Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

April 22, 2013

Fishing paradise

I have never been much of a fisherman. As a kid, I started fishing for brook trout with a stick, some store string, and a bent safety pin. I kid you not — I caught my first keeper on such a rig. I graduated to a real rod and reel and then my pride-and-joy was a spun-glass, two-section fly rod. Of course, I never learned to fly fish as my whole fishing experience depended on my coffee can full of slimy night crawlers.

Campbell Falls State Park was within walking distance of my house in Norfolk, Conn. and it’s main attraction was a good sized waterfall. I used to sit for hours on the rocks below chucking my crawlers out into the swirling water and I caught several lunkers that required two hands to jerk them out of the current. The roar of the falls was deafening and I often had the buggers scared out of me by tourists who came up behind me to shout, “Are you having any luck?”

Fast forward about 45 years through some cane pole fishing in Smyrna, Tenn., and a wee bit of fishing at Lake Dillon in Colorado, and I end up on Golden Pond in Corsicana. You would think that I would fall right into the fishing lifestyle that my neighbors all enjoyed — but that did not happen. I was an observer. I watched them angle fish, jug fish, and trot line fish but I did all of my fishing out of their freezers. I will forever fondly remember the Friday fish fries and poker games at the Island Cattle and Goat club on Highway 287. Joe and Ralph were the old reprobates who were in charge and, believe it or not, the club actually had cattle and goats out on an island in the lake.

There is fishing in abundance down here around Sarasota and the varieties of fish are mind staggering. On Golden Pond, the catches consisted mainly of various catfish, various bass, and the ever-popular crappie. Down here, they are catching fish I had never even heard of before. I read the fishing report on the back of the sports page every Thursday and I am totally awed by it.

The report shows a map of our Gulf Coast from Anna Maria Island (above Bradenton) down to Sanibel Island (below Venice) and narrates what folks have been catching on what kind of bait. Here are just a few of the more exotic species caught this week: black drum, bluefish, pompano, sea trout, sea bass, assorted mackerels, sheepshead, snook, assorted groupers, Lane and mangrove snappers, Key West grunts, porgies, lady fish, cobia, and whiting. There were also some tarpon and blacktip sharks that were taken.

The lures and baits listed are endless: various spoons, jigs, and jerk baits, as well as live and cut baits such as shrimp, shad, sardines, pinfish, threadfin, and squid. Those baits sound like they would make a pretty good gumbo and I know you sushi eaters are salivating. Oh, by the way, unlike Texas fishermen, they have never heard of “stink-bait” down here.

What really peeks my interest as a cook is the last part of the report entitled, “Cooking Your Catch.” This week the recipe was for “Curried Kingfish.” As my friend Rachael Ray would say, “Yummo!” I apply these recipes to the fish I happen to have on hand — which don’t come from my neighbors’ freezers but the freezers and fresh-fish sections at Publix super markets. I just did an inventory of my stock on hand and found jumbo shrimp, grouper, sea scallops, haddock, snapper, cod, and mussels. Not bad for a land-lubber, huh? And the really great thing is that I just make a wish-list for The Little Woman (no, she still hasn’t warmed up to that name) and she does the fishing at Publix.

By the way, we are in the stone-crab season now. These are funny little crustaceans with large claws strong enough to break oyster shells. These claws are a real delicacy and one of the few seafoods that TLW really enjoys — she’s a red meat carnivore at heart. The really unique thing about the stone-crab is when you catch them, you break off the biggest claws, and throw the little beasts back. They regenerate new claws very quickly which are larger and stronger than the ones they lost.

Stone-crab fishing is strictly regulated and enforced by the “Crab-Patrol.” Crabbers have a daily limit of one gallon of the claws or two gallons per vessel. There is also a five-trap limit per fisherman.

A game warden patrolling a well-know fishing lake came upon a good old boy carrying two buckets of fish. The warden asked if the man had a license to catch those fish and the man replied, “Why no, sir, I don’t need one. These are my pet fish.” The warden told the man he had better explain himself.

“Well, sir, every day I bring my pet fish out here for a recreational swim. Then, when I whistle for them they jump back into my buckets.” The warden got furious and shouted, “That’s a bunch of bull-hockey! Fish don’t do that!” The man calmly said, “I would be glad to demonstrate how it works,” and the warden said, “O.K. This I have got to see.”

The man walked down to the lake and poured both buckets of fish in the water. They waited for a while and then the warden asked, “Well?” The man said, “Well, what?” The warden said, “When are you going to call them back?” The man said, “Call who back?” “The fish! The fish!” The man asked, “What fish?”

See ya...

          —————

Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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