Tag Archives: summer

Summertime in Hell

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

Hell’s Bay in the Everglades backcountry of southern Florida is one of the best, and most diverse fisheries in the southeast. With summer right around the corner, the temperature isn’t the only thing that’s beginning to heat up. The fishing is, too. Before you go racing off into the backcountry, keep in mind a few helpful tips that will make your trip safer, more enjoyable, and hopefully more successful.

Boats 

Though I’m a big fan of kayaking and paddle craft, I have to advocate the use of power boats in Hell’s Bay and the surrounding areas. There’s simply too much water to cover. With the closest kayak launch being over 12 miles away at Flamingo, you’d end up spending your whole day paddling. Instead, shallow drafting flats boats, or the ever popular Gheenoes are perfect for this area. You can cover a lot of water much faster and they’re overall safer than a kayak. Why, you may ask?

Sunset over Hell's Bay, Florida [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Summertime storms. South Florida’s rainy season is already underway and when these big thunderstorms boil up in the afternoons, you have to be prepared to dodge them. That’s something that is very difficult to do while paddling a kayak, especially when you’re 10 miles from safety.

Safety

Hell’s Bay and the entire surrounding area is a massive mangrove swamp. Twists and turns, bayous, creeks, and small bays are what make up this place. And it all looks the same. Exactly the same. You absolutely need some form of navigational tool. I will not go out on the boat with at least a nautical map of the area, a compass, and a GPS. Preferably, more than one GPS with spare batteries. Getting turned around out there is a real possibility.

Glimpse of Hell's Bay in Florida on a sunny day [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

Image Credit: Alex Vail

In addition to that, sun protection is your next top priority. There’s no shade anywhere, so long pants, long sleeve shirts, and wide hats are a must. During the summer it’s oppressively hot. So sun gloves and sun buffs make that necessity list, too. And with it getting hot, the bugs begin to become a very big issue. Early morning and late evening is obviously the worst time, but simply being out of the wind or in the mangroves can be a one-way ticket to losing gallons of blood from mosquitos. Definitely bring plenty of bug spray.

Fishing

So why suffer through all of this? Well for the fishing of course!

Angler holds a snook at Hell's Bay, Florida [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Snook, tarpon, and redfish all call Hell’s Bay and the backcountry home over the summer. Flipping weedless jerk baits or DOA shrimp alongside the mangroves can be a sure ticket to some of these fish. Just be sure to bring plenty of extra tackle as losing fish in the mangroves is a harsh reality of this place. Also take special note of the tides. These fish need tidal movement to begin feeding and the more movement, the better the bite. Look for drop-offs and creek outflows to land some of the bigger fish. Like most fish, early morning and late evenings are the best time. Just be sure to give yourself enough daylight to navigate back to Flamingo where the only boat ramp is.

So, if you find your way down in sunny south Florida this summer, don’t hesitate to give the backcountry a try. It’s a fantastic fishery that shouldn’t be overlooked at any time of the year, especially not summer. Just be sure to plan ahead, bring plenty of tackle, and maybe just an extra can of bug spray.

After the Hunt: Wild Turkey Recipes for Spring

Don’t wait until fall to devour that gobbler! These three wild turkey recipes are perfect for dining al fresco this spring. Looks like it’s time to fire up the grill.

Wild Turkey Mole

Courtesy of Jonathan Miles at Field & Stream

Wild turkey mole [Image Credit: Johnny Miller]

Image Credit: Johnny Miller

Mole originated in southern Mexico, and traditionally includes dozens of ingredients cooked over the course of many days. This recipe, adapted from Chicago chef Rick Bayless, is less demanding but still has so much of that traditional flavor. When grilling the turkey, remember not to overcook! This recipe serves 4. Leftover mole can be frozen.

Ingredients

  • 1 wild turkey breast, whole or split
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed
  • 2 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil, divided
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • ½ cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
  • ½ cup roasted unsalted almonds
  • 2 slices white bread, torn into chunks
  • 1 chipotle chile with sauce from a can of chile con adobo
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 quart chicken stock, plus slightly more if needed
  • ¾ cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Tear the dried ancho chiles into pieces that will lie flat in the pan. Toast the pieces on both sides until they begin to crackle, but flip or remove them once they start to smoke. Transfer the toasted chiles to a bowl filled with hot water and soak for 30 minutes.
  2. While the chiles are soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of lard or oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is deep golden brown (about 8 minutes). Remove pot from heat.
  3. Arrange the tomato halves cut side up on a sheet pan. Place the tomatoes under a broiler set to high. Roast the tomatoes until blackened and bubbling, about 5 minutes, then flip tomatoes and roast the other side for the same effect. Allow the tomatoes to cool, then peel off as much skin as you can. (Some charred bits left behind on the tomatoes are fine and will add character to your mole.)
  4. Scrape the tomatoes and any juices into a blender, then add the cooled onion and garlic to the blender. Drain the ancho chiles, discard the water, and then add chiles to the blender. Add nuts, bread, chipotle, cinnamon and about 2 cups of chicken stock to the blender, and blend until very smooth. (Note: Stop and scrape down the sides of the blender to make sure all ingredients are blended. Add more stock as needed to yield a smooth, pourable puree.) Press the puree through a sieve into a bowl.
  5. Over a medium-high burner, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon lard or oil in the same pot or Dutch oven (rinsed and wiped clean). When the oil begins to smoke, add the puree and stir constantly for 5 – 7 minutes, or until the mixture has considerably darkened and thickened. Add the remaining chicken stock, wine, vinegar, and bay leaves, and reduce heat to low. Simmer this mixture, partially covered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally and adding more stock or water as needed to maintain a saucy consistency. Add salt and pepper along with a tablespoon of sugar, to taste. Keep the sauce covered while you cook the turkey.
  6. Allow the turkey to sit out covered, at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking. Light a medium fire on one side of a charcoal grill, leaving the other side open. (If you are using a gas grill, set the burners to medium on one side.) Rub the turkey breasts with olive oil, and generously salt and pepper them. Place the turkey on the grill, directly over the heat, and cook each side for about 5 minutes to brown it. Move the breast to the side without coals and cover the grill. The turkey is done cooking when a meat thermometer placed in the its thickest park reads 150°F. (The size of the breast and temperature of the grill will determine cooking time.) Wrap the cooked turkey breast in foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Gently reheat the mole as needed.
  7. To serve, slice the meat across the grain. Ladle the mole onto plates and nestle the turkey into the sauce. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Grilled Wild Turkey Rolls

Courtesy of Something Sweet Something Salty

Grilled Wild Turkey Rolls [Image: somethingsweetsomethingsalty.wordpress.com]

Image: somethingsweetsomethingsalty.wordpress.com

These mouthwatering wild turkey rolls are so easy to make. They would make a great addition to any BBQ. Even the leftovers are delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb thick-cut peppered bacon
  • 1 can pickled, sliced jalapenos
  • 1 1½ lbs wild turkey breast

Marinade:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together ingredients for marinade.
  2. Cut meat into 1½-inch cubes. Add meat to marinade in bowl. Let meat marinade for a minimum of two hours.
  3. Cut each piece of bacon in half. Into the center of a bacon slice, place one slice of jalapeno over one cube of turkey. Tightly roll bacon over turkey and hold in place with a toothpick.
  4. After cleaning the grill, heat to medium heat (around 300°F – 350°F). Place rolls on sides and cook slowly, turning every few minutes. Since bacon grease will be dripping down, keep a spray bottle handy to chase away flare-ups. When the bacon is fully cooked, the meat should also be fully cooked.
  5. Remove cooked turkey rolls from grill and let stand for five minutes before serving.

Grilled Turkey with Greek Lemon Sauce

Courtesy of Martha Daniels at Missouri Department of Conservation

This delicious wild turkey recipe reminds us of the Greek street food, souvlaki. Just make sure to make enough – everyone at the BBQ is going to want thirds.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs wild turkey, skin removed, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

  1. In a medium-size bowl, stir together olive oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oregano, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Add the turkey slices to this marinade. Cover and place in refrigerator to marinade for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. To make the lemon sauce, mix together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. When finished marinading, place the turkey on wooden skewers to help hold in moisture. Grill over medium heat until done, about 10 minutes or more.
  4. Serve skewered turkey with lemon sauce.

Springtime Cichlids

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

With the weather heating up, and summer right around the corner, now is the best time to fish for some of my favorite fish: Exotic cichlids in South Florida.

Fisherman holds a cichlid in swampy area [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Many of these fish were originally introduced into the canal systems throughout South Florida as far back as the 1960’s. Cichlids are primarily aquarium fish. You know, the kind you might find in your local pet store. Oscars, Mayan Cichlids, Jaguar Guapotes, etc. All these fish are loose and reproducing in the South Florida freshwater canal systems and are there thanks to irresponsible pet owners. Pet releases from home aquariums actually led to the establishment of many of these species.

The good news? They’re an absolute hoot to catch. Many of them fight as aggressively as some saltwater species and to make matters even better, they’re good to eat. And if that wasn’t good enough news, the state of Florida has waived any size or bag limits on them. You can keep as many as you catch.

Cooler full of cichlids [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Cichlids prefer warm waters (hence them being loose in South Florida), but even the winters down in Florida are enough to make them lay low. However, spring is here, and the water temperatures are heating up. That means that the cichlids are out in full force and ready to feed. Small diving lures, flies, and even earthworms are favorite bait for this ferocious species.

There is, however, a little bit of a time limit for these fish. Summer is closing in and that means rain for South Florida. Water levels will soon rise and most of the canals will flood into the surrounding areas. That means that the cichlids (as well as other fish) won’t be restricted to just the canals and will spread themselves out considerably. You can, of course, still catch them during the summer months, but don’t expect to find them in such high volumes during that time of year.

A ruddy-colored cichlid [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

Image Credit: Alex Vail

It’s important to note, however, that the small cichlids aren’t the only thing to target this time of the year. Their predator is, too. The smaller cichlids pose a big problem to some of our native fish species. They out compete many of Florida’s species, like Largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcrackers, etc. Realizing that the cichlids were an issue in the South Florida canal systems, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission purposefully introduced a predator of the non-native cichlids: the Butterfly Peacock bass.

Reaching sizes of up to 5lbs, these fish are just as ferocious as the small cichlids, but pack an even bigger punch. With their prey out in force this time of year, they’re actively hunting and feeding. On top of that, they’re beginning to bed as well. Anglers can catch them on live minnows, diving lures, and even flies. Since they’re spawning right now, look for them to be guarding their beds in the shallow waters lining the edges of the canals.

Butterfly Peacock Bass [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

Butterfly Peacock Bass [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

The rules and regulations for Peacock bass differ from their cichlid counterparts, though. They do have a size and bag limit set in place. The reason behind this? They were purposefully brought in to help control the cichlid problem. If they start to get over-fished, the already present issue of too many cichlids will become much more serious.

So if you find yourself in southern Florida this time of year, be sure to bring a rod. There is almost no roadway around the area that doesn’t have a canal nearby. And there is almost no canal that doesn’t have these aggressive and fun fighting fish in them. Just don’t forget the cooler!