In a large container, combine 1 gallon of water, the salt, brown sugar, ground black pepper, dried thyme, bay leaves, and hot pepper sauce. Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the fish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 48 hours.
Soak wood chips of your choice in a bucket of water for 2 to 3 hours, then drain. Prepare a home smoker according to the manufacturer's directions and place the soaked chips in the bottom tray.
In the upper container of the smoker, combine the remaining 1 gallon water, onions, and peppercorns. Cover the smoker and let the fire burn for 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan, make a glaze by combining the cane syrup, shallots, thyme, and ground black pepper. Cook over medium heat until reduced in volume by 25 percent. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Lightly coat the grill with vegetable oil.
Remove the fish from the brine and pat dry inside and out. Paint both sides of each fish with the reduced glaze. Place on the grill above the water and cook, covered, until crisp and the skin is dry, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, turning once. Remove from the smoker and serve either hot or chilled, as desired.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings