I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

April 13, 2010

They call it fishing, not catching

Sitting in a boat with a hook and some bait on your line is generally called fishing (or it's an excuse to pop a beer early in the day). But it is in no way a guarantee that the fish is going to swim up and gobble your hook, and then hold on long enough for you to haul him in to the boat.

A day off in the middle of the week generally finds me running errands, hitting Target or the grocery store and spending my day in solitude. Today, however, I had plans with my Papa to go hit up Lake Casitas for a fishing date.

Or as I refer to it, Lake No. As in No Fish. Because in 30 + years of fishing at that lake, I had never caught a fish. I drowned a lot of worms, soaked plenty of power bait and soaked up the rays. But never a fish for Jeni.

Every time my Dad has come home from this lake in the last year he is filled with tales of big mouth bass, blue gills, crappie, carp and trout. He takes his buddies and his workers out on the lake and they come home with 2-4 fish apiece. Hell, my cousin Delany caught a trout there when she was 7 years old.

Me? Nada.

Bitter? Yes.

Moving on.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day at the lake, the water is as high as we have seen it for years, smooth as glass, sun shining and very few boats and fishermen to compete with. I even got a little sun on my winter whitened legs. Our bonus to this lake is the wildlife that is so tame you can all but drive up and pet it. While stalking a turtle perched on a floating log....

We encountered a family of deer making their way around the perimeter of the lake. One was kind enough to stop for a head shot.

White swans were gliding across the center of the lake, that two weeks ago was a small island inhabited by white pelicans. Now the water is so shallow you can see the big mouth bass and blue gills sitting a the bottom just waiting for you to drop a worm in their face.

So we did. We dropped worm after worm right smack dab in front of their dumb ass stubborn fish faces. And did they bite? No.

Dad tried a lure with a rubber minnow (with glitter even!) and had a bass pick it up and spit it out a half dozen times before he set the hook. Well, he kind of set the hook, because the bass jumped up and threw the hook out.

Damn it. Move to another spot.

Did I mention that we had a bet going? First fish = $5 winnings or loser buys lunch. Not big stakes by any means, but you have to understand that I have a little bit of a complex when it comes to fishing with my dad. He always catches the first and biggest fish....not just with me, but darn near any time he fishes. So just having him get the first bite just irked me.

Then as I was reeling in one of my poles to check bait and re-cast in to an area that we had seen a fish jump, my other pole bent at the tip and my heart sang! All I had to do was keep it on and get it to the boat.

I'd like to tell you an "Old Man and the Sea" type of saga, but really it was just me and Dad's cheap rod and reel set sitting on a bass boat on the shore of a lake. :)

Long story short, I hauled up about a 10# carp on a rod strung with what I think was 2# test and landed the beast!


I won $5, which I promptly reinvested in lunch for my Dad and Grandma and I. But best of all I won bragging rights and was able to witness what happens to Dad when he isn't the first one to catch a fish. It was kind of funny.....not foot stomping, whiny baby, green eyed monster like some people would get...my Dad is anything but a whiner. More along the lines of statements like "I hope I don't get skunked" and "Maybe our luck changed!".... I could all but hear the hope and desire dripping out of his mouth.

And he finally caught a fish....and then he caught another one. So he had two to my one. We are actually bringing one home to cook as opposed to mine which is pretty much inedible. Please note the size of his hand to the size of the fish....the trick to make the fish bigger in a picture is to hold it as far away from your body as you can. But mine was bigger than both of his put together and the first fish, so I still win.

Competitive much?

After cleaning his edible fish, which happened to be about a 15" trout with beautiful pink flesh, I promptly brined it in lemon zest, salt & brown sugar and then took a nap. I love naps.

We smoked the fish very lightly and made a spread out of it to serve on little rye crackers. So simple and so very delicious.

Smoked Trout Spread

1 fresh caught pink fleshed trout, about 15" long
(or you can use salmon if it is easier, about a pound of meat)

Brine the fish in

3 cups water
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
zest from 2 lemons

Bring the brine to a boil and then cool with ice cubes. Pour over fish and let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours, up to 24. Drain and rinse.

Smoke in cooktop smoker over alder wood chips for 45 minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat and let it sit and think about itself for about 10 minute.

Then go through the tedious process of skinning and de-boning the damn thing. This is the only part I hate. Pick as many of the little bones as you can from the meat, the rest you will be able to pick out when you make the spread.

Put the trout in a bowl and add

3T Whipped Cream Cheese
2 T Dijon Mustard
1 T Lemon Juice
1 Chopped Green Onion
1 tsp Dill
Salt & Pepper to taste.

Blend well. While stirring you may notice some more of the infernal bones that were missed in the first go-round. Be sure to pick these out so as not to choke your dinner guests.



Hendrych Family said...

I'm so proud of you! We say that Lake Casitas is Chumash for Lake No Fish, so I am in awe! What an awesome story (love the turtle!) and I think we are going to have to try fishing up there again!

Cooke said...

Your smoked trout always sounds so damn good. What do you recommend for a smoker? Also, will you teach me how to de-bone a chicken. I will bring said chicken and wine.

Jeni said...

I will totally teach you how to do the trout! You cath, the first lesson is on me! For the smoker, go to www.camerons.com and get the cooktop smoker. It is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets!

And chicken, no problem!