remember him using from the fish . Enjoy

  18. Moosejaw

    Not worth the effort. Filet them and you get a filet with a bunch of pin bones. So mild in taste that they’re tasteless. Fried them broiled them and once boiled them in cheesecloth and flaked the meat into a bowl and made a kind of fish salad with mayonnaise to make faux tuna sandwiches. Not good. I kept them when I was broke. Now that I have enough cash to live on, I’ll keep the fluke, stripers, black fish (tautog) and even blue fish (I have an acquired taste for blues.). The gurnard get thrown back or cut into bait or chum

  19. Ro

    1 lb sea robin,2 c potatoes,2 cloves garlic,1 1/2 tsp salt,1/4 tsp black pepper,2 tbl white wine,1 egg,2 tbl cilantro, 2tbl basil, 1 scallion, 1 chilie,1/3 c panko,1/2 c flour, 2 tbl lemon, 1/2 c mayonaise & zest of 1 lime make great fish cakes. (Combine all except flour & mayo. Coat patties with flour, fry in olive oil 5 min each side & serve with mayo).

  20. Bob

    Caught 2 pretty feisty sea robins off Smugglers Beach this afternoon, and another lost near the rocks. They hit small rubber shad lures I was casting from shore. First one was pretty good size, maybe 13-15 inches?

  21. Tom

    They are destroying the good fishing, by eating all the bait fish and fry of small game fish. We have to stop throwing them back . I have been eating them all summer and they are excellent, cut the heads of at the shore, fillet and eat. You can also give them to Lobstermen, just don’t let them go back and destroy the good fishing. I have have taken at least fifty of those terrorists out of commission to date. Good luck and go gettem

  22. Pat

    I have been eating robins for a few years , I take the sides and chuck them put then in a bowl of olive oil season to taste , in a fry pan olive oil , garlic, and onion sauté when cooked add the robin cook to done . Very tasty . I also use sea robin belly cut into stripes like squid and because the skin is so tuff it stays well on the hook , I have caught a number of fluke on one piece of bait, fresh is best, enjoy.

  23. Mike c

    Went fluke fishing this weekend on the Li sounds, very few fluke were taken because of size limit but tons of sea robins. Took them home, baked them in butter garlic salt and pepper and they were amazing. I’m a believer!

  24. Thomas Rogers

    I have been thinking about sea robins, Why did God make them? Could the bacteria in their spines be a cure for cancer or other diseases. This year I caught 100 from the Housatonic river in Stratford, Ct. and recycled them, meaning I killed them a through them back. Most were females. They are destroying the Sport fishing by eating all the bait fish and fry of sport fish, there has to be reason why they have so many spines with bacteria in them. Lets try to find out. Thanks , Tom

    1. Sean

      That’s the problem. As American snobs we are, we would rather kill a species rather then eat and expand the fish we deem desirable. As a commercial fisherman I see waste, by catch etc kills by the ton, and u do the same on a smaller scale. We need to give the “desirable “ species a rest by catching and eating fish like sea robins and eels etc to give the rest a chance to rebound. So rather then kill, eat and educate. That’s what a TRUE outdoorsman and steward of the oceans does. U should be ashamed of posting that idiocy

  25. Chris

    I have caught 3 this year in tarpon all the first cast/catch on live shrimp. I keep telling myself to kill and grill….but their just too ugly

  26. Anthony

    Ive been keeping them and frying them up, my daughter loves them. Very simple salt, pepper and garlic, then dredge in corn meal and fry. I also did a few with some cajun seasoning and we liked that a lot too, but then again anything cajun is pretty good to me. Cutting them is really easy once you understand how to cut out all the bones, check out a few youtube videos, theres plenty of them. I fish Moriches bay and inlet and there are more than you can imagine and last week I used sea robin belly strips and caught 4 fluke on the same piece….. all shorts of course but at least they’re out there too.

  27. Kyle

    I’ve been catching robins on little necks, talkin poppers, and even darters

  28. Sean

    I was fishing top water for Striper and I think I found a sea robin breeding ground. They were finning on top as if feeding or making nests, and as was dead low, u could see where they had done so on the exposed sand. Thinking at first they might be striper nosing for sand eels or worms I threw my skitter Walk out and before long I see that tell tale wave cresting behind u get when top water is being run down by a fish. As the water was crystal clear, u can imagine my shock when I saw those “wings” extended and a sea robin barreling in on my plug, Lol… they attack like a stripper and have a similar fight. Even small fish are fun because when they fan those wings it’s on. This was Warwick Rhode Island, same spot I Caught Won the previous fall using a curly tail grub soft plastic. As I heard they were good eating I decided to take two home and plan on cooking them up tonight.

  29. Reach

    Sea Robins truly are “trash fish.” They are extremely ugly and can leave you hurting if you
    mishandle them. I’ve tried them as food, just so I’d know what I’m talking about. True, they
    don’t taste bad, but the concept of eating one of those gargoyles takes the pleasure away.

    I once asked an innocuous question on a fishing site here on the island. I asked if people thought sea robins should be controlled by not returning them to the water as is done in Florida with Sealion fish. The response was rabid with couch “fishermen” becoming indignant at such a question. They defended the ugly critters.

    I don’t like Sea Robins because of their ugliness that makes them unattractive for the table. You just can’t get passed that visage. They are very aggressive and seem to get to your bait before any other, more desirable fish can. Most people throw them back which just helps inflate their population, compounding the problem.

    I firmly believe that in order to save our inshore sporting fishery, the Dept of Conservation needs to come up with a program to limit the population of Sea Robins.

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