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

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