Tag Archives: tips

Three Do-It-Yourself Catfish Bait Recipes

Sometimes the best idea for succeeding in your favorite hobby is to change things up a bit. Trying a new fishing method may lead to hooking that prize catfish you’ve been after; a true record-breaker that you’ll brag about for years to come. Here are three unique catfish bait recipes you can cook up next time you’re heading out on a fishing excursion, rather than rely on worms or pretty lures.

A man holding a gigantic 200+ pound catfish.

Gigantic 232-pound wels catfish caught by Sven Weide. This could be you if you play around with these fun recipe ideas! [Image: http://www.grindtv.com/]

Jack’s Cat Attack

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. chicken livers
  • 1 package hot dogs
  • ½ loaf bread
  • 2 cans nacho cheese
  • 1 can corn
  • ¼ bottle Tabasco sauce
  • Dozen chopped worms

Directions

  • Age chicken livers in the sun and mix with hot dogs in a blender.
  • Break up bread into bite-sized pieces and place in a gallon jug.
  • Pour the liver and hot dog mix over the bread chunks.
  • Add nacho cheese, corn, Tabasco sauce, and worms into the mixture.
  • Pour the mixture out of the jug and knead until it becomes thick and dough-like. Store in the sun in a large plastic container until your next fishing venture.

Cajun Mud Bait

A man with a mask on putting a fish into a blender filled with green liquid.

It may smell pretty horrible, but in the end, it’ll all be worth it. [Image: http://www.userinteraction.com/]

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. rotten minnows
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 box of cherry Jell-o
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 3 tbsps. onion salt
  • 3 tbsps. garlic salt
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsps. soy sauce
  • ½ cup flour

Directions

  • Mix minnows, water, Parmesan cheese, Jell-o, molasses, onion salt, garlic salt, breadcrumbs, and soy sauce in a blender.
  • Pour mixture into a bowl and add flour as needed until thick.
  • Roll into small 1-inch balls and store in plastic bags.

Catfish Mélange

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Velveeta cheese
  • 6-8 oz. chopped chicken liver
  • 1 tbsps. Garlic powder
  • 1 can wet dog food
  • Dozen minnows
  • ½ cup flour

Directions

  • Melt cheese and mix in chicken liver.
  • Add garlic powder, dog food, and minnows.
  • Use flour as needed to thicken.
  • Mix all ingredients together in a blender.

A big ball of food on a fish hook.

Successful homemade catfish bait ready to hook a big one. [Image: http://www.fishingtalks.com/]

Have any successful catfish (or any fish!) bait recipes? Download our Pocket Ranger Trophy Case® mobile app and share your secrets with us on our social media pages. Looking forward to hearing your tips!

People spraying with insect repellant, tucking their pants into their socks, and checking their hair for ticks.

How to Avoid Tick Bites While on the Hunt

Nothing puts a damper on your day of serenity in the woods quite like an unwelcome tick bite and the looming possibility of Lyme Disease and other tick-related ailments. Plus no one wants to bring a pup covered in ticks back into their house. It’s important to remember that ticks are most prevalent in the spring and summer, usually from April until September since they strive in humid, warm weather. Here are five tips so you can have a tick-free experience in the woods and an overall more pleasant outing.

A tick.

Don’t let this guy ruin your day! [Image: http://fmcpestwire.com/tackling-ticks-and-fighting-fleas/]

1. Wear light clothing so you can easily see ticks crawling around or waiting to make their move.

2. Long sleeves, long pants, and hats are your new best friend. And don’t forget to tuck those pants into your boots! In fact, bow hunters will be happy to hear that tall rubber boots are the most ideal for preventing a tick bite.

A man tucking his pants into his socks to avoid ticks.

Dress the right way to protect yourself from ticks. [Image: http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/protect_yourself]

3. Avoid heading through dense brush or sitting directly on the ground. When walking down a trail, make sure you’re walking smack down the center of it.

4. Insect repellant (especially those with Deet in it or Permethrin) can protect both your skin and clothing. The most important spots to spray are your legs/pants, socks, and shoes. And don’t worry about the scent interfering with your hunt either—there’s plenty of scentless insect repellants available.

5. Most important is to check yourself (hair, underarms, under your knees, and basically all over!) and gun dogs frequently for ticks throughout your session. Intermittent searches can lead to finding ticks before they’ve bitten.

People spraying with insect repellant, tucking their pants into their socks, and checking their hair for ticks.

Check yourself (and your gun dog) thoroughly for ticks during your outing. [Image: http://www.northeastlandscape.com/Merrimack-Valley-Lawn-Tick-Control.htm]

These are just five handy tips to keep in mind when you’re out and pursuing your next big kill. A clear, calm mind that isn’t distracted by the thought of ticks is your best hunting tool, after all!

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.

Gone Fishing: Springtime Fishing Events at the State Parks

May is the perfect time to hunt down that fishing rod and tackle box, rustle up some bait, and get out on the water. Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, this spring there are plenty of fishing clinics and tournaments at the state parks for all kinds of anglers. Just another good excuse to discover a new fishing hole.

Little girl fishing [Image: www.alaskafishingak.com/freshwater/freshwater.htm]

Image: www.alaskafishingak.com/freshwater/freshwater.htm

Alabama

Mead Westvaco Annual Bass Tournament
May 2nd, 2015 – 5:30am
Lakepoint Resort State Park
Number of boats expected: 40
Weigh in at 3:00 EST
For more information, contact Larry Bettison 229-366-1759

2nd Annual Joe Wheeler State Park Youth Fishing Rodeo
May 2nd, 2015 – 8:00am – 11:00am
Joe Wheeler State Park
For youth through age 14. There will prizes and trophies. Bring your own tackle and bait. Participants must register and pay $1.00 fee to enter rodeo. Adult supervision required.

Eufaula Bass Trail Fishing Tournament
May 9th, 2015 – 5:00am – 4:00pm
Lakepoint Resort State Park
Number of boats expected: 40 – 60
For more information, contact Lester Bratcher at (334) 726-5697 or by email les.bigbitebaits@gmail.com

Catfish Rodeo
May 23rd, 2015 – 8:00am – 12:00pm
Blue Springs State Park
Fishing tournament for kids 12 and under. Bring your own pole or rod and reel, but there will be some bait available to participants. Adult supervision required. Prizes will be awarded.
For more information, call (334) 397-4875 or email: bluesprings.stpk@dcnr.alabama.gov

Bass jumps from water for bait [Image: bassfishing.sportclubs.rutgers.edu]

Image: bassfishing.sportclubs.rutgers.edu

Mississippi

Lefleur’s Bluff Fishing Rodeo
May 9th, 2015 – 8:30am
Lafleur’s Bluff State Park
Youth fishing rodeo for kids 15 years of age and younger. Participants must bring fishing equipment and bait. Games, prizes and tagged fish!
For more information, contact Mike Stepp at (601) 987-3923 or (601) 562-9296.

Pennsylvania

Family Fishing Festival
May 2nd, 2015 – 9:00am – 12:00pm
Ohiopyle State Park
Fishing event for anglers 12 and under. Meadow Run will be freshly stocked. Registrations is from 9:00am – 10:00am, and fishing goes from 10:00am to noon. Prizes will be awarded at the end of the festival.

Intro to Fly Tying & Fly Fishing
May 2nd, 2015 – 9:00am – 1:00pm
Presque Isle State Park
All ages welcome at this free introductory fly fishing program. Equipment and materials provided.
Register for this event at (814) 833-7424.

Fly-Fishing Basics
May 2nd, 2015 – 3:00pm – 4:00pm
Parker Dam State Park
One of the park naturalists will introduce participants to fly-fishing. Session will include discussion about techniques, learning basic knots, and practice fly-casting.

Man stands on boat fishing in pond [Image: adventure.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities/fishing]

Image: adventure.howstuffworks.com/outdoor-activities/fishing

Virginia

Make Your Own Fishing Lures
May 2nd, 2015 – 11:00am – 12:00pm
Kiptopeke State Park
All supplies are provided and a park ranger will be on hand to demonstrate how to make fishing lures. $2 per person; $6 per family

Let’s Go Fishing! – Children’s Fishing Tourney
May 16th, 2015 – 9:00am – 11:30am
Chippokes Plantation State Park
A casual family fishing event that includes awards for first, second, and third place in fish length and for greatest number of fish caught.

Kansas

Fishing’s Future Family Fishing Clinic
May 2nd, 2015 – 9:00am – 12:00pm
Hillsdale State Park
This clinic is taught by Kevin Reich, and will give participants important information about species identification, knot tying, live bait regulations, casting practicing, and fishing etiquette and safety.
For more information, contact Kevin Reich at (785) 577-6921.

Show Me the Smiles Crappie Tournament
May 3rd, 2015 – 7:00am – 2:00pm
Hillsdale State Park
Terry Acton, host of “Show Me the Outdoors” on 610 Sports Radio and DJ Kirby with Karl Kolonka from “Krappie Kings” (TV) will be hosting the Crappie Tournament. Family-friendly event including prizes, raffles, silent auction, musical entertainment and concessions. A free dental screening for kids will be available from 10:00am through 2:00pm, too.

Wishing everyone tight lines this spring!

Summer of the Snapping Turtle

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

By Jack Kredell

One of the first things my grandfather told me when I went to visit him on the Abita River in Louisiana was that if I was bit by a snapping turtle it would not let go until it thundered. I was nine years old then, and in my imagination where the snapping turtle had taken hold with its vice-like jaws, it has yet to thunder. Many years later, after deciding with a friend to make use of the area’s abundant snapper population for turtle soup, I realized he was probably referring to Macrochelys temminckii, the Godzilla-esque alligator snapping turtle, and not the more diminutive common snapping turtle, which can be taken legally throughout the Northeast.

That summer the snappers were everywhere; we saw them splattered on roadsides, roving between water hazards on golf courses, and once, while fishing, I saw a turtle the size of a municipal trashcan lid dart out of the tea-colored depths and give chase to a hooked bluegill. That turtle, which we called King Snapper, became the turtle of our dreams, the turtle of legend against which all other turtles were measured. But we knew that King Snapper would not be caught, or if he was, it come at the price of our sanity and livelihoods, so we focused on small to medium-sized turtles (which were supposedly better for soup).

Catching snapping turtles isn’t as easy as it looks. They’re nimble swimmers and the moss that collects on their shells makes them hard to spot. Our early tactics were based on a series of Youtube videos that showed a guy waist deep in pond scum using a hiking staff to feel for submerged turtles. Armed with newly made turtle staffs, we trudged through the stream behind our houses, stopping every so often to prod the bottom for the knock of a turtle shell. We logged 15 to 20 hours of futility using this method. The closest we got was a set of turtle tracks that ran up a muddy bank. At least they were in the area.

In the meantime, our quest for turtles had become an obsession. We judged lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and wetlands on turtle potential alone. In our new snapper-inspired lexicon things were either turtley-slow, shallow, murky, foul-smelling-or not turtley-fast-moving, rocky, trout infested. If we happened on a clear and fast stream while searching for the turtle gold of stagnancy and putrefaction, we might disdainfully overturn a rock or two before leaving it for some fly tyer to explore. It was useless to us if it didn’t hold turtles. If you could drink the water after boiling it once, maybe twice, it was not interesting to us. Turtle water will kill you. Turtles thrived in human poison. To get closer meant poisoning ourselves.

Or so we thought. As summer progressed we began to refine our methods. We traded in turtle staffs for less labor-intensive jug lines that we manufactured from orange juice and milk containers. We also narrowed down our list of turtle waters to a few nearby lakes and ponds. One of the more promising locations was a shallow, seasonal overflow pond adjacent a popular trout-fishing stream. When I went to scout it I saw a 20-pound snapper furtively slip into the water from a tree stump where it was sunning itself. This was the place. When I got home I called up my turtle partner with the news and we drove over to set up a few jug lines baited with chicken gizzards before it got dark.

Though smaller, the common snapping turtle is no less fierce than its bayou-dwelling cousin. They will claw and bite you if handled improperly. We rode our bicycles over the next morning and found that something had taken the bait. The first line came in without resistance; we found nothing but a severely misshapen 2/0 hook. Whatever was capable straightening a steel hook was an absolute brute. Was it the monster I had seen the day before? When I began to draw in the other jug, which had been pulled from the bank to the middle of pond, I felt the writhing tug of a turtle, and then horror; the mono broke above the leader. Panicked, I waded in to see if I could grab the turtle. The line was caught on a limb and next to it, facing away from me, was a 15 pounder snapping turtle. I moved in and snatched it by its tail. The search was over. I pulled the snapper from the water like a mad turtle baptist.

We put our prize in an army surplus backpack made of thick canvas and started for home. The feeling of the turtle raking my back with its claws as we cycled down the highway filled me with sadness, not to mention a sense of the absurd. I felt sorry for the creature strapped to its own death, struggling to make sense of its dark canvas cell. But I also looked forward to the idea of soup, and to wearing the shell as a breastplate after the apocalypse.

Turtles must be purged before you can eat them. This is done by placing the turtle in a large plastic container and changing the water every other day for two weeks. A turtle is considered purged when you no longer have to change the water after 24 hours. It is also recommended that you bleed your turtle out by cutting off the head and hanging it upside down in the shade for a couple hours. Then comes the hard part. Turtles are resilient – if not the undead – creatures who will fight the butcher’s hand long after the head is removed (I mean for hours). Butchering turtles is not like other animals because the shell restricts your access from the top. Meat must be cut out rather than stripped away with neat linear cuts. Nevertheless, in a few hours the turtle yielded 5-7 pounds of very fresh, clean-looking meat. The soup was incredibly delicious, which we made that evening with the help of my friend’s kids. We topped it off with a little sherry and ate it with a side of sourdough. We were amazed that such a delicate and clean flavor could issue from mud and muck. In terms of flavor the meat is somewhere between alligator and beef, without being as chewy as the former nor as tender as the latter. We were very pleased.

Later that summer, I went back to the lake where King Snapper lived to fish for bluegill. When I arrived I was greeted by a vast wasteland of sun-baked mud. Evidently the state couldn’t afford the repairs needed to fix the dam so the lake was drained. I walked over the hardened flats collecting bits of derelict tackle. The thunder had spoken and the summer of the snapping turtle was over.

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!

There’s Still Time for Furbearers

March: It’s the month where everyone can’t stop talking about spring. For anyone out there hunting coyote and other furbearers, though, March means this is your last chance to call in a decent, winter pelt. Here are a few tips from Jared McGrath of Goodhue Marina & Firearms on making the most of what’s left of furbearer season.

Bust out the Jet Sled

Man in winter camo hauling decoy in jet sled in snow [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

Your jet sled isn’t just for ice fishing. [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

With the warming temperatures, wet, heavy snow is a pain to slog through. Even on snowshoes, hiking in your gear can be a nightmare. Best way to get the gear out to your blind? “Use your jet sled,” McGrath says. That’s right – the same one you’ve been using all winter long for ice fishing. “Chances are, you’ve got it stored right in the back of your pick-up,” says McGrath. With the lake ice rapidly melting, now’s the time for your jet-sled to become your new hunting buddy. Don’t already have one? These heavy duty, deep sleds are perfect for hauling gear by hand, ATV or snow machine. Best part? Jet sleds skid along the surface of snow and ice, even when carrying a lot of gear. McGrath recommends buying a jet-sled in camo, perfect for ice fishing and hunting.

Pack It Down

Plan on coyote hunting this week, but there’s still snow on the ground? Take the time beforehand to scout and pack down a trail to your site. McGrath recommends using your snowshoes for this. You’ll be thanking yourself later when you realize how quickly you arrived at your blind.

Back to the Drawing Board

Man in white camo coyote hunting in NH [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

Image Credit: Jared McGrath

If at this point in the season, you’ve been calling coyotes for three months, and still haven’t bagged one, it’s time for some new strategies. Like us, coyotes don’t like this wet, heavy snow either. They may be answering your calls, but will need extra convincing to step out from the treeline. Use this as an opportunity to try out new decoys or bait. (When using bait on private land, McGrath reminds hunters to get written permission from the owner.)

It could also be that the coyotes in your area are feeling some hard-hunted anxiety. Re-situate your blind downwind in some new territory and start calling. You may just catch some youngsters off guard.

Coyote hunting rifle with scope in winter field [Image Credit: Jared McGrath]

Image Credit: Jared McGrath

Switching up your tactics will further hone your hunting style and could make all the difference in the field. And if you don’t land that male coyote you’ve been sweet-talking for hours? There’s always spring turkey hunting.

Looking for hunting rules and regulations? Check out our free, state Fish & Wildlife apps. And don’t forget to share your hunting pics with us on Facebook, Instagram and through our free app, Trophy Case®!

3 Recipes for the Wild Game in Your Freezer

In the Northeast, it’s been nothing but freezing temperatures and snow, ice, and more snow. Naught to do but hole myself up in the kitchen and finally get to all the wild game I’ve got stocked in the freezer. Since there are so many recipes for cooking wild game, here are three favorites that I’ve recently cooked up.

Indian Butter Pheasant

Courtesy of Food for Hunters

My Indian Butter Pheasant came with a bit of birdshot [Image Credit: Jess Feldman]

My Indian Butter Pheasant came with a bit of birdshot. [Image Credit: Jess Feldman]

I love Indian food. So, when I saw this curry recipe, I knew I had to make it. Unlike other curry recipes, this one has ingredients you can find at any grocery store. Garam masala, a mixture of spices that can found in the spice aisle, adds a really nice warming element to the dish. I also liked that the curry is thickened with minced cashews instead of cornstarch. This recipe makes about four servings.

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 1 pound skinless pheasant breasts (and legs, if you want)
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled

Curry Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 shallow, finely chopped
  • ¼ of an onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste (leftover from marinade)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or half-and-half)
  • 1 cup of tomato puree
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup finely ground cashews
  • 4 servings of jasmine or basmati rice

Directions

  1. In a food processor or using a mortar & pestle, blend the ginger and garlic together to make a paste. Scoop out the paste and put into a small bowl. Add yogurt, peanut oil, salt, and garam masala to the ginger and garlic paste. Mix well. Reserve 2 teaspoons of this marinade mixture in a small Tupperware container and put in refrigerator. (You’ll be using this little bit for the curry sauce.) Put pheasant in a large ziplock bag and pour in the rest of the marinade. Refrigerate for 48 hours.
  2. Grill or broil pheasant pieces until browned on the outside. Don’t cook all the way through! The pheasant will finish cooking in the curry sauce. Cut breasts into bite-size pieces and shred meat of the leg bones. Set meat aside.
  3. In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil over medium-high heat. Saute shallot and onion until translucent. Then stir in butter, lemon juice, the reserved garlic-ginger paste, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, chili powder, cumin, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring for 1 minute.
  4. Add tomato puree to skillet and stir for 2 minutes. Next, stir in 1 cup of cream and ¼ of plain yogurt. Add cayenne pepper to taste. Reduce heat and let the curry sauce simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in ground cashews. You may not have to use all of the ¼ cup, so just use a bit at a time, stir and decide if the sauce needs more thickening. If you’re sauce has gotten too thick, add a bit more cream or water.
  6. Add pheasant chunks to the curry sauce and heat thoroughly. I cooked mine in the sauce for about 8 minutes more. Add salt & pepper to taste to the curry sauce. Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve curry over rice.

Chipotle Pheasant Quesadillas

Courtesy of The Gift Fox 

Hen pheasant on a fence post [Image Credit: Jack Kredell]

Image Credit: Jack Kredell

I cooked more pheasant than I needed for the curry recipe above, so I had one cooked pheasant breast leftover. Pulling these quesadillas together is so easy, perfect for a weeknight meal. You should be able to find a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in the Latin/Spanish foods section of the grocery store. This recipe makes 1 large quesadilla or 2 small quesadillas.

Ingredients

  • 1 pheasant breast, cooked
  • 2 – 3 chilis from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/3 can of black beans, rinsed
  • 2 large flour tortillas (or 4 small soft taco shells)
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Sour cream and salsa, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. On the stovetop, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil in cast iron skillet. Heat oil over medium-low heat.
  2. Shred pheasant and add to heated skillet. Add chilis to skillet.
  3. With a wooden spoon, stir together chilis and pheasant so pheasant is covered in chipotle flavoring. Cook pheasant until warmed through, about 5-7 minutes. Make sure to heat through on low heat, so you don’t dry out the meat.
  4. Place tortilla (or soft taco shells) on large baking sheet. Whether you are making just one large quesadilla or two smaller ones, layer the ingredients. On the bottom layer, spread out a ½ cup or so of the shredded cheese. Over that, add the black beans, followed by the chipotle pheasant. Sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese over the pheasant, and then top with the other tortilla.
  5. Put quesadillas in oven and bake for 10 minutes or so, just until the cheese melts. Remove from oven and cut into wedges. Serve with sour cream and salsa. Or just stand over the stove and devour.

 

Country-Fried Wild Venison Steak Sandwich

Courtesy of Harvesting Nature

Two halves of a venison sandwich [Image: harvestingnature.com/2015/02/11/country-fried-wild-venison-steak-sandwich]

Image: harvestingnature.com

Is carmelizing the onions completely necessary? Yes. This is the kind of recipe that the next day, you find yourself making again under the premise that “you just have to use of up the rest of that horseradish sauce.” If you’re concerned about the lack of veggies, top your venison with a healthy bunch of baby kale greens.

Ingredients

Carmelized Onions

  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into long slivers
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Horseradish Cream Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Country-Fried Venison Steaks

  • 1 lb venison steaks
  • 2 sandwich buns or 4 pieces of Texas toast
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 cups flour
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
  • Oil, for frying
  • 8 slices of white cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. To prepare the carmelized onions, heat a wide thick-bottomed pot or pan to medium heat. Add olive oil, heat for 1 minute, and then add onions. Cook onions for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring. Add salt and cook additional 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Once onions are carmelized, turn off heat and set aside.
  2. While onions are carmelizing, mix sour cream, horseradish, and chives together in a small bowl. Season the horseradish cream sauce with salt and black pepper to taste.
  3. To make the steaks, begin heating oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
  4. One by one, place steaks in a ziplock bag and with a meat mallet, pound down to approximately ¼” thickness. (After this, you may need to cut the steaks in half for ease of battering and frying.)
  5. Season steaks with salt, black pepper and Cajun seasoning.
  6. On a shallow dish, mix beaten egg and milk.
  7. On another shallow dish, mix together flour, salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning.
  8. Dip each steak into the flour, then submerge into the egg wash, and finally dredge back into the flour.
  9. Place the battered steak into the heated oil. Flip steak once to ensure both sides are properly golden brown. Remove the steak from the oil and place on a towel.
  10. Evenly disperse the cheese amongst the steaks, and top steaks with carmelized onions.
  11. Cut buns in half (if applicable) and cover the inside and outside with butter. Toast each side of the bun/bread. Coat the inside of the buns with horseradish sauce.
  12. Place the venison and carmelized onions within the buns and enjoy!

Casting Close: Why It’s OK to Get Tangled

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. You’ve readied yourself for a cast, the spot looks unbelievably fishy, and you simply know for a fact that a monster is about to take your lure as soon as it hits the water. You line up, make the cast…

And then your lure wraps itself impossibly around a tree branch three feet past your target.

It happens. And while on a recent fishing trip with a buddy, he executed the scenario above flawlessly. He apologized profusely about getting tangled, but I was perfectly alright with it. Why, you may ask? Simply because it’s part of fishing. The way I see it, it’s almost GOOD that someone gets tangled every once in a while. It means that you’re casting close to cover, and the closer to cover you can get your lure or fly, the better. Think of it as a risk/reward. Sure you’re safe to cast all day out into the open water and never lose your bait, but that’s not where the giant lunker bass is. He’s underneath the impenetrable thicket in the corner of the pond. You’ll risk losing that lure casting to him, but you’ll never get him if you don’t try.

Kayaker paddles through river lined with thick green vegetation

Image Credit: Alex Vail

With this in mind, there’s plenty of things to consider about fishing close to cover. The first is, of course, your lure/fly. I know for a fact that I’m going to lose tackle, but when it comes to fishing in areas where there’s an extremely good chance of losing that $12 lure, I tend to go the cheap route. Soft plastics, weedless worms, simple flies, and cheap topwaters.

Depending on the species you’re chasing, going the weedless route is the way to go in preventing getting tangled. Cast just a little too far and landed in the lily pads? It’s absolutely nothing to worry about when fishing weedless. Going weedless comes in handy, too when it gets caught in a tree or the fish are hanging out in underwater vegetation.

Fisherman holds up large bass

As the background suggests, weedless is the way to go. [Image Credit: Alex Vail]

Unfortunately, casting close to cover is probably going to mean switching up your line a little bit. A heavier leader or line will prevent fish from rubbing up against underwater roots or rocks and breaking you off. An easy way to tie a heavier shock-tippet is to do a simple back to back Uni knot. These shock tippets come in handy because you don’t have to spool your whole reel with heavier line, and you can get away with using just a little (albeit expensive) fluorocarbon as the leader.

Casting close to cover is also extremely good casting practice. An angler can quickly get to know his/her rod and reel and before long, getting tangled becomes almost a rare issue. But practice makes perfect. Try casting a few feet from your target first. Then slowly get closer and closer. Once you’ve got the distance dialed in, it isn’t impossible to get just a few inches from your target more times than not.

Man fishes from yellow kayak in river bordered by trees

Image Credit: Alex Vail

So, the next time you launch your lure miles into the nearby woods, try not to get frustrated. Losing tackle is part of the sport. And the only way to get better (and eventually catch those monsters) is to lose some tackle.