On a fishing trip to an Ohio farm pond this past week I had forgotten my folding canvass chair, something my bad lower back was sure to complain about.
Turns out it didn’t matter, though, for I had no time to sit down. I was kept busy baiting, casting, and reeling in some of the most fierce bluegills and angler can hope for.
It was excellent medicine. In 30 to 45 minutes of fishing time the back pain never once bothered my mind.
These big broad-siders, bigger than I could come close to putting my hand around, swerved the line on the ultralight rod and reel to the left and then to the right, then made a desperate run along the shore line before I was able to derrick them out onto the bank.
I used a No. 6 Tru-Turn hook tied to the end of the line, a small split shot sinker clamped to the line a foot above the hook, and a plastic float clipped to the line at about the three-foot depth.
I baited the hook with a single redworm, making sure the end of the hook was covered. No sooner had I completed the cast than the bobber moved across the surface and dipped under. I set the hook and began reeling in, keeping a tight line.
I did not once miss hooking him in the upper lip and reeling him in. Only one swallowed the hook. I caught a dozen, putting six in a wire basket pegged in the edge of the water. These I would take home for the frying pan.
The sun was bearing down and I faced a 30-mile drive home. In an old cooler no longer used for food or drink, I had dumped a bag of ice. I put a plastic grocery bag over the top of the ice and placed the fish on this.
Keep the water drained out of the cooler. Dressed fish can spoil if allowed to remain in water from melting ice.
Fish are extremely perishable, especially on these hot summer days.
Those without clear eyes, red gills or a fresh color should be tossed away. If you’re going to throw a dead fish into the water, make sure its bladder is punctured. That way, the fish will sink to the bottom and soon be utilized by turtles or other
fish, rather than left floating around on the surface to raise a stink.
The key to preserving the fish is to either keep them alive or on ice. You can keep them alive in a wire basket or on a stringer over the side of the boat or spiked down at water’s edge. Even better if you have a boat equipped with an aerated live well.
You don’t have to fillet fish for good eating. Scale them, gut them, cut off the head and fins, leaving the tail.
Bluegill, crappie, sunfish, yellow perch, rock bass and trout are delicious when pan-fried whole, with the skin on.
Heat about one-quarter inch of vegetable oil in the bottom of an iron skillet until it bubbles a little. Dip the fish in your favorite batter and pan-fry over medium heat, with no cover on the skillet.
Don’t crowd the fish together. Frying time is usually five to 10 minutes. The skin should be crisp and brown and the flesh moist and flaky when probed with a fork.
Most of the tiny bones are removed by pan dressing, but small children should be warned – or helped – to watch for bones before eating.
HUSH PUPPY TIME
Several readers have called to request repeat of a hush puppy receipt published in an earlier column. Nothing goes better with fish than good hush puppies.
Here’s the recipe:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (a very hot red pepper, optional)
¼ chopped onion
1 can (8 ounces) cream style corn
2 tablespoons buttermilk
In deep-fat fryer or saucepan, heat vegetable oil (2-3 inches deep) to 375 degrees. Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cayenne. Stir in remaining ingredients until well combined. Drop batter by tablespoons into hot oil. Fry a few at a time, turning over one or two times, until dark golden brown (4 to 5 minutes for each batch). Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in 175-degree oven. 4 to 6 servings.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.