by Bill and JoAnne Harris
During our spectacular travels throughout the bountiful Atlantic and Caribbean waters, we have enjoyed many seafood delights. One of our all time favorites is conch. We enjoy hunting for them as much as eating them. We have had fun teaching other people how to hunt for them, too. The first year out, JoAnne was dubbed The Conch Hunter, for her eagle eye and success in finding conch. While snorkeling, we keep an eye out for shallow grassy areas and conch tracks on the sandy seafloor.
Our rule is to only collect the adult conchs, meaning the lip (beautiful pink part of the shell) must be at least … inches wide. We want the conch to be able to reproduce and not ever take the young ones. If we did that, there would no longer be conch left in the sea. Unfortunately, we have witnessed some islands where this rule was not followed and there are hardly any conch left. It is important to also only take the conch that you will need for the day. Some islands have laws that you cannot have more than 6 in your freezer at a time. Be sure to check the island fishing laws for cruisers, since some islands forbid cruisers from taking any fish from the sea.
Our first year, while watching the Bahamian locals clean conch, we were told to eat the slimy clear tube. It was known to provide wonderful sexual benefits for us. Okay, 1, 2, 3, we did it and chased it with a cold Kalik beer. Furthermore, we were told conch is also known in these islands as Natural Viagra, sworn to enhance a man’s libido.
Tips: Look for a shell that looks as if it has seaweed dreadlocks vertically suspended from it or any rocks that appear to move when you swim over them. They are usually conchs in disguise. We have free dove for conch in water 25 ft. or more, but an abundance normally in the shallows. F.Y.I. – We were told by island locals that it was not safe to eat conch that is from waters over 30 ft. If you see a hole in the top, the conch is dead. If you turn over these conch shells, sometimes there are beautiful octopus or brittle stars inside, but also can be nasty bristly fire worms, so be careful.
After you have followed the steps below to clean the conch, you are ready to prepare your conch to perfection. You can make the following delicious concoctions: salads, stir fries, cracked conch, pasta, tacos, chowder, and our very favorite CONCH FRITTERS. To tenderize your conch, use a mallet, but be careful not to beat it too much. Also, a rum bottle will do the trick. Tip: Do it outside, as the conch juice might splat all over the place.
In Grenada, we even hosted a Conched Out Party at Port Louis Marina, and threw a fun cooking demonstration and served cracked conch, conch salad, stewed conch, and conch fritters.
Step 1: The queen conch moves like molasses, so never fear, you will always be able to catch one. Tips on how to find one: Look for shell that look as if they have what looks seaweed dreadlocks vertically suspended from them. Also, look for any rocks that appear to move when you swim over them. They are usually conchs in disguise.
Step 2: Use a masonry hammer to crack open the conch shell enough to insert a screwdriver, between 2nd and 3rd crowns from the pointed end. With this hammer style, you can just whack the shell. If you don’t have a masonry hammer, then a claw hammer and screwdriver will work.
Step 3: Use a screwdriver so that you do not waste the meat and cut the adductor muscle (a.k.a. tail of the conch).
Step 4: To remove the conch from its’ shell, hold the operculum (a.k.a. foot) firmly and pull. Take care not too hard, or you might tear off the foot and it is will be more work to try and remove the meat.
Step 5: Use a filet knife to remove the organs and all black skin. You will then be left with a perfect pinkish-white conch steak. Tip: This is the most difficult part of the process. You make slits just under the black skin and remove the skin by cutting away from you, but take care not to cut yourself.
Captain Bill’s Method: With the lack of fish skinners, he makes cuts lengthwise and then peels back the skin with his front teeth. Works like a charm!
Step 6: Follow these delicious recipes at the link below to cook your conch to perfection! Enjoy!
Tips: An environmentally friendly way to remove the conch slime from your tools and hands, use sand and saltwater.