My Little “Island Jane” Dog

Chef Judy Thomas- Island Jane Magazine

It was an absolutely perfect fishing day last summer when we went trout fishing on the boat with our best friends from Big Pine Key.    We had packed lunch, good intentions and Cricket.  Cricket is a 5 pound Yorkshire terrier who is the epitome of a little princess.   She is little enough to carry in a purse, wears pink bows and occasionally comes home from the groomer wearing pink nail polish.  Cricket also loves to be on the boat whenever it leaves the dock.  She is adorably sweet, has a very gentle and quiet personality, and is a real show stopper.  I call her my “little dumpling” because she is also a little overweight.  She loves everyone and wants to cuddle in anyone’s lap.

That day we ran about 20 minutes until we found “the place” where the trout live.  We got out the rods, baited them with live shrimp and waited for the glory.  Whenever someone caught a trout, Cricket would bark and run around in circles.  We were having a great time.  Then my husband caught a trout that fell to the floor when he unhooked it and Cricket lost her mind.  She grabbed the fish and started shaking it and growling like a banshee.  She yipped, and yelped and hollered and kept biting it until it was almost cut in half, running around in circles, shaking her head back and forth and going berserk.   We couldn’t believe our eyes.  Our little girl had become possessed.  When we finally got the fish out of her grasp, little Cricket was far removed from being a princess.  The pink bows were out of her hair, her newly frocked hairdo was covered in fish scales and she was hysterical with excitement. We thought she was going to have a heart attack!  It took about ten minutes to calm her down.  What a passionate fisherman she turned out to be!  Later we surmised that she had mistaken the fish for a rat.  Yorkshire terriers are bred to kill rats.  Cricket has never been allowed to fish again – for her sanity’s sake.

Sea trout is also known as weakfish and spotted or speckled sea-trout. Found primarily in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico; sea trout is a small, white-fleshed fish that has thick, mild-flavored fillets similar in texture to red snapper or pollock.   While most of these fish are caught on shallow, grassy flats, spotted seatrout reside in virtually any inshore waters, from the surf of outside islands to far up coastal rivers, where they often come for shelter during cold weather. The average size of a spotted seatrout is 1-2 lb., but in most areas fish up to 5 lb. are fairly common.

Almost all spotted seatrout are caught with hook and line since many places have banned fishing for them with gillnets.

The most common bait is shrimp, especially live shrimp. They are really fun to catch.  One catching technique, after dark, is to throw out a glow stick into the water and cast around it, as these fish are attracted to light.  Spotted seatrout live in the top of the water column and are most numerous along the coasts of the southeastern states, such as Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida.

In the south, sea trout is traditionally served battered or breaded and deep-fried.   For less fat, saturated fat and cholesterol choose a preparation method such as broiling, poaching or steaming.  I am offering a recipe that gives the “crunch” you get with fried fish, but is much healthier!  They are easy to make and quite delicious to eat; just ask Cricket!  Bon Appetite!  Have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


Walnut and Herb Crusted Fish Filets

  • 4 6oz. fish filets (can use any firm white fish)
  • 1 cup  raw unsalted walnuts
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread or rye—roughly torn
  • 2 cloves garlic—finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

PREHEAT oven to 425 degrees. Place the walnuts, bread, garlic, lemon zest, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are combined and look like rough crumbs. Place the fish fillets on a lightly greased or lined baking tray (I use parchment paper).  Spread 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard over each fillet and press each piece to coat evenly. Bake for 15 minutes until the fish is just cooked through and the crumb topping is golden brown.

Judy Thomas is a chef in Key West. She is joyfully learning to catch and cook fish native to the Key West area and loves to experiment with new recipes. She owns Gourmet-Your Way, an on premise catering company. She offers cooking classes/parties in your home where friends can meet for a relaxed evening, drink wine, learn new culinary skills, and enjoy a great meal. She also does on premise catering for those who want to have a party without all the work. Judy can be reached at or by calling 305-906-1498.