So you’re looking to go fishing and impress that special somebody on Valentine’s Day. (Yes … it’s Tuesday — also our state’s birthday.)
As long as you have a bit of fishing know-how, we’ve got you covered on the cooking side. In a big way.
Many of you have taken advantage of our recent incentive stockings — the Angler Reports have been pouring in. And we’re putting trout in all “core” waters this week.
Catch some this weekend, turn it into something tasty by Tuesday. Make sure you cook this with your partner — you fold the fish in heart-shaped paper.
Here’s a video from our very own “Fish Lady” about Valentine’s Day trout:
2 trout fillets
½ cup carrots, julienned
½ cup green beans, trimmed
6 pats of butter
4 lemon slices
8 sprigs thyme
¼ cup parsley, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 large sheets of parchment paper
Fold one of the parchment paper sheets in half lengthwise. Draw a half-heart shape as large as possible. Cut out heart shape. On one side of the heart shape place half of the carrots, half the green beans, three pats of butter, one trout fillet, two lemon slices, half the thyme and parsley, one tbsp olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Fold over the parchment paper to close it. Starting at the top of the heart, make small folds by picking up the edge of the paper and folding it over on to the top about ¼ – ½ an inch. Then sliding your hands down the paper, continue picking up the edge and folding it over. When you get to the bottom of the heart, tuck the tail piece under the package.
Repeat with the rest of the ingredients to make two complete packets.
Place packets on a baking sheet and bake at 375 F for 16-18 minutes or until fish is flaky.
Serve in the paper to keep the food hot. Also makes for a nice surprise — plus the aroma is amazing when the packet is first opened.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add blackberries and stir as they heat up and begin to break apart and render liquid in the pan. Then add sugar, lemon juice, ginger and water and stir while continuing to break up berries for about 5 minutes.
Preheat a frying pan on medium-high heat. Drizzle oil over fillets, then salt and pepper them to taste. Place fillets, skin side down, in the frying pan. Cook until skin becomes crispy with golden-brown edges (approximately 3–5 minutes). Turn fillets over and cook until done (depending on thickness, approximately 3–5 minutes). Transfer fillets to plates and top with blackberry sauce.
Place oil in a large skillet or sauté pan on medium heat. In a shallow dish, combine cornmeal and Cajun seasoning and mix well. Coat catfish fillets in seasoned cornmeal, shake off any excess and set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add bourbon and brown sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
When the oil is hot, carefully add fillets and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until done. Remove fillets to individual serving dishes, then spoon the bourbon glaze onto each fillet.
Originally published in the May-June 2015 issue of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine, this recipe was included in the “Drink With a Fish” article that was just awarded an Award of Merit in the Food Feature category from the International Regional Magazine Association.
We are in one of the best times of year for striper fishing. With anglers filling their coolers with these awesome tasting fish, I thought it would be a great idea to share some cooking recipes with you.
I always get asked from anglers: what are some ways to cook these fish?
Well, here you go:
Striper taco Tuesday
If you like fish tacos, try this recipe. Take fillets and cut them into 5-inch long and 1.5-inch wide strips. Use an egg wash (beat eggs in a bowl) to coat fish.
After coating the fish with the egg wash, bread them with a corn meal and panko bread crumbs mixture. Be sure to also season the dry mixture with some Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper.
Heat vegetable oil to 375- 400 degrees and make sure there is enough oil for the fillets to float. Fish should sizzle the fish hit the oil. If not your oil is not hot enough yet, pull the fish out when they are a golden color. Normally takes about 2 minutes. Make a slaw out of sliced cabbage and put it into a corn/flour tortilla. All you need now is a cold beer to go with it.
Olive oil, rock salt, and pepper to taste.
Squeeze lemon over it while it cooks. Use as much or little as you want.
The best method is pan frying without skin. Pan fry on one side for 2-3 minutes and then the other side for 2-3 minutes (depending on thickness of filet). Make sure that pan is hot with the olive oil first to get a nice sear. When the fish starts to flake apart — it’s done.
Cover striper meat with olive oil or melted butter. Add a drop of lemon juice, and sprinkle with a bit of Montreal steak seasoning on a cooking sheet and bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Take out of the oven and add your favorite parmesan cheese. Put back in the oven and cook for about another 2-3 minutes.
Heavenly broiled bass
2 pounds striped bass fillets
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon margarine, softened
3 tablespoon reduced calorie mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped green onion with tops
1/4 tablespoon salt
Place fillets in single layer on well-oiled baking pan. Combine remaining ingredients and spread mixture on fish. Broil fish 6 inches from source of heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until top
is lightly browned and fish flakes easily when tested with fork. Serves six.
Note: Be careful not to broil fish too close to heat or topping will burn before fish is done.
Another cast and blast. One of the best ways to combine adventure with solitude and a bit of strategy. And maybe even some wild vittles.
As a relative newbie to the blasting side, I would be “winging it.” (Bad pun, but you get what I mean.) The idea was to catch a quick 2-trout limit from the pond during the early afternoon, hopefully find a local to put me on a nearby dove hole, catch the sundown flights, and get home in time for a freshly “caught-and-shot” meal.
Quail season ends Sunday, Feb. 7, and there are good quail populations in this unit, so although dove season is over until next fall, a hook and bullet trip is still a way to enjoy scenes from water and desert.
Hot trout bite at Dave White Regional Park Pond in Casa Grande
A trout bit within 10 minutes — the first got off on a black-and-silver rooster tail, but the next two, running about 10 and 15 inches respectively, took a nightcrawler and corn PowerBait, both on gold No. 12 hooks.
A hook was tied to a 4-pound monofilament leader with a small split-shot (2 feet up from the hook) and 8-pound mono backing on a medium-action spinning outfit. (Tied with uni and, for the backing-to-leader connection, double-uni knots.)
Quote of the day from a lady: “Are you testing the fish?”
Hadn’t thought of that. “Yeah … I guess you’re right. I’m a fish-tester.”
Anyway, these were some pretty big stocker trout:
For the record — sometimes talking to strangers pays off. (Sorry, Mom.) An employee from the city of Casa Grande, who also keeps the pond in great condition, was generous enough to point me to a nearby agriculture field with rows of mesquites where dove often choose to roost. And fly circles above a wandering shotgun barrel.
The next couple hours require flushing and chasing with a 12-gauge Savage pump shotgun. A few doves flash their wings and seem to stay just outside the ideal range of 15-40 yards for the 7.5-shot, 12-gauge ammo.
Sunset comes, and a pair of quail had baited me into chasing far from the truck, and the roost-worthy mesquites. Heading back, the dove flights pick up. Two mourning doves are in the vest as the sun spits a pink hue on jagged clouds. Doves cruise from left and right and overhead, barely giving their short, chirping warnings before erratically dipping and rising into a dim sky. Turn, aim, blast … and hope for a diving dove.
The pace quickens. Doves sprinkling onto mesquites like salt onto steak. Adapt to their behavior. No use in spotting a take-off. Walk through open areas a couple dozen yards from the mesquites, and look for open pockets where dove could be shot and responsibly retrieved. Yip-yip-yip … and a head turn and the doves are distant blips.
Late afternoon, dry and cool enough to show puffs of breath, smelling of cold dirt and occasional gun powder smoke. Still-desert sounds — a pulse beating in the ears and lungs belching air. From 3 hours of hiking with gear and stalking prey. A sudden influx of doves makes the heart sprint. Aiming at those beating, wayward wings. Sunset shots.
A few more doves make their way into the vest, and it cost this hunter a little more than a box of ammo. Legal shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. Hunt over. Cheers to the doves — this was every bit of fair chase. Or maybe, for the hunter, unfair chase.
How to eat healthy, wild, fresh
But still it was enough for the first night’s dinner — dove and trout (tossed in a combination of bread crumbs, white corn meal, garlic salt, basil and a little cayenne pepper and sautéed in coconut oil) with homemade broccoli mac ‘n cheese.
Easy to prep after a tiring trip, and excellent table fare:
And the next night’s, shredded dove burritos, enchilada-style (dove sautéed in coconut oil with a pinch of cayenne pepper, rolled with refried black beans in a flour tortilla, topped with cheese, green chili and some shredded mixed greens and sour cream):
In this author’s humble opinion, no better way to eat.
New to hunting and fishing in Arizona? Join the club
A few ideas from a beginning “cast-and-blaster”:
This type of cast and blast was simple because, by going to a pond and to a nearby field, full equipment didn’t need to be lugged around for one trip. Fish, put the rods and bait away, chuck the fish in the ice chest, drive to the dove spot, strap on the hunting gear and keep the fun going. Easy.
The book “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small Game” written by our own Watchable Wildlife Program Manager Randall D. Babb, has helped me with the knowledge needed to find, harvest and prepare the small game. My mentor. (Not Randy, necessarily, but he has given me some great tips.) Our publications are sold at all offices of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Or go online and download an order form.Best way to get started if you can’t find a mentor: read it and do it.
The best kept secret in Arizona is hunting and fishing in a state diverse in wildlife and habitat. And even without a meal to end the day, there are still sights and solitude and adventure and camaraderie.The memories can’t fully be described in a blog.
Cast ‘n’ blast. It rhymes, so it must be fun, right? On the phone last week with my step brother, who plans on coming into town this weekend, I said that we could always go on a trip to fish and hunt.
“You can do both?” he said with a jolt of energy.
“Oh, yeah,” I said. So then I did.
In one trip, you do a little fishing, a little hunting, and in the case of a solo mission to Bartlett Lake in the Tonto National Forest on Wednesday, Nov. 11, some paddling and hiking and wild game eating.
It’s a Great Outdoors dream. Yet somehow, it’s all real — you’re actually awake while getting to do all this — and such an eclectic trip is available to Arizonans year round.
I’m just finding this out.
A week removed from this fish/hunt, the echo of adventure tingles. For sure one of the best things to do in Arizona.
So for those looking to get into this sport of “cast ‘n blast” or (fin ‘n’ feathers or fur ‘n’ fin — whatever you want to call it), here’s some fishing and hunting cast ‘n’ blast tips from a fellow beginner.
Had to head out with my Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 Angler around noon (I own a big dog and can’t leave him home alone too long.)
Fishing for bass was spotty the day after a cold front. The Yellow Cliffs boat ramp is closed, so putting in at the main, Jojoba ramp, I paddled a mile or so northward, crossed the lake, and took a couple dozen fish-less casts with a tube on a 1/8-ounce jighead (I accidentally left my baby brush hogs and Roboworms at home. The packing list for a cast ‘n’ blast in a kayak is lengthy yet economical).
While casting, though, I thought mostly of blasting, of rocking through the desert with a shotgun and some brand new snake shields. Coupled with a time restraint — I didn’t want to return through the desert in the dark looking for a beached kayak — the focus quickly switched from casting to blasting.
The kayak scraped up the sand. Fully “beached.”
Pulling from a dry storage compartment a bag with hiking boots, a hunting vest, extra socks, and the snake shields (for cacti as much as anything), I geared up for quail.
Time to dive into desert.
First, after crossing the first major hill into the desert, I turned and with an iPhone took a picture of the landscape that would be my heading (specifically the higher, double peaks) as I returned. Here’s the picture:
But no quail.
Not even their distinctive, three-syllable “ha-HA-ha” singing in the distance. As the sun began a home-stretch dive to the horizon, and the primary goal being to stay safe during this initial voyage that was as much of a scouting trip as a hunting adventure, I headed back.
Looking, while negotiating the prickly terrain, for the slightest twitch on the immediate landscape. Ready for rabbit.
Mostly, I was quiet. And focused on food. At this point, I’d come too far to not return with something fresh, healthy and wild to eat.
A piece of brush went, “wiiish.” Out sprung a cottontail rabbit. In one motion, the Savage 12-gauge pump shotgun dropped from shoulder to chest and the rabbit flashed just below the gun sight and an eruption and spray of 7.5-shot ammunition awoke a desert afternoon.
Clean hit. I picked up the spent shell. And then the rabbit, which that night became country fried with a side of sweet potato puffs and some regular ol’ tater tots:
A major tool was “An Introduction to Hunting Arizona’s Small Game” (right) written by our own Watchable Wildlife Program Manager Randall D. Babb. The book has helped introduce me to all things about hunting Arizona’s small game, specifically the appropriate types of shotguns and ammo for various species, and hunting tips for dove and quail and rabbit. (All Arizona’s small game species are covered.) Our publications are sold at all offices of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Or go online and download an order form.Best way to get started if you can’t find a mentor: read it and do it.
This night, I followed instructions from the book’s diagrams to skin and prepare the rabbit. As someone who’s new to hunting in Arizona, and has only hunted a dozen times in my 37 years of living, this has been my primary mentor.
So some takeaways from one of my most exciting outdoors excursions:
Consider picking up some“arm floaties” for your shotgun if you’ll be kayaking. Although traditionally cast ‘n’ blasters take a motorized boat. (I managed to keep mine dry.)
Make a checklist: there is such a wide variety of tackle and gear needed for a cast ‘n blast: dry containers for hunting gear and ammunition and your wallet or purse, the minimal amount of bait needed if kayaking, ice chest, life jacket, etc.
Consider bringing orange marking tape, and a fully-charged cell phone for pictures, to use as return markers. (Tell a friend before you leave where you’re headed and when you’re expected to return. Going with a partner is preferred.)
Invest in snake shields and an anti-venom kit (and First Aid Kit)
Bring lots of food, plenty of water (Camelbak hydration packs are handy in the field) and for your fish and game, an ice chest.
Check out more information on how to “Cast ‘n blast” from a Sept./Oct. 2007 issue of Arizona Wildlife Views magazine.
Oh, the thin strip of “backstrap” rabbit is tasty … the legs, on the other hand, are probably better stewed.
This is the time of year anglers head to the high country for some fishing and mountain air, so our biggest tip is augment your catch of trout or other fish with the abundant crayfish.
Crayfish are not native to Arizona. In fact, we are the only state in the lower 48 that doesn’t have native crayfish. In our trout lakes especially, they are a huge problem. So you can help the environment by catching and eating all of these delectable crustaceans you can.
Crayfish are free family fun
What’s more, it’s a lot of fun — especially for youngsters. Plus, all they really need is a stick and some string, or just string for that matter, plus a bucket or something to put the mud bugs into. A little piece of meat helps to attract the crayfish, such as a hot dog or small piece of bacon. Or a string soaked in bacon grease might attract a hoard of crayfish.
Kids can sight fish for crayfish, or simply toss a bait out, let it sink to the bottom, and pull it in when they feel a tug (sound familiar?).
Or set out a trap like this one:
For preparing the crayfish, keep in mind that most people overcook the crayfish and the meat becomes rubbery. To avoid this, bring the water to a boil, take the water off the heat, put in the crafish, keep the water OFF the heat, and in about 3 minutes, the crayfish should turn bright red, indicating they are done (this works for crab and lobster too).
If you want to get fancy, add a crab boil. These packets can be bought at just about any supermarket. You can cook the whole crayfish, but you can choose just to prepare the tails.
You can also boil or roast corn on the cob to go with the crayfish (and hopefully a trout or two). Melt a little butter and garlic (maybe some Mrs. Dash seasoning) for dipping the cooked crustaceans.
Nothing tastes quit as good as a meal your family has caught in the outdoors.
Eating such a meal in camp while the sun is going down and stars are filling the sky makes it even more special. These are the type of memories the whole family will look back upon in years or even decades to come.
PAYSON — Heard some tasty rainbow trout had just been stocked into Green Valley Park lakes, just 1 hour, 45 minutes northeast of Phoenix.
So on Friday, Oct. 15, two days after the lake had been stocked, I threw a lime-green kayak into a silver Ford F-150 and headed up to this lush Community Fishing Program lake for some fly-fishing action — and hopefully an awesome dinner.
Like many fish species, trout tend to bite best during first and last light. Yet arriving at 9 a.m. at the main, 10-acre Green Valley lake, probably during the tail end of this “bite window,” a rainbow trout took an offer of a black woolly bugger fished 3 feet under a strike indicator cork.
See this video of a trout taking a No. 10 woolly bugger tied to a 3-pound tippet.
Watch the trout skyrocket!
The fish selfie followed…
Or it is a fishelfie?
Regardless — why the use of flies? Green Valley lakes, located a mile west of Highway 87 on Main Street, was stocked on Wednesday, Oct. 15 with 340 pounds of trout. This trip took place two days afterward. Typically during the following few days after a trout stocking, these iridescent fish will remain near the surface, often cruising shorelines.
Dropping a fly a couple feet under a cork puts the bait right in the likely target zone. (Be sure to bring PowerBait to Green Valley lakes, because trout will primarily be deep once the stocked trout settle down, especially once the sun comes up.)
But trout were not hitting flies near the shorelines, although sunfish were taking refuge — andwoolly buggers — near the cattails. So the thinking was that the fountains, which cool and clear the water and increase the surrounding oxygen supply, would entice these stockers, likely craving a dose of fresh water and extra oxygen after their long trek from Colorado.
Can’t blame ’em.
This is where this fish was caught using a 9-foot, 5-weight fly rod. Another trout twice came to the surface and tried to gobble the strike indicator cork. Then the trout bite shut off.
The most consistent bite until about 3 p.m. was on crappie along the cattails. Hardly a better tasting fish.
Bluegill also bit black or olive-colored No. 10 woolly buggers just off the tules. The secret for sunfish was pulling the cork across the surface about a foot, pausing for a few seconds, then stripping in the slack. Bites came as the bait was still.
Filleting the trout, crappie and bluegill
Fish kept — a trout, two crappie and a bluegill — were cleaned with a 4-inch Rapala Finlander knife, an excellent all-around blade that can be purchased at Wal-Mart for about $13.
Fresh, fried fish for dinner
Fried in peanut oil in some Louisiana Fish Fry seasonings (the local Safeway was out of white corn meal), along with a side of cheesy broccoli (brown) rice, the catch-and-cook cycle is complete.
Fresh, healthy, organic dinner! (Well, the fish were organic anyway.)
Fishing Green Valley and other Community Fishing Program lakes/ponds
No other fish species is stocked at Green Valley; however, good populations of bass, crappie, catfish and sunfish can be found in this productive lake ecosystem.
Trout will be stocked at Green Valley lakes every two weeks until early May.
Trout can also be caught on small spinners and spoons and with baits such as scented dough balls, worms or salmon eggs. Popular flies for trout are peacock lady and zebra midges fished slowly, 4-6 feet below the surface.
To catch more trout, use lighter line in the 2-6 pound range, smaller hooks and a minimal amount of weight. Limits on trout are four per day for licensed anglers.