Outdoors Column: Fine Dining

It was threatening rain Friday when Damon and Zane pulled in to go fishing. They had been busy all day and hoped to get in an hour or so of fishing before the rain hit. Storm clouds were hanging low in the distance and the occasional roll of thunder could be heard off to the south as they launched the boat. They usually fish for bass, using large spinner baits or plugs. This day, they decided to check out the crappie population with the possibility of having a fish fry later. Most people will agree, crappie are the best eating fish available. The only problem with planning a fish fry on short notice is, the fish need to cooperate. It is rather disappointing to have one’s mouth all set for fish and are forced to settle with hot dogs.

 

With their lines rigged with smaller spinner baits and colorful plastic grubs, they trolled out from the dock, heading for structure preferred by crappie. An underwater wing dam stretches most of the way across the lake. Near the middle are a group of sunken trees. From their hiding places among the submerged branches, the crappie can dart out to attack smaller fish passing by while avoiding being eaten by the large bass in the area.

 

It was starting to sprinkle when the pair arrived at their destination and cast in their lines. The fish started to bite almost immediately. When crappie are hitting, the action can be fast and furious. Unlike bass, crappie tend to school in groups. When one decides it is feeding time, they all hunt. The caught crappie from six inches to fifteen inches long. The bigger ones were put in the live well and the smaller ones thrown back to be caught another day. Occasionally, a bluegill would grab the lure and take off for deep water. For their size, a bluegill can put up quite a fight. A few of the larger bluegill were added to the live well for the meal to be enjoyed later.

 

The rain was coming down at a fairly steady rate before the two decided to call it quits. When they stopped by the house, they were soaking wet but had a bucket full of fish. My wife and I got invited over for a fish fry as soon as they got on some dry clothes and cleaned the fish.

 

We arrived at their house just as Damon was finishing cleaning the fish. Our timing could not be better. Fishing and eating are very enjoyable, cleaning fish, not so much. Zane seasoned and breaded the fillets while Damon fried them up to a golden brown. We did our part by eating them as soon as they hit the table. Tender juicy slabs of crappie were followed by crispy little bluegill fillets. It did not take long before we had our fill and the serving platter was getting higher. When everyone had eaten more than they needed, we had enough left over for at least two more meals for both families. Even being stuffed to where I could not eat another bite, I was looking forward to fish tacos for breakfast on Saturday morning.