Thursday, June 8, 2017

I've wrestled with it all... but I'm back with a great Pike recipe!

I miss doing this blog. My thinking was: the more I blab about fishing in our area, the more people would end up at my favorite spots. Our area is growing to the point where getting a little solitude in the forest is becoming harder and harder. I've come to the realization that this overcrowding is going to occur whether I have a blog or not. I know that it is less bad here than in many places, so I suppose it is time to suck it up and keep on writing.

 We recently put some Northern Pike (Esox lucius) in the freezer. Pike is an amazingly delicious and underrated fish. It grows fast, it breeds well, and it will survive cutbacks, setbacks, funding shortages, and nutty presidents. Pike will likely be here long after we have moved on. Despite these benefits, there's an outright war against the poor fish in this state, with CPW even offering a $20 bounty them in certain places. While I do understand the value in keeping Pike from disrupting native fish, in most cases the war is waged on behalf of the non-native Rainbow Trout, which seems to need constant restocking to keep tourists happy. With boat ramps closing around the state due to a lack of funding, it seems completely insane to throw $20 bills at anglers who could never possibly rid a lake of pike. Some "anglers" feel that they're doing a lake a favor by catching Pike and simply leaving them on the banks. To me, that is despicable, especially with the fish being so delicious. With that all said, let's move on from the politics of Pike and on to the good part, the eating of Pike.

Pike are called trash fish by the uninformed largely because of the presence of a Y bone. These bones are easily removed by a variety of methods, and once they are, you're left with large, delicious fillets that cook up as fluffy, neutral, white meat that is a vehicle for fantastic sauces. Good eating pike are in the 30" (8-10 pound) range. The meat is firm and the fish has not picked up too much of the yucky stuff (mercury or other pollutants in the water) Older fish, especially apex predators can contain significant amounts of mercury. (Note, pregnant women or small children should consult a doctor before consuming Pike, or better yet, skip it.) There is no predator more apex than these toothy fish, so be aware.

The way I was taught to fillet a Pike goes something like this: start at the gill plate behind the head and cut down to the spine. Turn the knife to face toward the tail and work your way down the spine, cutting right through the rib and Y bones. Once you reach the tail, leave the fillet attached and then flip it over so you can easily remove the skin. Now that you have a skinless fillet, remove the rib bones by slicing behind them with your knife tilted slightly toward the bone. This will maximize your meat. Now the somewhat tricky part, you'll feel the Y bone protruding out at the top (like pin bones on trout) you will make a cut on the top side of the row of bones and gently work your way into that cut and follow the contour of the bones. This will have you cutting up into the top section of the fillet. Use care here because the bones end shortly before the top of the fillet and you don't want to separate the fillet. you'll then go just on the bottom side of the middle of the fillet and begin cutting in the same direction until you've separated an entire strip of meat and bone. I know we want to maximize meat, but chucking this will make your life easier. You now have a boneless Pike fillet. I can't imagine trying to do this after reading my paragraph of gibberish, so you'll probably want to watch a good video on the subject, or have a friend teach you. I was lucky enough to have an expert supervise my filleting on a pile of pike, and now I feel like I could do it with my eyes closed.

There are many great ways to cook Pike but I'm going to start with my favorite. I'm just covering the meat here, you can get creative with the rest of the meal. I used a bed of fresh greens from the garden, but you could just as soon use a bed of fresh bacon.

Durango Steamed Pike

  • 1 large (3/4 pound) Pike fillet cut into ~1" pieces
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Lemon

Marinate the pike pieces for 1 hour, refrigerated in a bowl with the sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. If your mixture needs more oil, use a splash of olive oil. Place pieces into an already-boiling steamer basket and cover. The will cook very rapidly, 2 to 3 minutes max. Overcooked, it will be chewy. Cooked right it would be succulent and divine! Serve on rice, on greens, on ham, it's your choice.

Start with this simple and delicious recipe and you'll be sold on Pike. Once you get the bug, you, like me, can try the somewhat complex Quenelles de Brochet! Good luck.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dilemmas...

Note, this entry was written at the end of July, but has been sitting, unpublished until now...

It's always been a dilemma having this blog... The thing I like the most about my favorite spots is that I don't often see other fishermen there. It's worth hiking miles and bushwhacking through horrific conditions to have a stretch of river to yourself. That being said, I enthusiastically want to share the stories with you, but.. what if your truck is parked at the trailhead next time? See the dilemma? When I started writing this thing it was for my own records and I never thought to make it public, but frankly I enjoy it! I guess let's just be vague and accept that you probably won't get my very favorite spots. You can email me or comment or drop a line on our facebook page. I'm definitely more willing to share with an individual than with the internet en masse.

All this being said. We went to a little spot on a fairly popular river up north, but took a very long hike to get into the stretch where we fished. Fishing was just ridiculous. Every dry fly we tried worked like a champ. Little jigs worked like a champ, nymphs worked like a champ. Stevie Wonder could have offered a fishing clinic on this stream. Plus size Brookies and minus sized Rainbows were the order of the day, the latter often jumping several feet out of the water to take flies. Big, juicy hoppers were the funnest to use because of the reaction. I used a foam bodied hopper with elk hair wings. It was like throwing a steak into the lions. I wish you the best of luck in your next small stream adventure!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Fishing

So much has happened in the last 30 days. We've got wheels again. Saving up for the right vehicle instead of just jumping into anything was a good idea. We've been making up for lost time fishing, and I probably won't mention every place because the joy of discovery is as good as anything. Let's start with the first few weeks and places I'm willing to reveal....

1. Poage Lake - For Durangoans, this is quite a haul, but we were already in the area east of Wolf Creek for a few nights camping. Our goal was to catch Rio Grande Cutthroat, a species I'd never caught. In the area we fished some really fun and difficult "Curtis Creek" kind of Brookie streams where you had to dap dry flies over the edge from your hands and knees to not spook the fish who were the spookiest fish I've ever seen. On to Poage lake, you see by the sign at the trailhead (a very well used trail) that it is a special water situation with Brook Trout and Rio Grande Cutthroat. The bag limit is 2 fish of 12" or less. This policy must be working because the lake is infested with Rio Grande Cutthroat. We used dry flies and had a great time. On our second visit to this lake, we found that with the sun directly over head the fish were very tippet aware. That day we used ants and beetles and had a great time. What a fantastic lake! We were looking for a few fish to put on the campfire, so we weren't hunting for monsters, but there's gotta be some in there.




2. Priest Lake - In case you didn't know, Trout Lake near Telluride is closed for the 2014 season and has been drained quite a bit for dam repairs. We didn't know either, we were meeting family from Montrose so it seemed like a nice inbetween point, however when it was closed we headed down to Priest Lake nearby. It was low and full of algae, but there were Brookies in there, very tricky to catch, which made it kind of fun. I ended up dropping a very small mayfly nymph from a dry fly to catch them.

3. Hermosa Creek - Since the Rotenone application years ago, the fish have grown. The last time I'd fished this creek (by the backside chairlifts at Purgatory) it was full of very small fish. They seem to have grown and I caught a few near 8" but nothing spectacular.

4. Vallecito - The Smallmouth Bass are back in the rip-rap and boy are they fun to catch. You can't go wrong fishing for smallies this time of year. We haven't been out for Kokanee, however I did see a picture of quite a monster from Doc's Marina, over 16" long and very slabby. That is GOOD news!

Ahhh, the miracle of having a vehicle once again. Sorry for the lag in posts, but as any fisherman knows, there are times when life gets in the way of fishing and sometimes we just have to wait out the storm. Tight lines!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hows the fishin? I've been locked in a studio....

I've been recording an album and have not been out.  Still bike-bound so as you can imagine getting the boat to the lake is hard.  The animas is clearing up and I've seen some caddis activity.  Get'em!

If you're so inclined, check out my album at http://oblee.bandcamp.com

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pike!

Forgive me for the lack of posts, home improvements, car trouble, and all sorts of things have kept us off the water, but it hasn't stopped us from hearing tales of glory from around the state. To the North, giant Lake Trout are biting again in Blue Mesa Reservoir. Pike action at Vallecito is off the hook, although I have a hunch once all the big pike are speared and killed, there will be a bloom of little pike, so catch the monsters while you can! Pike are an interesting bunch. One of the best predators for Pike control is... well.. Pike! Pike will happily eat their own kind, and pretty much anything else that fits in their mouth. Pike are also delicious fish, contrary to popular belief, and the bones can be dealt with nicely with a little skill and a sharp knife. Happy fishin!

Friday, April 25, 2014

On the road again!

We have been carless for a while which isn't such a big deal when you've got a pair of avid bikers, but loading up the gear for a trip to the lake is pretty tough.  We hit Vallecito yesterday for some nice spring rainbows and we are heading to our favorite lake today for some top notch groceries.  Spring is a magnificent time to fish before the water starts rising.  The crowds of the San Juan River are just about as small as they get, with the old timers being afraid of a lil wind.  For those of us who don't limit ourselves by exclusively fly fishing, there are great times to be had on the Juan throwing light jigs with light spinning gear.  You can fish deeper water, cast in the wind, and get dirty looks that will keep you warm inside all year long. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Slow start...



It isn't that we haven't been fishing. We've been out on the ice quite a bit. The ice was thicker quicker this year, and we found ourselves out before the new year. If you follow our facebook page, you've heard about the fiasco with the 44" Pike. I don't wanna talk about it. Other than that, we've had a lot of stockers through the ice. Keep in mind, the stockers in Vallecito are very large, so it may not look like a stocker, but if it is under 20" there's a good chance it has that dull grey meat that stockers have. Jackson fished ok for little Rainbows but we didn't see the jumbo Perch we were seeking. Vallecito is very high and has risen since the ice formed. This could definitely have something to do with the spotty fishing. We haven't pulled one Kokanee through the ice this year, which is much different than last year. The Anise-Oil-Corn hasn't worked, but it seems to be attracting stocker Trout. Maybe the extreme low level of the lake last year made the fishing easier, or maybe we've just been in the wrong places at the wrong time. Tell us your ice stories!