How To Catch, Clean, And Cook Pufferfish [VIDEO]
By: Joe Simonds on January 20, 2016
Who else hates Pufferfish!
These weird looking, puffed-up fish are also known as:
- Toadies (Checkered Pufferfish that we have here in Florida)
- The ugly puffy fish that grunts
- Berkley Gulp tail biters…
But no matter what you call these fish, most anglers will agree that pufferfish seem to be up on the most hated saltwater fish list (right up there with saltwater catfish).
Heck, we even created a limited edition “No Puffers” t-shirt to celebrate our hatred of these fish (that frequently bite the tails off of our artificial lures while inshore fishing).
Note: Not for sale on our shop page any longer
But did you know that there are many anglers (from Florida up to New York) that claim pufferfish are some of the best tasting inshore fish out there?
Shocked the heck out of me as well…
But it’s true… and apparently you never have to worry about bones in the meat either!
So in this blog (and accompanying video) we are going to show you the truth about eating (and how to clean) pufferfish.
After you are done with this blog, you might even find yourself throwing pufferfish in your live well the next time you are out on the flats…
Are Pufferfish Poisonous?
Let’s address what most of you reading this are thinking right now (because I know I sure was).
Aren’t pufferfish poisonous?
And haven’t there been countless stories about people dying in Japan over eating pufferfish/blowfish that weren’t prepared correctly?
Then how are people eating pufferfish?
I’ll explain what I’ve been able to find our via some online research.
But first, let me distinguish between another misconception and terminology mixup that is frequently used in regards to pufferfish.
It’s regarding the difference between poisonous and venomous (two words that are used interchangeably but have big differences in meaning):
- Poisonous Fish: Fish that are “poisonous” can only deliver their toxin in a passive manner (by being touched or eaten). A good example is that frogs are poisonous while snakes are venomous.
- Venomous Fish: Fish that are venomous can inject their toxin into another animal but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can transfer poison due to being eaten by a human. A good example is a Lionfish. Lionfish are venomous but not poisonous (they are great to eat).
So are puffers poisonous?
Yes, pufferfish are indeed poisonous…
Here is a quote on pufferfish from National Geographic:
“Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.”
But notice the word “Almost” that starts off the sentence above.
In other words, NOT ALL pufferfish have the same amount of poison.
In fact, there are at least 120 different types of “Pufferfish” out there (some grow to just a few inches while others like the freshwater giant pufferfish can grow up to 2 feet long), and the ones in the Pacific (where many of the horror sushi stories occur) are much different than the pufferfish in Florida.
According to Deer Meat for Dinner, the pufferfish/toadies known as “Checkered Puffers” that they catch in Florida have toxins in their liver (that look like a green substance), and are located up near the puffer’s head.
To quote the video below:
“If you see green when cleaning a pufferfish, either clean it off incredibly well or just throw it away and play it safe”
Important Note: Clean and eat pufferfish at your own risk and do as much research as you can about the kind of pufferfish you are catching before ever serving a pufferfish to someone.
Let’s discuss each phase of the pufferfish catch/clean/cook next.
How To Catch Pufferfish
If you have spent any time inshore fishing from Texas up to New York you know that pufferfish aren’t that hard to catch.
In fact, many of you probably catch them by accident while going for other fish like flounder, redfish, trout, and snook.
Well, here is all you need to catch pufferfish (so easy your kids can do it):
- Super light rod and low test pound line
- A small long-shank hook (#8 hook)
- A small split-shot weight a few inches above the hook
- A really small slice of shrimp (with or without the shell)
Then just find a shallow grass flat or seagrass bed/sandy bottom with any rocks or structure that has some life. It usually won’t be too hard to find a few puffers around.
You can even try throwing out a few small pieces of your dead shrimp to “chum” up the water as well.
- Watch out for the checkered pufferfish’s teeth (these are the puffers you frequently see in the Florida shallows)
- Do NOT throw pufferfish/toadfish on ice. The skin will stick to the meat and you won’t be able to clean it.
- Never keep a pufferfish that has green substance in the meat. That is the poison and it should be thrown out
- Always wash off the pufferfish meat incredibly well before preparing to cook
How To Clean Pufferfish
Cleaning a pufferfish is surprising easy (as long as you didn’t put the puffer on ice).
Here is all you need for a quick and easy clean:
- Cleaning table
- Sharp knife
- Catfish skinning pliers (or pliers could work)
- Something clean to place the pufferfish fillets in
Watch the video at the bottom of this post to see exactly how he cleans these pufferfish (around the 7:00-minute mark is the pufferfish cleaning)
How To Cook Pufferfish
Cooking pufferfish is pretty easy.
Some people like to leave the meat all in once piece and just fry it up (like they do in the video below), while others cut the pufferfish into two small fillets and grill or fry it up (that end up looking like two chicken fingers).
Make sure to watch the full video below as they cook their pufferfish in two slightly different ways (one with Everglades seasoning and one without).
Note: They start cooking the pufferfish at the 9:00-minute mark.
P.S. – You might even learn how to make grits like a champ as well…
Note: This video below showing everything from how to catch, clean, and cook pufferfish is from our friends over at Deer Meat for Dinner.
How To Catch, Clean, & Cook Pufferfish (Video)
The next time you catch a pufferfish, you might want to consider throwing it in the livewell instead of throwing it back in the water…
Of course, it takes quite a few puffers to feed a family, but these little puffers are pretty easy to catch once you find them.
More importantly, do this at your own risk…
I have personally never eaten pufferfish, but Luke and I have it on the list of things to do this year (and we will make a video for you on the entire experience).
Finally, make sure to go check out our friends Deer Meat for Dinner and their awesome YouTube channel here.
Important Note: Clean and eat these fish at your own risk and do as much research as you can about the kind of pufferfish you are catching before ever serving a pufferfish to someone
P.S. – If you think your angler friends or networks would like to see this, please Tag them or Share this with them. You Rock! Pa-POW!