Saturday, January 22, 2011

Red Fish Remembered "A Treasure Discovered In The Freezer!"

This morning I woke up and began to wonder what kind of dish I should make this weekend from the two whitetail bucks I had taken this fall during bow season.  I went down to my freezer and began to take an inventory the different cuts of meat I had available and as I was lifting up some back-strap steaks, I found a lone frozen fillet of Red Fish!  Immediately my thoughts turned to lunch possibilities (mmm, fish).  I pulled the fillet from the sub-zero depths of the deep freeze where it had been deposited since this past summer.  The fish was encased in ice inside of a ziploc bag, so I need to get it into some warm water to thaw it out in time for lunch.  I located a large bowl and began the thawing process.

As the fish lay there thawing, I began to think back about the trip when I caught this fish.  Since I now live in the DFW area, I don't get to saltwater fish as often as I did when I lived on the Texas coast.  So I had arranged to travel to Port Aransas and kayak fish the grass flats near the Light House Lakes for a weekend in late July.  It is a great area to kayak fish because the water is very shallow and propeller powered boats are prohibited because they damage the sea grass.  Red Fish move into these shallow flats on high tide to forage for bait fish, shrimp, and small crabs.  You can spot red fish feeding as the tips of their tails will often stick out of the water as they forage.  This was my second trip to Port Aransas, so I knew where to launch my kayak and where the fish would likely be if the weather cooperated.  As I said, it was late July and temperatures climb quickly, so the fishing takes place in the morning.  

This trip I focused on the east side of Light House Lakes area.  I was on the water before the sun was up and had paddled to my spot by the time the sun peaked over the horizon.  I love being out early in the morning, as the water just begins to move after high tide.  The environment was alive with activity.  Small bait fish and shrimp are erupting from the surface as they attempt to escape the larger fish below, looking to make a meal out of anything that isn't fast enough.  I paddle into the first cove and immediately I spot a couple tails near the mangroves on the other side of the small shallow lake.  I stealthily paddle within casting range.  My gold spoon lure lands on target as I now work it into the path of the Red Fish.  Stealth is the name of the game in these waters.  Because of the sea grass, the water clarity is about like a swimming pool.  If I can see them and they can see me, so you can't get to close.  My lure is on a collision course with the feeding Reds.  It passes by them and nothing happens.  I casted again, but this time my lure landed to close to their location and they were spooked.  I was dejected.  I had drifted across this small opening of water and I was about to paddle back out to the larger South Bay area when I saw another red feeding within my casting range.  I quickly put my gold spoon in  his effective range.  He spotted what he thought was a bait fish and as he quickly swam toward my lure.  The water swelled like a submarine was traveling beneath the surface at ramming speed.  Then BAM, he inhaled the lure!  The reason I love catching Reds is because they are great to eat and they are STRONG!  This fish is two feet long and full of muscle.  You should always loosen your drag when fishing for Reds because they will run and take your line with them.  If you don't, he will break your line and be gone.  This fish was no different.  Immediately my reel was screaming as the fish pulled out the line as he went on a run.  You have to play the fish and not try to horse him in.  I allow the line to run out and then reel him in as he turns.  As I bring him closer to the Kayak, he then becomes aware of my presence and again goes on another run.  Finally he begins to tire out and I ready my net.  I get him in the kayak and have to admire this majestic fish.  Red fish are actually a bronze color and normally have one black spot on their tail.  This is to confuse other fish so they don't know which end is the head (or so I have been told).  Sometimes they have more spots than just the on the tail and, as you can tell from my pic, he had six.  

It was a great weekend as I caught several fish each day, had the pleasure of paddling in beautiful waters and staying in a small "efficiency" cabin (that is code for one room) right on the coast.  I fished during the mornings, napped in the afternoons and enjoyed visiting with the locals about their fishing stories. 

Back to my lunch, the fish was thawed by 11:30 so I assembled my ingredients.  I intended to grill the fish because this is a no hassle, no mess way to cook fish.  I place two sheets of aluminum foil on the counter.  They need to be big enough to fold over the fish and then wrap the edges so that it creates a sealed packet.  I take a pat of butter and cut into tiny pieces to be placed under and on top of the fish.  I then grab some Cajun spice mix that I like and liberally apply to the fillet.  Any kind of seasoning will work.  I have used Italian seasoning as well and had great results.  Seal up the foil packet and place it on the grill for 8-10 minutes then turn it over and cook it about another 5-8 minutes (depending upon the size and thickness of the fillet).  I then grabbed it from the grill and open the foil.  The sweet aroma of fresh grilled fish is awesome.  Add a side of ranch style beans and you have lunch fit for a king.
All thawed out and ready to go!
Special Seasoning
Apply liberally and add butter

Low to medium heat, turning once after about 8 minutes, then another 8 to go

Can't you smell it?

Add Ranch Style Beans and Dr. Pepper, now that is a meal!

If you ever find yourself on the Texas coast, I would highly recommend a fishing trip.  Kayak fishing has really become popular over the last decade and many fishing guides now offer complete kayak fishing trips with everything provided (kayak and gear).  Below I have posted the links to the Light House Lakes and a map of the area if you ever want to try your hand catching a Red in the grass flats.

Lighthouse Lakes Information

Satellite Map of Lighthouse Lakes with paddling routes

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Wild Within - Cool New Show and Good Book Recommendation

So I am in the depths of winter and I am in between hunting seasons.  I am looking for something to outdoorsy to watch on television or read and I have recently found both!  I don't have many television shows that I follow regularly, but I happened to catch an advertisement for a new show called "The Wild Within" and I was immediately intrigued.  Here was a guy (host Steve Rinella) that was going to interesting places, pursuing wild game and having a blast doing it.  I especially like his approach to hunting and fishing and how he explains that he does this out of respect for nature and to provide quality food for his family.  So far two episodes have aired and I have not been disappointed.  Episode one was a trip to his cabin in Southeast Alaska where he and his brother hunted Black-tail Deer.  The second episode included a buffalo hunt, constructing a home-made canoe, and hunting Mule Deer with Muzzleloader rifles.  The trips are not overly glamourous and you see the failures as well as the successes.

I was interested enough in the show to go to the web site to learn a bit more about the show and the author and I came across Steve's own web site where I found that he is also an author and he has written two books.  I took an interest in his more recent book titled "American Buffalo: In Search Of A Lost Icon".  I downloaded the book to my e-reader and I am a little over half way through it.  I am really enjoying it.  It is a combination of history of the American Buffalo, Steve's own research and tales relating to Buffalo, and his experiences from an Alaskan Buffalo hunt that he was lucky enough to draw a permit for.

Below I have posted the links to The Wild Within television show and Steve's own web site.  The show airs on the travel channel on Sunday nights at 8:00 PM central time.  I have also posted the link to his web site if you are interested.  I am in no way affiliated with the show, book, or author, but it isn't everyday you see an outdoor show that is this appealing and it isn't very often that I start a book that can keep my attention until the conclusion.  Enjoy!

The Wild Within on the Travel Channel

Steve Rinella Web Site

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dove Decoys Really Do Work!

So this post spans from September 2010 to New Year's day, but since I just recently started this blog, I think it is acceptable to give you a recap of one of my 2010 hunts.  I finally bit the bullet and paid for a dove lease.  I have never done this before because I had always been near land that I could access for free (public or private), but that was not the case this year.  I had not been dove hunting for a long, long, time so I needed some basic gear and my license.  While I was at Cabelas, I  noticed dove decoys galore.  Some were just molds resembling doves and others had wings that rotated and gave the illusion of a flapping wing.  My hunting buddy Ron is a believer in these mechanical decoys and he is usually right, so I grimaced as I plopped down the $40 required to purchase one fancy decoy and a few of the basic molded decoys.  This was after I went on the "Dove Tour" that the dove lease guys put on and man was it a crowd pleaser.  Below is a brief video that I took with my iPhone while they were explaining the ground rules to the hunting season.  I had a hard time paying attention because there were so many doves flying overhead.  I apologize for the crummy music with the video, I had to remove the ZZ Top track I had on it when I posted it on YouTube.

The Dove Tour
The Decoy Results!!!

I took off work the opening day of dove season and headed out to to a cut milo field that had been crawling with doves during my preseason scouting.  Since this was a lease, I knew there would be many other hunters, but boy was I surprised.  I had gotten to the field about an hour before daylight and I was still late, there were hunters in all the prime spots.  I was able to find my third choice spot in the dark so I began to set out my decoys and gear in the weeds where I would wait.  It was a cool cloudy day so the birds weren't flying in as I had seen them during my scouting trip, but there were good numbers.  The spots I had intended to sit were receiving great action with lots of shot opportunities, but I was patient. I looked out across the field where my decoy sat and suddenly a dove appeared flying low to the ground, headed straight for me traveling at mach 1!  I barely had time to raise my gun and shoot before he passed, BANG, I had bagged my first dove in years!  I thought to myself, he appeared to be headed straight for my decoy, that's odd.  Later, doves began to come over at much higher altitude as they were getting wise to the presence of the hunters, but several times large groups came overhead and circled to inspect my decoy attempting to land on my position, much like ducks setting their wings to come in for a landing.  This decoy is really working!  The first morning hunt was tough due to the number of hunters so I only took nine, but I was convinced that the decoy would continue to help me this season.

Over the course of the month I went out several more times, but to a pasture with multiple ponds and fields full of weeds.  Doves would hone in on my decoy like tomahawk missiles!  I had to be vigilant or I would miss prime opportunities.  I even had birds that I had shot at and missed, circle around for another pass as they continued to try to reach my decoy.  Despite the heat and mosquitos that were attempting to carry me away, I had a very successful dove season.

I saved a set of birds for a New Years get together with my hunting and fishing buddy Ron.  Ron is a great cook and I wanted him to show me how he creates his bacon wrapped grilled dove.  While I was expecting a detailed recipe with exact ingredients, I found that he winged it most of the time (no pun intended).  We grabbed every spice he had included a special seasoning he had received as a gift. We wrapped the doves in bacon with as many jalapeno slices as we could possibly fit.  The grilling proved difficult as the flames erupted from the bacon grease, but Ron's attentive flipping and repositioning of the doves was masterful.  The end result was a smokey and spicy treat that we still continue to talk about to this day.  Wow were those doves great!

The prize, start to finish!

It was a fitting end to my dove hunting experience.  As we enjoyed the fruits of the field, I told Ron tall tales about the dove hunts and how my shot to kill ratio was likely not very good.  I had seen many great sunsets, made many memories, and met a lot of great folks.  I can't wait for next season!

It Begins!

So I noticed a journal my wife had received as a Christmas gift and that got me to thinking about journaling my own thoughts.  What would I write, would I keep it up, what would become of the journal?  These were questions that crossed my mind.  But then inspiration took over!  I could begin a blog!  I really like to geek out on tech and this would be a huge learning curve (figuring out how to do this).  I could blog about those things that I am interested in (hunting, fishing, and all other things outdoors).  I could share the blog with my family and friends who want to know what I am up to and it provides me with a creative outlet.  I am not sure if I will be able to keep this up, so it will be an experiment to see if I can be disciplined enough to continue to post on a regular basis.  I have admired and really enjoyed other blogs that I have come across even if I didn't know the person at all.  My goal is to learn the technical side of blogging, take a stab at writing, and hopefully provide helpful and/or entertaining content along the way.  So as with all great adventures, it begins with the first step.  Here we go!!!!!!