Like mackerel, garfish are a pelagic fish, they spend most of their time out at sea and rarely see anything but the blue of the open ocean. Similar species are found the world over and flying fish evolved from very similar fish.
The name gar comes from old English meaning ‘spear’ and their French name ‘aguille’ means needle- easy to see why. Their long slender bodies give them amazing speed. They attack their prey from below and can often be seen breaching the surface, even jumping over rocks. They have green bones. And by green, we mean really green.
Although much loved by anglers, garfish aren’t targeted by commercial fishermen as they have little value. They are, however, common bycatch species when fishing for pelagic species like mackerel and herring, around whose shoals they spend most of their lives. In fact, in days of yore they were called ‘mackerel scouts’, as their presence often heralded the arrival of these summer visitors.
Garfish are very popular in Denmark and the Channel Islands but never really caught on anywhere else. Their lurid green bones may be the main reason for their lack of culinary uptake. The colour, from a harmless phosphate of iron is called Vivianite, may look radioactive, but don’t fret it’s quite harmless.
In fact, the Japanese are fond of eating the bones, which are dipped in seasoned flour and fried for a few minutes until yieldingly crispy.
Their flesh is similar to mackerel, although slightly less oily and a little firmer. The Danes fillet them, then roll up these fillets, securing them with a toothpick before braising. The French tend to cut them into thumb length steaks, dredge them in flour and fry them lightly, serving them with a sorrel sauce. We cooked one whole on the BBQ, wrapped in foil with some aromatics and it was delicious. And those bones certainly get people talking!