Mackerel Season in Salthill
Poster: Ciara Geraghty
It has become a tradition in Galway especially Salthill, that every autumn when the slender silver mackerel fish arrive in shoals along the coastline, both amateur and seasoned fishermen (and fisherwomen) scurry to the shores of Galway Bay for their chance to catch this unassuming fish.
I moved to Galway with my family in late summertime at the age of eleven. We spent the majority of that summer in Arklow, Co. Wicklow where my uncle has a well known fishing tackle and music shop (strange combination but it works) called Powersound on the Main Street. It was there that I was first exposed to all things fishing! I was particularly fascinated/disgusted by the live bait that he sold like the wriggling ragworm with all its tentacle like limbs… (I still shudder at the thought of them.) It was during this summer that I first learned of mackerel season in Galway when my uncle said “You’ll have to make sure you have a fishing rod if you’re going to be living in Salthill when the mackerel come in!” Coming from city life in Toronto, Canada I hadn’t a clue what a mackerel even was…
So he got me kitted out with a brand new (pink) fishing rod and all the necessary reels, floats, feathers and whatever else was needed and off we moved to Galway.
One evening we were walking the Salthill Prom and spotted a few fishermen along the rocks so we went down for a closer look. There they were, the infamous mackerel, hopping out of the water and shaking with life. Bursting with a mixture of excitement and anticipation, my brother and I raced back to the house to collect our rods and gear. Not even twenty minutes later and the number of people fishing had tripled in size. Word had spread – the mackerel were in!
There’s just something special and magical about standing on the shores of Galway Bay fishing rod in hand with the sun going down, while the water is literally alive with fish…
Years later and not much has changed… As I walked home from work along the promenade this week on a mild autumn evening, the tide was high and the water was like mirrored glass – all tell tale signs that the mackerel could be in – so I wasn’t surprised to see the silhouettes of people standing on the rocky outcrops casting out for the mackerel.
I went and watched for a while until the sun started to fade. When I decided to make my way home, I left yearning for my old fishing rod so I could join in on the tradition…
A Recipe from Executive Head Chef Robbie Webster of Galway Bay Hotel:
Pan Fried Oat Crusted Mackerel “Rhubarb”
4 stalks of rhubarb chopped small
100ml Sherry vinegar
50gms of Brown Sugar
Place all ingredients in a pan and cook until the rhubarb is broken down and forms a jam/compote appearance, add a little more sugar if very sharp. When ready, cool and store in a room temperature area.
Oat Crusted Mackerel
2 Fresh Mackerel Fillets
Seasoned Plain Flour
1 Egg and 100ml Milk mix
200gms of Porridge Oats
Butter/oil for cooking
Season the mackerel fillets in the flour and dust off the excess flour. Dip in the egg and milk mixture and then place in the porridge oats. This should stick to the mackerel and may require you to press them down to hold the oats in place. Heat up a pan and add the oil, place in the mackerel fillets and pan-fry until the mackerel oats on the outside are crispy and golden brown, add the butter and sherry vinegar, take from the pan when cooked and place on paper kitchen towel to soak out any excess butter.
Place the rhubarb chutney on a warm plate and add the freshly cooked mackerel. Dress with a light fresh salad and enjoy.
Ciara Geraghty is a Sales & Marketing Executive at Galway Bay Hotel.