Something to be Said for a Sure Thing.

This weekend was the unofficial start of Matt’s leave. It doesn’t officially start till 4 pm today, and he had to go into work this morning and Saturday morning, but we’re counting it. Sunday we got out and tried our hand at trolling on Lake Monona.

Getting everything set up.

Getting everything set up.

Scattered thunderstorm

Scattered thunderstorm

Setting things up to troll is quite the undertaking. Without the proper equipment, you’re just dragging lures behind you on the surface. Given that at one point, we were in 50+ feet of water, this isn’t really helpful. There’s all kinds of things out there to make your line go down to a certain depth, or out to the sides. We only have the two big pole holders, so we used two jet divers to sink our stuff to about 10 feet. Figuring out how to get them to stay down took more than a couple tries. Eventually, we had them tied on right, and had enough line out at the right speed to get them to stay under water. We trolled for about four hours altogether. We had one follow up when we stopped to cast for a little while, which was the most exciting thing that happened. That is, until we managed to break off two trolling lures and the jet divers when we snagged the bottom. Our line was heavy enough test that the leaders are what broke. After that, Matt cast for a little while, but when another muskie lure lost its tail as he retrieved it, we called it a day. He shook his fist and swore that with two weeks off, he would find a way to catch fish on these lakes.

After a little retail therapy at Gander (and some tackle replacements), Matt decided that we were going to catch some fish today, damnit. We went with the sure thing and put in up at Cherokee Marsh for some catfish. Fish were jumping clear out of the water as we motored up. We tried by the lily pads like we normally do, and Matt caught the first non-catfish we’ve seen up here.

12" largemouth

12″ largemouth

Two inches shy of the limit, it went back in the water. We opted to mix things up and move away from the shallows in the pads. There’s an island in the middle of the marshy lake. Near there, I caught a good sized cat, which Matt held for the picture.

SAMSUNGWe’ve got more than enough catfish fillets, however, and I opted to let it swim away. It was here that we also caught a couple more drum (/sheepshead)

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After a little bit, we motored back to the channel that leads to the launch. Last Fall during waterfowl season, there were incredibly low water levels after a hot, dry summer. We always saw huge wakes as we scared out fish. Matt wanted to try to fish right there. We set up again just before dark. I had another drum pretty quickly. It had swallowed the hook, and as I was cutting my line, I heard Matt blurt out something and lunge for his pole. It was his light little panfish pole, and the line was going out in a hurry. He fought it for a long time. It went under the boat, and I had to pull up the front anchor before he could pull it up and I could get a net under it. It was a bit too dark to take a photo just then, and we were fending off mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. Matt’s pride was restored a bit, so we decided to leave the marsh to the bats and the bugs.

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At 13 pounds, it’s lighter than the one I caught back in April, but that one was preggo. This catfish was definitely bigger. Matt set to skinning it to taxidermy it.

Matt plans to cut out of work early today. We may go out fishing some more tonight, but I also set out the last goose we had frozen. I had to make room for all of Matt’s frozen taxidermy specimens. There will finally be another Wild Food post. The rest of this week we’ll be fishing and scouting. We need to set up game cameras (we’re way late to that party).  We’ve also got some tentative weekend plans, and given my luck, I don’t want to spoil them by blabbing them out. The last time I did that, his entire leave got cancelled.

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Back in the Saddle, Er, Boat.

It’s been an odd few weeks. After the trailer tire went out on us at the end of May, we both couldn’t do much fishing, and couldn’t find a way to replace the tire. It sat in the driveway and we parked around it weird and tried to occupy ourselves. I’ve covered how we moved the busted trailer, got the Bagster out, and painted the camper. There was some further shuffling, which I’ll cover in detail tomorrow. But we got the trailer the Ditch Boat was on out from under it. While I was gone in Illinois visiting my mom, dad, sister, and meeting my nephew for the first time, Matt got the little boat onto that trailer. It looks a little goofy, as the trailer’s too big for the boat to say the least.

I got home yesterday evening, and we finally went out fishing. There’s still something up with the gas motor, sadly. We couldn’t have everything go right, I suppose. But we headed back out to Cherokee Marsh. It was a nice, warm night, even if there were a lot of bugs.

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It was a really good night out. I wish we’d brought the video cameras. The catfish are spawning, we think. They were leaping clear out of the water, and thrashing around in the shallows and mud near the cattails on the bank. I hooked into another really big cat. It was around 14 pounds once we got it home and weighed it. I fought that thing for about 15 or 20 minutes. Matt had a medium sized cat on the line, until it wrapped around an anchor line and escaped. He had another probable catfish on the rod he set up for panfish- it only had two pound test on it, and the fish snapped it and ran. We had plenty of bites where the fish took the bait but dropped the hook. Matt also got his first snapping turtle.

One of my bobbers went under. It was a line with a small sucker on it. I started to reel it in, but it felt different and heavy, so I handed it over to Matt, while I got the big net ready. He thought I had managed to hook a submerged log. He got it up near the boat, still thinking it was a log. I scooped under it with a net and it was a good sized snapper; about 14 inches of shell, ugly, and angry hissing. It wasn’t even hooked, it had just clamped down on the bait fish so hard we were able to get it out of the water. It dropped the bait and hook once we lifted it out. It bent our heavy muskie net. We looked the turtle over in the net before releasing him. Turtle season doesn’t open in Wisconsin until July 15th. Any time I’d hooked a snapper before this, I’d either cut my line, or it had released the bait. Matt had never caught one. Once we got home, we cleaned my catfish, and began to search up and down for instructions on cleaning snappers.

Daily Prompt: Goals

Once again, I came to WordPress during my morning internet jaunt, aware that with the return of only romping outdoors on weekends, I have much less to write about during the week. And once again, the Daily Prompt was something that wouldn’t seem out of place here. I swear they know exactly when I’ve gotten all excited about writing and put my posts up immediately, instead of patiently spacing them out.

So, the Prompt asked- did I set any goals when I started this blog, and if so, have I achieved any? I think the only concrete goal I really set, besides Matt wanting to get Internet Famous,  was that I wanted to keep doing my outdoors hobbies, only I wanted to write about doing it. And put up pictures, obviously.

These posts are the equivalent of me sitting on a log, staring at the water, and swinging my feet.

These posts are the equivalent of me sitting on a log, staring at the water, and swinging my feet.

Looking at the topics I’ve covered over the last 5-6 months, I would say yes, I achieved that goal. I’ve written about fishing (ice, fly, and otherwise), turkey hunting, and what we do with the animals we end up harvesting. On top of all the activities actually done outdoors, I’ve also sort of expanded the blog to include covering things like refinishing our old camper, reporting on the new things Matt dragged home from various outdoor retail outlets (see the Toys tag), and writing in detail about the acquisition and renovation of the Ditch Boat (see the What Have I Gotten Myself Into tag and the Boat Renovation category). That’s fortunate, because otherwise I’d only be posting once a week, if that in winter.

As for goals I didn’t spell out in writing? I think a big one was that I like to write about successes, even if I am a total beginner at so much of this stuff. So, in that arena there’s some room for improvement. Just take a look at my Fail tag, and you’ll see that more often than not, the critters win. Which is why they call it fishing, not catching, etc. However, it’s still a small tag after 5 or 6 months. Just wait until deer and duck season, particularly archery deer. And we’ve got the entire summer of fishing to do yet.

Another unwritten goal I had was to improve upon my writing and possibly my picture taking (I wouldn’t call what I do photography). I’d like to get this blog to a point where maybe someone would find it Freshly Pressable. Admittedly, I would need to have a big tick mark to put into the Big Success Story column to make that easier. It would be easier to write well and in an excited way if I had a big success story to tell. I’m not at a point yet where I can write eloquently about big fails.

I think keeping it simple and continuing my goal of writing about my hobbies as we do them is a good idea. I’ll keep the Freshly Pressed goal simmering, though.

We Take the Bad with the Good. And Catfish.

Yesterday, after posting about our dismal failure on Saturday, I mentioned we were taking the boat out. We packed up our tackle, poles, some waders, a few drinks, minnows, everything we needed, and headed on up to our favorite boat launch on Cherokee Marsh. We wanted to test out the motor and batteries on a smaller body of water.

We got the boat in the water, no problems. We even remembered the bung, which has been an issue for us in the past. The batteries and trolling motors worked great, and the outboard even started on the first pull. Which, for an old Mercury from 1949 that sat empty all winter, is a big deal. It ran ok, though we mixed the fuel entirely too rich. We couldn’t math with fractions yesterday. We cut off the outboard and trolled to a spot towards the center of the marsh, near the bank.

In Summer and Fall, this part of the marsh is filled with water lilies.

In Summer and Fall, this part of the marsh is filled with water lilies.

We were sitting for maybe 30 minutes, until. Well. I’ll let this video tell the rest of the story.

Fishing season opens up next Saturday, the 4th. We can catch and keep catfish and panfish year-round.

We had planned on doing some line fishing and testing the motors here on Cherokee, and then heading down to work the northern shore of Lake Waubesa with the generator and lights. We’d hoped the water would be clear enough to do some bowfishing. However, it was not to be. Remember how happy I was that we had fixed the trailer tire? Unfortunately, there must have been some damage to the rim that the tire techs didn’t see. We were headed down towards Waubesa, and we had a blow out on an overpass. We limped it down the exit ramp and into a parking lot (again), and took out everything that wasn’t bolted down.

I spent a good hour and a half early this morning calling to tire shops all around Madison. I finally found one over on the west side that carries both the rims and tires we would need for our trailer. A new rim and tire, mounted and balanced, will run me about $105. I planned to pick it up after my quick lunch shift at the mediocre bar job I have, since I had this evening off at the golf course. I sat down to cut that video before work, when I got a phone call. Surprise day off! So, the video got edited, this post got written, and I’m going to clean up the house really quick-like before I run to the other end of town to get this tire, so Matt can put it on the trailer when he has a break this afternoon. But instead of focusing on the negative, here’s a picture of me holding my biggest catfish from yesterday. A 17 pounder. The other was 12 pounds.

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Disregard my messy kitchen.

 

They both got filleted up and stuck in the freezer. They’ll be grilled or fried at some point. We smoked the remainder of the carcasses for the dogs, as they have a deep, abiding love for fish parts. Also, they’ll dig them out of the garbage and make a huge mess, so it’s easier to just give it to them up front.

Wild Food: Catfish and Chips

Last year, Matt discovered the joys of fishing for catfish. We didn’t go noodling or anything, but some coworkers of mine recommended a nearby marsh/lake for this activity. One of them had landed a 35 pound cat. I’d fished for catfish before when I was younger, and people back by home regularly pulled large channel catfish out of the Vermilion and Illinois rivers (some up to 6 feet in length). They put up a terrific fight, and I like them deep fried myself.

20lb catfish.

20lb catfish.

One night we each caught a big catfish. I’m not sure whether this was mine or Matt’s, but they were both around 20 lbs. We filleted them up, and stuck them in the freezer.

Where else would you put catfish but the sink?

Where else would you put catfish but the sink?

 

Catfish fillet

Catfish fillet

I cut this one into strips. I season my deep fried things under the batter. These got a quick rubdown with Old Bay, lemon juice, and some garlic.

It requires getting your hands dirty, but I clean animals on the regular, and once made brioche without a stand mixer. I'm fine with it.

It requires getting your hands dirty, but I clean animals on the regular, and once made brioche without a stand mixer. I’m fine with it.

Then I mixed up the batter. This being Wisconsin, we’ve always got beer on hand. Matt has a penchant for old man beer, so Pabst it was.

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I mixed a bottle of room temp PBR with about a cup and a half of flour. I shook in a little pepper and Old Bay for good measure, and stirred it up.

I go for slightly thinner than pancake batter.

I go for slightly thinner than pancake batter.

Then I put the oil on to heat. I always use my deep frying/candy thermometer. It’s gotten me through a lot.

Deep fried chicken, deep fried catfish, deep fried shrimp, divinity, caramel, fudge, peppermint bark, peanut brittle, maple candy...

Deep fried chicken, deep fried catfish, deep fried shrimp, divinity, caramel, fudge, peppermint bark, peanut brittle, maple candy…

While that heated, I took a page from my favorite Pitmasters, and procured a lovely beverage.

Door County's Finest Blackberry Wine

Door County’s Finest Blackberry Wine

I also sliced up some potatoes, real thin.

Pretty thin, at least.

Pretty thin, at least.

Once the oil reached temperature, I started putting in chips and battered fish alike.

Right between Fish and Potatoes, as the cold fish strips would drop the oil temp significantly.

Right between Fish and Potatoes, as the cold fish strips would drop the oil temp significantly.

Boilin' Oil

Boilin’ Oil

I fried things until they were a nice, deep, golden brown to ensure both doneness and crispiness. I whipped up some quick tartar sauce (it’s just mayo, sweet pickle relish, and lemon juice), shook Old Bay and apple cider vinegar on my chips, and dinner was served.

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