The needle fish in the Golfo Dulce are a very integral part of the local peoples life. Luis grew up learning about the foods, plants, animals, traditions and beliefs that his mother and father knew so well. From a very young age he was taught how to clear ground and plant crops such as corn, yucca, plantains and beans. He was also taught to fish and dive for lobsters, oysters and conch that were all a very important part of the daily diet.
Spawning of the needle fish
A very unique part of life at the beach is when the needle fish in the Golfo Dulce come to spawn. The art of catching the fish when they come close to shore has been passed down from generation to generation. During the spawning hundreds of specimens congregate to lay eggs. This happens on the 6th, 7th and 8th day after the full moon as the sun begins to set. The fish have chosen 3 or 4 well protected beaches to lay their eggs. The needle fish of the Golfo Dulce are long slender fish with a pointy snout and sharp teeth so they can be dangerous to handle. Getting the meat separated from the bone is an art which produces a boneless fish filet.
Traditional needle fish recipes
Luis’s family was lucky to live just a few hundred yards away from one of the locations where these specimens came to spawn. Every month they would go and get large amounts of the fish to eat. At an early age Luis learned to catch and filet the needle fish. Luckily his mother shared several of her recipes for preparing needle fish filet during our times together. Most commonly the fish are fried in coconut oil or boiled in coconut milk. When there was an abundance of fish the filet were smoked. The needle fish in the Golfo Dulce spawn every month so the locals could always count on filling their diet with fish during those days.
Luis and I have similar backgrounds of planting and harvesting crops along with gathering whatever else nature provides for a very healthy and sumptuous diet. Growing up at Playa San Josecito in the Golfo Dulce was by far one of the best ways to become educated in survival and self-providing. The knowledge we acquired has allowed us to raise our sons with healthy diets of fresh produce. It is a blessing to know how to use our local fruits and vegetables which are available at the weekly market.