Few john dory are caught on dead baits, and when they are it’s normally something like a whole pilchard, squid or mackerel. Quite often anglers hook a small fish, which attracts the attention of a john dory. More often or not the john dory is not in any way conventionally hooked, but is dragged to the surface with the original catch jammed in its mouth. The prudent angler will place a net under the dory when lifting it aboard, just in case it coughs up the fish.
Obviously, live baiting is a great way to target john dory, especially over areas of low-lying foul ground. The recent popularity of soft bait fishing, where plastic lures imitate bait fish, has resulted in many more anglers bringing home john dory for the table.
To the novice, filleting john dory can present a few challenges. The round, plate-like body with its attendant small spikes can put some people off the job. But the taste of fresh john dory is well worth the effort.
A sharp, flexible knife is called for, along with the filleting glove. Make a cut from the back of the head, behind the fin and down to the anal vent. Starting at the head, slip the knife along the backbone on a very flat angle to remove the flesh. Make small cuts all around the outside of the body until all the flesh is separated. You will note the fillet, now bone-free, naturally divides itself up into three separate sections – perfect ‘fillet’ sizes for cooking once the skin has been removed. This is done in the conventional way, but because of its fine, thin nature, care has to be taken to keep the fillet you are working on stretched as taut as possible to allow the blade a clean strike between flesh and skin.
As with gurnard, many people like to prepare their john dory with the skin on. Being ‘scale-less’, this is fine and only augments the fish’s unique flavour.