Go-To Techniques For Taking Stocker Rainbow Trout

The biggest fishing event of the year will occur this weekend as a quarter million plus anglers hit the lakes of Washington in search of easy limits of stocker trout and perhaps a few of the jumbo-sized trout that are planted along with them. There are a lot of opening days in Washington, but this one's the big kahuna!

Here's a few techniques that might help put a few of these silver-sided torpedoes in the boat this weekend.

Dough Baits
Pautzke Fire Bait, Berkley Power Bait, and Zekes Sierra Gold are the three most popular dough baits on the market right now. These baits work extremely well for both bank fishing or fishing from a boat and they consist of a dough-like substance that can be molded into many different shapes. All three companies make baits that are formulated specifically for hatchery-raised trout and stocker rainbows simply go nuts for this stuff.

The most common technique is to mold a round or elongated ball around the hook, leaving the point of the hook exposed. All of these baits float and the most productive technique is cast it out and let it sit on the bottom in three to six feet of water where stocked trout are cruising early in the season. Slide a half ounce egg sinker onto the main line followed by a bead, then tie a swivel on below the egg sinker. Tie a two foot leader of 4 to 6 pound monomfilament leader to the swivel with a size 10 to 12 single or treble hook and your in business. Shy away from flourocarbon lines for this of fishing, as they tend to sink, pulling the bait down with it.

Single Eggs
When I was a kid the only egg we used was green label Pautzke's Balls O'Fire and not much has changed since then. Pautzke's has sold 85 million jars of single eggs in their storied history for a reason…they work! Single eggs can be fished under a float or on the bottom. They don't float, so a marshmallow is needed to float them up off the bottom. A garlic, cheese, or anise flavored marshmallow will do the trick. 

When using a bobber set the float three to four feet above the bait and use a split shot or two to get the eggs down. Put an egg or two on a single 12 or 14 egg hook and use 4 to 6 pound flourocarbon leader to draw bites. Single eggs have been overshadowed by dough baits in recent years, but they still put plenty of spring trout on the stringer and many old-school anglers still swear by them.

Trolling
My all time favorite lure for catching stocker trout is the F-4 Flatfish in frog pattern or orange with black dots. I've put limits of trout in the boat on this lure for over 30 years now and it works just as well today as it did in the 70's. A close second would be the Triple Teaser in gold with a red head, silver and blue, and white and silver UV.

Flatfish will dive enough so that they can be flat-lined and to get them down a little deeper add one or two small split shot two to three feet up the mainline. Triple Teasers won't dive without some weight and require a split shot or two to get them down below the surface. A small swivel is also necessary a few feet up the mainline to keep them from twisting up. I suggest starting light with a single split shot and then adding more weight if the bite is slow to get the lure down a little deeper. Troll slowly, work the edges of the lake, and make turns on long straight stretches to vary the lures action. Rainbow trout will hit both of these lures hard!

Stocked rainbow trout will generally hang out in the top 3 to 5 feet of the water column the first few weeks after they are planted. Target the edges of the lake and the edges of underwater shelves to find trout early in the season. Unless we see a dramatic change in the weather here in Washington the next few days, which is not likely, still fishing with bait could be the most productive technique until water temperatures warm up a bit.

Lastly, don't forget to check out the stocking reports before heading out to the lake. Here's a link to the Washington Catchable Trout Plant Statistics.

Best of luck out there and don't hesitate to post your reports on the Outdoor Line Forums, or better yet, call us in the 710 ESPN Seattle studio Saturday morning at 866-979-3776 with a live report!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Now’s the time to target Potholes Walleye

Walleye are coming off their full-moon spawn in Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir in Eastern Washington, which means the best walleye bite of the year is upon us. Walleye will congregate where the water spills out of Moses Lake into Potholes Reservoir, at Frenchman’s Wasteway, and in Lind Coulee as they cruise back into the big water after doing their thang.

“Small jigs are the ticket,” says Levi Meseberg at Mar Don Resort, located right on the reservoir. “We fish a lot of 1/16th and 1/8th ounce jigs in chartreuse, white, salt and pepper, and glow in the dark.  If you can get into these areas in the dark it’s best. Fishing from a boat out in front of any of these spots during the day can also be great.”

“Tip the jig with a leech or a crawler and fish it right along the bottom,” added Levi. Most of the walleye will be in three to four feet of water within these channels, so it’s not necessary to use anything heavier than a small jig to get down to the bottom. 

Jerkbaits or shallow diving cranks catch plenty of fish, too. “At night when the fish are up in the channels you want to throw something at them that makes noise,” says Levi. The shallow diving crankbaits also work during the day using a boat to access the mouths of Frenchman’s Wasteway, Lind Coulee, and the outlet from Moses Lake.

As the summer comes along and the lake begins to drop the bait and the walleye will drop out of the channels and back into the lake. Trolling spinners with nightcrawlers and leeches work excellent for taking walleye out of deeper water, as do Countdown Rapalas and Shad Raps in perch colors. 

Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake have an 8 fish limit for walleye with a 12” minimum size. Only one walleye can be retained per day over 22” and both lakes are open year round. The spring is far and away the best time to fish for walleye, as they are easily more accessible than the rest of year on the reservoir.

For more information about walleye fishing on Potholes Reservoir and Moses Lake contact Mar Don Resort at 800 416 2736.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Boat Cleaning 101

We have quite a bit of fun on the show and on the forums debating the virtues of aluminum vs fiberglass boats.  For me, it's glass all the way and I don't see that ever changing, but there is one area where I have to admit that I get a little jealous of the metal boats.  When it comes time to clean, you metal boat guys have it made, a good high pressure hose and your done.  For us glass boat owners however, it's a different story.  Here in the NW we have to deal with lot's of rain, dirt, mold, bird residue, spiders, and various other bugs that like to wreak havoc and set up shop on our boats. For us fiberglass boat owners it takes an aresenal of products and some elbow grease to protect our gelcoat and keep our investment looking great.

The excitment always seems to grow a little when heading out for a day on the water and your stepping on to a nice, clean, shiny boat.  To be able to do this however, you must leave the boat that way after every trip.  Some trips require more cleaning afterwards than others but at a minumum, a good washdown with some spot cleaning is neccessary after every trip.  Even if you left your boat sitting in the slip, clean as a whistle last time you used it, if it sits awhile it will gather dirt.  Some cleaning in between trips may even be neccessary. 

The starting point for keeping that show floor sparkle and also protecting your gelcoat is applying a polish at least twice a year.  The sun can really damage your gelcoat over time and a good high gloss marine polish works as a conditioner that restores valuable oils to feed and nourish the fiberglass.  I always use just a polish as the polish/cleaner combo's can be abrasive.  Another benefit of polishing the boat is that it removes much of the dirt and black streaks that simple washing won't take off.  The technique is simple, just pour on the polish, take a clean, soft, cotton cloth and rub.  After the polish dries, simply take another cloth and wipe clean.  It's that simple to restore that shine and it can be a nice way to spend the day at the boat, listening to some tunes, and catching some rays.

When cleaning the boat after a good day of fishing, I always use a wash and wax designed specifically for boats.  I like to use the wash and wax not only to clean with but the wax helps protect  that glossy finish that you just got from polishing.  Most of these cleaners come in concentrated form but I usually just spray down the boat and dump some the wash and wax directly on to the surface and scrub with a medium brush.  With the higher concentration of cleaner, my boat seems to shine with less effort from me.

Some of the other products that you will need from time to time are things like bird and spider stain remover, black streak remover, vinyl polish and protectant, windex, mold and mildew remover, rust stain remover, and metal polish.  Every spring and fall, flocks of birds bomb my boat and the stains that they leave behind can be difficult to remove.  Likewise, if your keeping your boat on freshwater, spiders appear out of nowhere and take up residency on your boat, not caring about the mess they leave. My personal favorite is when an invited guest on the boat shows up with black boots or sneakers that leave streaks everywhere on your boat. No matter what kind of grime you have on your boat, never fear, there is a product out there designed to wipe it clean.

It may take some work, but it's work I don't mind doing.  A boat is a very big investment and something to take pride in.

Secure your outdoor gear in a Truck Vault

It happens every time I leave my truck somewhere. Whether I'm off on a fishing or hunting adventure every time I walk away from my truck I'm thinking, "Is today the day that my truck gets broken into?"

Unfortunatley vehicle vandalism and theft is on the rise here in Washington and vehicles parked in obscure locations, where most anglers and hunters spend time, are an easy target for car-prowling knuckleheads. I've been the victim of the smash'n-grab vehicle break-in on two seperate occasions and outside of the obvious loss of belongings it can cut an outdoor adventure short in a hurry. 

I'd like to introduce you to the Truck Vault, the ultimate vehicle accessory to keep your fishing, hunting, skiing, mountain climbing, and work gear safe and secure while you're out in the field. Leaving your vehicle in a remote location is a lot easier when you're gear is safely secured in one of these babies. I just got one myself and know the feeling!

I just went on a turkey hunting trip to Eastern Washington and locked up my shotgun, ammunition, camo, gun cleaning kit, camera gear, and hunting boots in the Truck Vault. Outside of the security factor it's also a great way to organize your gear and get it out of the cab of the truck or SUV. When I'm bouncing around on back country roads the gear stays in one place in the vault instead of all over the cab of my Chevy.

Dirty hunting boots can now go in the vault instead of inside my truck. This particular one is the all-weather model and they also make a carpeted version for vehicles with canopies. They make them for all kinds of trucks, SUV's, and even sedans. Vault accessories include power invertors, interior lights, kennels, foam gun inserts, and much more. 

We're planning on getting a puppy in the fall and when we do I'll get the Truck Vault kennel that locks into the tie down strips that come standard with every fault. The lid of the vault can hold up to 2,000 pounds, so a four wheeler and all the large items for hunting or fishing camp can be loaded right on top of the vault without any worries.     

All of my Hunting Gear Loaded in the Truck Vault
 
Every once in a while a great new product comes along that makes the lives of outdoorsman a little easier. The Truck Vault is one of those products and I'll be using mine for as long as I'm in the field. Thanks for visiting the Outdoor Line and please feel free to pass this along to friends!
 
Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Prepping for the Trout Opener

Approximately 300,000 anglers will swarm the lowland lakes of Western Washington for "opening day" on April 30th, the largest attendance of any opening day here in Washington.

Hundreds of thousands of rainbow trout ranging from pan-fryer sized eight to twelve inchers to the coveted and beefy triploids are pumped into over a hundred lakes west of the mountains. This bounty of trout is opportunity galore for both young and old alike!

After a long and brutal winter here in Washington it's time to dust off the ol' fishing gear and pull the lake boat out of storage for the big fiesta. Opening day is a little over two weeks away and there's no better time than the present to start getting things in order.

Get started early with this opening day check list: 

-Purchase a new fishing license from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Last years fishing license expired on March 31st. Kids under 14 fish for free and kids over 15 need to purchase a license for $8.25. Click HERE for more information regarding fishing license requirements for opening day.

-Check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Catchable Trout Plant Report to see how many trout were planted in your local lake.  

-If you forget to add fuel stabilizer to the gasoline in your small outboard tank before it was put in storage last fall it's more than likely bad and will need to be disposed of at an approved facility. The ethanol contained in todays fuel blends can cause phase separation when it sits for more than a couple months. This occurs when the ethanol in blended fuel absorbs water and seperates, dropping to the bottom of the tank where the fuel pick up line is located. Fuel that has been stabilized should be good to go.    

-Place "rabbit ears" that are connected to a garden hose over the water intake vents on the lower unit of the outboard to test the motor. A large 60 gallon garbage can filled with water will also work. After the motor warms up shift the engine into forward and reverse several times to ensure that the shifting cables are working. Also check that the tell tale is spraying a steady stream of water. If there is no water coming from the tell tale port on the side of the engine push a small piece of wire into the end of it to break loose any build up that may have occurred over the winter. If water still isn't present the water impeller could be damaged and it should be taken to a service shop immediately for repair. 

-Unhook the batteries in the boat and place them on a charger so that they are at full charge when it's time to hit the water on the opener. It's especially important to unhook the batteries if they are attached to an electric trolling motor before you begin charging, as damage can occur to the motor.

-Check the propeller on the electric trolling motor to make sure no fishing line is wrapped around the hub. If fishing line is present remove the propellor and cut it away.

-Check all the life jackets to make sure the squirrels haven't used them for a nest over the winter or even worse, a bunch of hornets haven't taken up shop in the life jackets. Clean them and make sure they all still fit the individuals that will be wearing them. In Washington kids under 12 years of age need to wear a life jacket at all times when underway in a vessel less than 19 feet. 

-Plug the trailer lights into the tow vehicle and test them to make sure they are working properly.

-Check the trailer winch assembly, the winch cable, and the stern tie-downs for wear and tear. Spray the trailer winch gears with WD-40 or teflon spray.

-Inspect the oars, oar stops, and oar locks for damage and replace if needed.

-Check the boat plug for damage and purchase a spare if you don't already have one.

-Grease the trailer bearings and check the brakes on the trailer if it has them. 

-Take a quick look in the tackle box for rusty hooks that will be used on the opener. Replace any rusty hooks on trolling lures and either sharpen bait hooks or purchase new ones. 

-Replace old fishing line with fresh new line. Eight to ten pound test main line is great for opening day trout.

-Make sure the bail mechanisms and bail releases work on all the fishing reels and that the fishing rods are all in good working condition. 

-Get the kids out for some casting practice prior to opening day. Heck, you might even need some casting practice too. It's a fun way to spend the afternoon with the kids.

-Take a couple of practice runs backing the boat into the driveway or even better, at the boat launch you'll be using. You don't want to be "that guy" that takes an hour to launch the boat on opening morning.

I'll never forget some of the great memories I have of fishing on opening day with my family in Kitsap County. Those great memories definitely helped to get me hooked on fishing and the outdoors at a very early age. It's a great way to get kids, friends, and family outdoors to experience one of our countries great pastimes…Fishing!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

      

The One That Got Away

For the past few years, every time I've traveled back to Florida to see the family and do a little fishing, I’ve been met with windy weather.

So far, 2011 is shaping up to be pretty darn good as my Florida Keys trip in January was perhaps some of the best mixed bag fishing I have ever seen and this past trip with the kids for spring break proved to be productive as well with limits of grouper and battles with mystery fish.

Our trips to Florida to see the family for spring break are always very busy as we never get a full week but just a matter of days.

By the time you see family, spend some time at the beach, and take a day with the girls at one of Florida's amusement parks, this time it was Universal for the new Harry Potter exhibit, it usually leaves only a day to go fishing.  With grouper season just opening up April 1st and some colder water hanging around keeping the majority of kingfish further south it was a no brainer, we were going after some tasty grouper.

Mason with Uncle Jon

Our favorite grouper target, gag grouper, were still closed in federal waters but my brother Jonathan knew of a few spots for some nice red grouper.  We launched the boat in Clearwater and went about 30 miles out on 2ft seas arriving at our waypoint full of anticipation.  Jonathan readied the anchor, as I maneuvered the boat into position, my dad and Mason both readied their rods as it’s always a race to land the first fish. Once we got anchored up it didn't take more than just a few minutes and it was fish on.

We were fishing an area of cheesy limestone bottom, using a chum block to get a slick going. Threadfin, mackerel, squid and live pinfish that the boys had been catching off the dock were our baits.  In the gulf, red grouper have to be at least 20 inches for rec anglers to keep.  (Only 16, I believe, for commercials, go figure.)  We waded through grouper after grouper with one after another being 18 or 19 inches.  Finally, my brother Jonathan hooked up with a keeper size grouper and then it was just a matter of time before we had six keepers on the boat. 

One of the things that I always do when I am bottom fishing in the gulf is set up a live bait on top with a bait runner and hope that something big and hungry swims by.  As we were trying to catch two more reds to finish out our limit, the bait runner went off but by the time I could get to it the fish was gone.  I reeled in to check my bait and saw only half of a big pinfish.  We figured it had to be a toothy kingfish so I re-baited and tossed back out.  A few minutes later, another zing and this time I lost the entire set-up as the fish severed the fluorocarbon leader with its razor teeth.  Determined, I re-baited and tossed the big pinfish behind the boat avoiding the hungry bird that kept trying to get an easy meal.  

 After some time went by my dad caught a nice keeper sized gag grouper that we had to release but other than that the bite really slowed down.  Just as we were talking about pulling anchor and trolling our way back in, the top rod went off again.  This time the fish stayed buttoned as I set the hook and handed off the rod to Mason.  I stopped passing the rod off to my son a few years back because he does a great job at catching more than his share of fish and his rubbing it in to the old man was more than I could handle.  This time however, I figured that he was the only one on the boat that hadn’t caught a kingfish and I wanted him to have the experience. 

 

It hurt my dad to have to throw this one back

It turns out that what I thought was going to be a nice little first king mackerel for my son turned out to be an hour and forty minute test of will between Mason and whatever we has on the end of the line.  It was forty-five minutes into the fight when we first saw color.  We couldn’t tell what we had however; we just knew that it was big.  Could it be a big king?  Tuna?  How about amberjack?  After some debate and looking at the way it was fighting we decided that it had to be a big AJ.  All fish in the jack family are known for their hard fighting abilities and Mason would attest, this fish wouldn’t budge. 

Mason continued to battle as time went on, I lit a cigar and cracked a beer, I could tell we weren’t going anywhere soon.  The fish stayed a comfortable distance from the boat and teased us with a flash of color before it made another run, tearing line off the reel just as fast as it did on its initial run.  My brother Jon and I debated whether or not we should drop the anchor but I ruled it out as I thought it was just going to be a short while and Mason would have this fish bested.  Turns out I made the wrong call. 

After 100 minutes of Mason and this fish going toe to fin, the fish had finally had enough of play time.

Mason yelled for us to drop the anchor as the fish made one last blistering run.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it done fast enough.  Mason kept saying we were wrapped up in the anchor rope but Jon and I just couldn’t accept it.  We cut the rope and left the anchor sit just hoping the rope would fall through but it didn’t, and eventually SNAP!  It was over!

Mason was exhausted in the Florida heat, my dad, brother, and I all sat silently as we contemplated what might have been.  Even though we had a great day of fishing, we couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

Oh well, we had a great story and I’m sure we’ll have years of talking about the fish that got away.

Rob Tobeck
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com 

    

 

 

 

 

Expiration Date:

To the winter-weary Northwesterner, the first of May signals the opening of many long awaited opportunities. Shrimp, lingcod and halibut seasons are all on tap and the warming inland waters offer the first genuine shot at bass, kokanee and trout as well.

While these traditional spring pursuits beckon, some of the best local action comes not at the beginning of the spring seasons but rather as the winter chinook or "blackmouth" season expires. In the waning days of our winter salmon season,  the first returning Puget Sound adult chinook or "springers" arrive and close the season out with a chrome-plated bang!

Twenty-eight pounds of proof that Puget Sound springers not only exist, but are willing biters! Kathy Nelson is all smiles as she struggles to hoist her career-largest springer taken north of Everett, Washington.

While the Columbia River springers dominate the headlines and our efforts, Puget Sound springers, while not nearly as numerous, offer a shot at a local, jumbo chinook. While many anglers are making travel plans to take advantage of this Columbia River crop, a solid showing of springers silently sneaks into our local "S" rivers (Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie).

Speaking in terms of time-of-entry, maturing chinook staging in the Sound prior to their spawning run is a fairly common occurrence. However, to consistently score on these “springer-mouth’s” you must target them by fishing where they are and by offering what they want.

These "S" river springers are most likely scattered and trolling with your Cannon downriggers will be the most effective technique. Instead of typical blackmouth or feeder chinook gear, i.e. flashers & spoons or squid, think along the lines of whole herring and Silver Horde plugs. My favorite way to fish whole herring is in a Krippled Herring “helmet” (www.krippled.ca) with the flasher rigged to the cannon ball. White Silver Horde plugs with a pink stripe down the side or white with a green back seem to be the best “plastic” producers. These maturing chinook will take flasher gear from time to time but you cannot beat bigger baits for these bigger fish.

Snohomish system kings are available on their first peek at the Snohomish estuary: Mission Bar. Although the area gets its name from Mission Beach, the bar extends from Mission Point to the Everett Harbor entrance and kings will be found all along its length.

Former University of Washington and Dallas Cowboy Lineman Kevin Gogan and 710 ESPN's Tom Nelson with a fine mid-April Mission Bar specimen that pulled the scale down to the mid-teens!

Slightly farther out in Possession Sound lays Hat (Gedney) Island and the south Hat bar that extends toward Pt Gardner Bay. Chinook rounding Possession Pt. and heading north will often bump in to the bar and stick around for a bite. Watch the tides and hit Hat on the flood.

In Bristol Bay, Alaska the commercial gillnetters will wait for the ebb tide to dry up the flats which will run the sockeye off the shallows and into their waiting nets. You can play the same game on Mission Bar, fishing it on the ebb to catch the fish backing off of the bar.

A bit farther to the north, Marine Area 7, otherwise known as the San Juan Islands offer a shot at not only spring chinook heading back to Washington waters but also early adults returning to Canadian rivers, most notably the Frasier. The only problem with the San Juan scenario is the number of unmarked hatchery fish as well as wild chinook that are hitting the "island buffet". If you don't mind a little catch and release while you look for a legal fin-clipped fish, you'll be in for a whale of a lot of fun!

The expiration date on this chinook opportunity in Marine Area 7, 8-1 & 8-2 is April 30, let’s get going and good luck! 

 

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com 

Your Final Exam is an Alaskan River

My buddy Daniel is coming up to Alaska this summer and wants to trick trout with flies, but he’s never done it before.

I told him there is no better place to learn than the 49th state, particularly a submerged log on the Thorne River that’s an underwater metropolis for trout. I stood there last summer with Steve the Guide and Steve the Cook and caught fish for hours, moving only to circulate blood.

My task now is to help Daniel prep for his time by that log.

I’ve got the basics but am far from anyone that would be deemed a qualified instructor. I have a piece of paper from the University of Arizona that says I satisfied the college-level journalism requirements and the State of California sent me one that says I am competent enough to teach English.

Though as a self-taught fly-caster that learned through watching A River Runs Through It until my DVD player got a fever and passed out, I don’t even know if what I am doing would be considered the ‘right way’.

I catch fish, it’s fun, even looks a little pretty, so it can’t be that bad.

I told Daniel right off the two things I do poorly. Once in a while I will open my shoulder during the backcast sending the fly way off to my right and into branches rather than the space behind me.

I also catch stripped out line in my reel because I don’t keep the facedown. With those two things in mind, he was free to come up with new exciting flaws that I hadn’t seen and didn’t know how to fix.

I started him with my low-end premium rod, a Sage I bought from a buddy of mine that either felt sorry for me or incredibly generous — or both.

I substituted the reel that came with the rod for one with old fly-line that wouldn’t mind the slightly abrasive gravel of my neighbor’s driveway.

Since Daniel is a coach and pretty competitive, he picked up the rhythm required to throw a tiny casting fly that weights almost nothing, though I’m sure being a coach and or competitive does not always lead to success when it comes to fly-fishing. It might even be a detriment.

We worked backward from that 7-weight rod, to a lighter TFO 5-weight rod that does not load and shoot the fly-line as efficiently as a stiffer fly-rod in rhythm. After a few minutes, I moved him down again to the starter rod and reel set up I bought for $59.99.

“Oh yeah,” he said as the cheap, heavy rod left his cast in puddles rather than the surprisingly tight loop he’d made with the medium and premium rod.

He could tell the difference.

It might be proof that better materials make better fly-casters, or it could just be a coincidence.

After half an hour, he left with the starter rod to practice in his own yard. It felt good to share something I enjoy doing. I drifted around in memories of when I was learning to fish as a kid and later my first casts with that startup kit I had just given to a friend.

There is no point in keeping a passion to yourself. There are probably a ton of people that won’t get why you love what you do until you show them.

Daniel might not end up loving to fly-fish like I do, but if he passes the Thorne River log-test, he might just understand it a little more.

To contact Jeff Lund, email aklund24@gmail.com.

Deep fry done easy!

Spring is upon us and with it lingcod, rockfish and halibut seasons.

So,  if you've still got fish in the freezer…  You, my friend have a problem that is probably starting to look more like Styrofoam than fresh fish.

Fortunately, there is a much better solution than deeming the contents of your freezer "Crab bait". My advice to you is to start thawing and deep frying immediately!!!
There's just something about the crispy, golden appearance, the white, flaky texture and the taste…oh, man, the taste… There's no question, if you want to get rid of a whole bunch of fish fast,  just break out the deep fryer and have at it!

The problem is, some folks are a little shy about the whole process of preparing, breading and gettin' their deep-fry on! Well, it's not as complicated as you may think. There is some prep time involved but when you get to taste the final product, I think you'll agree that it's time well spent!

Let's talk ingredients and it all starts with the raw material. If your fish is showing a bit of freezer burn it's easy to trim a little bit and discard the dry, white edges. The rest of the ingredients are as follows for a three-pound mess of white fish:

Deep fryer or stove top pot with a gallon of 350-degree peanut or canola oil
Salt, pepper, garlic powder in shakers
One cup of white flour
Four eggs
One cup of milk
Panko Rice breading
Franks Red Hot Sauce (Buffalo Wing flavoring)

Cut your fish up in similar size chunks for even cooking. I like to prepare 3" x 2" squared off pieces. Exact size in not important but uniform size certainly is! Place the chunks on paper towels to begin the drying process.

 

Change the paper towels and salt & pepper the fish liberally (garlic powder optional) . Flip the chunks on yet another new sheet of paper towels and season the other side as well. 

 

Flour the chunks and place on a cookie sheet as now the fish should be dry enough to allow the flour to remain powdery (not wet) on the surface. 

 

Set up a little assembly line for the egg wash (eggs & milk) and then the Panko rice breading. 

 

Mix the eggs & milk together and take the seasoned, floured chunks into the egg wash and then immediately into the Panko. 

 

With the oil at 350 degrees, drop the breaded chunks into the oil and cook until golden brown which is usually less than three minutes. You'll notice the Franks Red Hot sauce which is just killer on the smaller chunks and results in a treat known as Buffalo 'But around the Nelson house! Just sprinkle the Frank's over the fish immediately as it comes out of the fryer and the hot, active surface really helps spread the sauce around nicely! 

 

When you're all done, you will notice that suddenly you are not alone in the kitchen. Your cooking pan will briefly look like this but for some reason will rapidly empty! 

 

Is this the only breading/ deep fry recipe there is??? Heck no! However, this is an easy process that is tasty and the Panko breading soaks up very little oil so it's better for you than heavy batter methods. 

While I have done mega batches of fried fish with the turkey cooker over propane as well as on the stove top with a large Revere Ware pot, the easiest temperature control and most consistent results come with a true deep fryer such as the Rival Digital Fryer.

With a little practice and a lot of fish you can turn out some amazing results and unbelievably tasty fish!

Well,… what are you waiting for??? Get frying!!!

 

Talkin’ Big Chinook

By Tony Floor

What is it about big salmon?

I mean big salmon in the 25-50 pound class that brings an angler to the pinnicle of happiness.                                                                                                                                                                                                As reported in this column, I’ve invested around a half century chasing chinook and coho salmon                                                                                                                                                                                              in Pacific Northwest waters, not including Vancouver Island and SE Alaska. I have come to the                                                                                                                                                                                         conclusion, as elusive as big fish can be, they are cool.

Part of my job, as the Director of Fishing Affairs for the NW Marine Trade Association is
to manage and execute the NW Salmon Derby Series. There are 16 salmon fishing tournaments
in this year’s 8th annual Derby Series, which means hanging out at events which are founded
upon a contest of catching the largest chinook salmon (predominately fin-clipped hatchery pro-
duced) or in some cases, coho salmon. This awful work task allows me to witness some real
beauties, I’m talking big fish here, and grins synonomous with winning the lottery. For these
anglers, big fish are way cool.

At this time of year, I don’t focus on the chances of catching a very big fish. Afterall,
winter-spring blackmouth traditionally range in the 8-12 pound class, perfect for my barbeque.
A couple of weeks ago, fishing off the west tip of Orcas Island, a big blackmouth buried my rod
tip and the game was on. For this cat, in 34 years of winter-spring blackmouth fishing from
Sekiu to Olympia, I have broken the 20-pound class once, out at Coyote Bank, boating a
21 pounder. My lips did not meet for three weeks.

As I am doing the Tony do-si-do around the back of the boat, from one side to the
other, I am concentrating on the punching, counter-punching as the tug of war ensues. I
began to be thinking about a big wild chinook, bearing an adipose fin, requiring release.
Yet, I am wishing for a release into the cooler. With most big chinook salmon, they tend to
use their heavyweight advantage and stay down. The counterpunch is steady pressure,
constantly aiming the rod tip at the fish and making sure you are on top of the fish, versus
the line angling underneath the boat and the fish being on the other side. So far, so good.
My analogy is similar to a boxing match. The first 12 rounds belong to the fish. The last three
rounds are mine, meaning I increase the pressure as I interpret the fish tiring and coming to
the surface more regularly. Patience is important and remember, never attempt to net a fish
before it’s time. It’s time is defined as the fish being on the surface, and your partner with
the net is ready to drop the net under the fish, entering the net head first for the final play.
Game over.

No adipose fin and welcome aboard. Prepare for a one way trip to Olympia. Back on
the scale on Henry Island, a hefty 27 pounds. My lips havn’t touched since.

Granted, I have been fortunate to hook and land king salmon, during the summer
months of 50, 47, 45 and 40 in nearly a lifetime of saltwater fishing in Washington. All of
those jumbo king salmon came from Willapa Bay in the last 20 years. I can distinctly remember
every one of those big kings resulting in fantastic memories and stories repeated too many
times. But this Orcas Island fish was special, in mid-March and completely unexpected giving
me a new sense of the thrill of salmon fishing at this time of year.

And, it was just a week ago, at the Anacortes Salmon Derby when the top three
winners, each holding their 18-pound and change blackmouths, grinning in the winners
circle out of 1100 anglers. The biggest of the three paid out a cool $15,000. I understand.

On the end of the first day of fishing, I talked with Jennifer Payne from Friday
Harbor, who was distraught over what she thought could have been the winning fish on
the end of her string, only to lose it during the battle at the boat. Sometimes, seeing a big
fish at the boat or at the net, and have the fish successfully cruise away is a suffering similar
to removing a finger with a butter knife. For the angler, and the fish, there will be another
day. And, I hope for Jennifer Payne that the sooner she gets her worm back in the water,
the better the chance of doing business with Mr. Big again.

At this writing, we are only a few weeks away for the announcement of the new
salmon seasons effective May 1, 2011 through April 30, 2012. In discussions with WDFW
salmon biologists, this year may be the year of big chinook. Remember, chinook salmon,
sexually mature at ages three, four and five. Most of Puget Sound king salmon are three
and four year fish, traditionally , with more abundant five year old kings indigenous to
coastal rivers including the Columbia River. My trapline indicates good numbers of big
kings returning to Washington this year, meaning five year olds in the mid-20’s to high
30 pound class. Five year old kings over 40 should not be completely uncommon.

Ever heard of big fishitus? There is no cure but rest assured, it is not fatal. And, it
can be contagious, attacking all degrees of rational thinking. Don’t bother calling the doc,
as there is no known cure. The treatment? Yeah, go fishing and don’t fight the feeling!

Despite this La Nina fall, winter and spring, I am encouraged about spring and
summer fishing options in the months ahead. During this last month of winter-spring
salmon fishing, I’ll be headed back to the Islands and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca
as often as possible, weather permitting. April can produce surprising results.

Next month, I’ll take an in-depth look at our summer salmon fishing options as
I develop my battle plan based on abundance of salmon by area and time. In the meantime,
see you on the water!

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