Category Archives: Fishing

The waiting game.

Better late than never right?   Right!

Last Friday, Alex, myself and three of our friends went in search of fish out on Murray Lake (near Cannonsburg).   Now, I’m not going to lie and say I wan’t pessimistic going into this fishing outing.  Last time Alex and I tried our hand at fishing, together that is, we caught zilch, null, nada, nothing.  Nor did we receive anything remotely close to a nibble.  So you could say I was slightly pessimistic going into this trip; even though I was trying to be a happy camper.

Getting onto the lake at 8am, Alex and I in canoe and our 3 friends in rowboat, we dropped anchor off shore of cattails and weeds.  Fishing in the shallow and deeper water, we began our day.  Not 20 minutes later, our friends had caught a fish.  As time went on, they caught another, and another and another.  Yes, by the time they had 10 fish, we had none and had been out on the water for 1.5 hours.  It’s sufficient to say I was bummed out.  Trying to stay positive, we moved to the other side of the lake hoping for better luck.

To my amazement, and relief, we caught nibbles right off the bat.  Unfortunately, we still weren’t catching these nibbley fish.  Moving once more, we set our lines.  Two nibbles later and wham!  I got a juvenile sunfish and before long, I had caught juvenile everything!  Sunfish, Rock Bass, Blue Gills and Perch.  I felt like an incredible fisher, no thanks to my fishing skills.  I think the fish were doing me a favor.  I ended up catching 12 juvenile fish all by myself and  we weren’t able to keep any of them.  As for Alex, he switched lures and caught a Large Mouth Bass, definitely the biggest fish of the day!  Too bad it isn’t the season for them, so we threw it back as well.

Returning to shore around noon, our party’s total keepable fish count was 5, including Rock Bass and Blue Gill.

The happy fishing party.

Returning home, I was taught how to descale, fillet and cook what we caught.  Man, was it fun!  Just like dissecting cow eyes in elementary school.  Not to mention DELICIOUS.  I’ve decided I like anything and everything better than catfish.  They are toooooo fishy for me!

Inspection.

Pre-descaling.

In the process of descaling a fish - for the first time nonetheless!

This one's a female, with Roe!

Ready for lunch.

As for the cooking of our catch, we put the fish right in butter and fried them up in a pan.  Nothing fancy and boy were they delicious!

As for the Roe we harvested along with the meat from the female, we fried that up about 10 seconds with a tablespoon of butter.  We then proceeded to eat it on a cracker.  Not quite like raw fish eggs, caviar (yummy), but the roe was GREAT cooked. It tasted nothing like fish really.

Raw roe.

Overall, all the fish and the constituent parts that we ate were delicious.  Alex and I will eat them again FOR SURE.

Thank you fish!

-Sam

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Every fisherman starts out as a boy or a girl.

My love of fishing, or at least of watching fishing, started as a toddler.  I would wake up on Sunday mornings, 6am and watch fishing shows on TV.  Later on I got a little more participative and I remember having the best experiences of actually fishing.  Waking up early, rowing out with Grandma, Grandpa, and parents in tow.  Yes, I was so strong then I rowed them.  Well not really, but I was so enthusiastic it seemed to me we were powered on that enthusiasm alone.

I’ve been fishing with Alex once since we began this project and the successful outcome of today’s meal was NOT due to my fish whispering skills.  All the fish we ate for this meal were the product of Alex’s last trip to the Thornapple River and a generous donation from our friend John.  The menu was as follows.

Breaded and Fried Catfish/Blue Gill

  • All the Catfish and Blue Gill fillets
  • 2 eggs
  • Breading made from Veggie Chips
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Heat the vegetable oil until at frying temperature.
  2. Dip fish fillet into eggs, into breading and place gently into the pan with oil.
  3. Fry until fish is cooked and breading is crispy and brown.
Sauteed Cattail Shoots
The Cattails were as always, DELICIOUS.  As for the fish, we were amazing at how good the breading turned out!  Veggie chips are definitely a new twist on breading for fish.  The fish was cooked to perfection also.  Who would’ve thought Alex knew how to cook fish so well?

-Sam

Friday the 13th, 10 Kilometers and a Fish Fry

Friday the 13th began not unlike many of the days before it. I awoke, ate breakfast, and prepared myself for a day off work fishing on the Thornapple River. The night previous I had watched the red Wings loose game seven and had wallowed in suffering with a few of my friends; so as memory serves I did wake up much later than usual.

With my late start I was afraid my great plans of fishing were dashed as I had slept through the great fishing hours of the wee morning. However, I had the day off; if I didn’t go fishing what else was I going to do? So at the bright hour of eleven o’clock I began to prepare my affairs for a day on the river.

Thursday night I had arranged a fishing spot at my friend Del’s mom’s house who lived on the river. Finally at one in the afternoon I had my line in the water. My plan of attack was to go after Catfish. Her house is situated on the right bank of the river at the beginning of a long slow left curve meaning the current and depth of the river are right along her side of the river. Perfect for bottom fishing for Catfish. I was fishing with a (guesstimated) size 5 hook with half of a big juicy night crawler impaled upon it and a large split shot sinker about 3 feet back on the line. I cast it out into the current and waited.

The sun was approaching its zenith and the fish were jumping all over the place, needless to say I felt real good about my location. Sure enough it wasn’t too long before my bait was hit. I love the way Catfish take bait. Not a nibble nor a half assed bite, no Catfish take the bait strong. With my first fish on my smile grew from an inquisitive smirk to a full grin as I felt the familiar slow, strong pulses of fighting a Channel Catfish. When I got the fish to shore I was surprised by how big it actually was, nearly 17 inches! I dispatched the hook from his mouth with my pliers making sure to avoid his spurs and placed him in my waiting live-well.

With my first fish on land I prepared my hook again and cast back into the same hole. It wasn’t 5 minutes later that I had another fish on! It seemed I had found where they were hiding faster than I had thought I would. After another battle with a fish I pulled up a 12 inch Catfish. Things were really looking up. By now the sun was high in the sky and the fish had stopped jumping it was the perfect time to drink a few beers and soak up some sun as the full heat of the day came to bear.

At three o’clock I was joined by my friend Del. We fished together for quite some time with neither of us getting as much as a snag. Finally Del broke the spell and brought in a nice 15 inch Catfish. Like a gentleman he practiced catch and release.

Not long after Del’s success I too had my third fish on and landed a 15 inch Catfish. My live-well was now quite full of fish. With the hour approaching six in the evening and dark clouds rolling in Del took his leave and I prepared to take off. But just as I was preparing my things I decided to toss my line in and see what happened, and Bam I had a forth fish on!

This fish was no Catfish. It hit my bait in a very similar fashion but it acted very different in the fight. Catfish keep constant pressure and pull in slow rhythmic pulses against you. This fish however, was swimming left then right, giving slack and then taking out line and finally jumping clean out of the water. I had hooked my first Bass of the summer!

I tell you, sport fish are sport fish for a reason. They are so much fun to catch. The 12 inch Small Mouth fought twice as hard as my largest Catfish and was half the size. Sam and I won’t be able to keep the Bass we catch until after Memorial Day but it is a great pleasure to catch one. With my grin a full on jovial smile I released the Bass back into the river, re-baited my hook and cast again. Not too long after I caught the fifth and final fish of the day and my second Bass of the summer.

With the clouds looking meaner by the minute I released the Bass and began gathering my affairs and loading them into the car. Before long I was home and it was time to begin the process of turning whole Catfish into Catfish fillets.

The process begins by cutting the skin back just behind the gills and then using a vice-grip pliers to pull off the skin from head to tail.

Once you have removed the skin it is as simple as cutting down the spin on either side avoiding the guts and taking the fillets off.

This was my first time in a long time filleting a Catfish and I was bit rusty, but even though the fillets look rough they should taste great just the same.

Now, I know what your saying. For such a long winded story Sam and I didn’t eat a foraged meal yet this week. That is true and false at the same time. Saturday morning I ran the 10k in the 5/3 River Bank Race and then had the work in the afternoon. Fortunately we had been invited to a fish fry being put on by my boss at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus so we decided to let him do the foraging for us this week. Saturday night we indulged our selves in fried Blue Gill, Perch, Crappie and Salmon as well as…. MORELS!!! That is correct Sam and I finally ate Morels this season though on someone else’s labor.

All in all it was a great weekend. Sam and I are still clinging onto the hope that we may find Morels on our own. Until then we may have to keep mooching off people who are generous enough to share their morels even though will never divulge where they found them. Until then we’ll be eating Catfish and telling more stories of our time spent outside.

– Alex

The rain came and went.

We finally got the rain we had been waiting for last night.  According to WOOD TV 8, areas around West Michigan got up to 5.05″ of rain!  This is great growing weather for the Morels we are STILL looking for signs of.  Unfortunately, now that we have enough water, it’s a little too warm (80 degrees).  All the stuff Alex and I have read say that Morels always seem to surprise you though, so we are hoping for one of those.  While these hot temperatures might not be the very best for morels, let’s hope the fish love it!  If the weather behaves, we’re going to try fishing again and hopefully we’ll be serving up some fillets tomorrow or this weekend.

After all the storms last night, it really got me thinking about our watershed (the Lower Grand River Watershed).  Most people think of where their homes/property are located based upon street intersections, latitude and longitude, county, town etc.  I think it’s more important to realize and understand what watershed one is apart of.  It seems especially important when trying to forage for certain flora and fauna in an efficient and effective way as Alex and I are trying to do.  On top of this project Alex and I have put together, I’ll be interning all summer with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) as their Water Quality Intern.  In addition to doing whatever they ask of me, I’m going to be learning a great deal more about the lower grand river watershed and can’t wait to put some of the knowledge I gain to use when we go foraging.

Praying For Rain

After talking with a few people with more experience than myself about Morel mushrooms I am praying for some rain. I have learned they like moister soils but not wet soil and prefer to grow at higher elevation than I had previously expected. The conversations have backed up all I have learned on the web like looking around dead elm trees, old burn areas and logging areas. I also picked up some pointers from my cousin who told me they seem to prefer sandier soil (the white morels that is) and if I could find an old apple orchard that I would definitely have better luck. With the White Morel season in full bore, Sam and I should hopefully be able to find some morels before seasons end come Labor Day.

Not only has the warmer weather spurned my desire for Morels it has also brought fishing back into my vocabulary. Eating the Ribbon Snake was interesting and certainly some resourceful foraging but there is no substitute for a good ol’ fish fry. I have the evening off Thursday and the whole day off Friday; perhaps I’ll be telling a fish story later this week.

– Alex

Alas

The weather has not been kind and I will not be able to go fishing today. 😦

On rainy days like these I like to read and have done so most of the day. I am still perusing and marking up my foraging books and have also began reading Plan B 4.0 by Lester R. Brown. It is his detailed plan to turn the environmental crisis around and so far has been terrifying and uplifting at the same time.

Needless to say, our experience this summer will be a great way for me and Sam to contribute to the Green cause and perhaps develop a better sense of what we truly need to live sustainably and responsibly. My hope is through learning and sharing others may be inclined to follow suit. It is the littlest steps that can sometimes lead to the greatest changes.

Never the less hopefully soon I can share a fishing success story! Friday the 22nd Earth day is fast aproaching and with or without fish it should be an exciting launching pad for Wild West Michigan and our own journey to being as Green as possible.

– Alex

What Will Tomorrow Bring?

Well another Saturday is fast approaching and it brings to question of what will the weather be like tomorrow? High winds and cold temperatures kept us off the lake at the beginning of the week and between my working  and Sam leaving the State to go to Oregon for a fencing tournament we have not fished a lick. My father and I are hoping tomorrow’s forecasted rain will be over quickly so that we can fish in the evening for Crappie on Morrison Lake.

While not fishing or walking through the woods and fields near Sam’s home I have been brushing up on my book knowledge reading through Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson. Today I went to Schuler Books and Music on 28th Street and picked up The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plant, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify and Cook Them by Katie Letcher Lyle. Now I feel we’ll have enough information to properly forage throughout the spring, summer and fall.

I’ll be sure to share whether or not the fishing trip is a success or if it even takes place. Until then I can only wonder what tomorrow bring.

– Alex

A Day on Kettle Lake

On Saturday the 9th of April Sam and I spent the afternoon on Kettle Lake in search of blue gill and other pan fish to prepare for our inaugural meal on the 22nd. The weather was kind to us with a slight breeze and good temperatures. However, it quickly became apparent that our gungho attitude wasn’t going to force the fish to bite. We charged onto the water and before we knew it we had no idea where to fish.

Docked at the boat launch

My father and I have spent many days fishing our little section of the Thornapple River near the Cascade Dam where finding fish means looking for a tree in the river or prior knowledge of a good rock pile. But out on the lake Sam’s memory and my ignorance did not help us find fish. We found a great place to fish for Bass but, unfortunately they aren’t allowed to be kept until after memorial day. It seems we need to talk to an old salt or just put in the time acclimating ourselves with the lake.

The good news is we weren’t discouraged and despair was not in our hearts as we got off the water. It brought home the fact that this will be tough. Sam and I have our work cut out for us and that is the whole reason we are doing this. It is a foraging experience, a way for us to better identify with a bygone age when hunting, gathering and primal cultivation was a staple of everyday life.

Exciting right?

-Alex