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Midwest Summer Fishing Report, Dale Bowman , Jul 21

Ticks are becoming growing problem, Jeremiah Haas, Jul 19

Lake Iroquois Huge Fish Kill, Kenya Ramirez, Jul 19

The Science behind Fish Oil Supplements, NPR Illinois, Jul 19

Redear Sunfish Record, Dale Bowman , Jul 19

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Through the Lens

A Plethora of Pollinators

Fri, July 13, 2018

The heat - oh goodness - this ugly oppressive heat wave can quit any day now. Hot weather and MS just don’t mix; so my outdoor time has been seriously curtailed the last few weeks. Thank heavens there exists the great group of prairie and pollinator plantings at Pyramid State Park. It’s lovely area, shaded, with a picnic table, just on the water’s edge that has just been bustling in very early hours just after sunrise.

This little corner of Pyramid, whether you choose to fish from the dock, sit quietly and reflect, gaze upon all the different blooming specimens of prairie and pollinator plants or hang out practicing your macro photography is just the ticket.

The sheer variety of insect species that I have been finding in the three different beds that make up these planting has been amazing. Sadly though, butterflies seem to be in short supply this year. I just am not seeing the usual number of butterflies. I am actually seeing very few. I hope this is just glitch or a timing issue and not a portent of what we may be losing. In other years these plantings have been rife with all sorts of butterflies; including monarchs.

Here’s a look at some of the niftiest looking visitors. Let me say up front, insect ID is not my forte and I am currently awaiting a new field guide to arrive so, if you have correct names, please please feel free to jump in the comment section and tell us about these nifty flying jewels and winged creatures!

The other great thing abut these dawn trips to Pyramid - well of course there are those gorgeous sunrises - but it’s the cottontails! Those little buggers are everywhere at Pyramid! Here, there, yon - hopping, skipping and plundering along the rabbit population in all of Pyramid sure is thriving! One little guy seems especially interested in being my buddy while I am standing there neck deep in bugs trying to photograph those little flying f-14’s that are feeding on the flowers.


So get out there in the early hours, find a nice planting, and look really close - there’s a whole world living in those flowers!

 

 

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You Can’t Beat a Buffalo

Sat, June 30, 2018

It’s no secret that I love bowfishing, and consequently we tend to pile up a whole lot of rough fish. One of the things about bowfishing that seems to be an issue with some folks, is that it’s a waste. Especially when native fish are shot.

I try pretty hard not to waste any of our fish. We eat the rough fish, I preserve the gar hides, use the scales, and am even considering trying my hand tanning some silver skins after seeing a gorgeous fish skin handbag online.

What seems to trouble most folks, especially when it comes to eating the rough fish is how in the world to clean and cook appropriately.

I previously did a blog post here that explained cleaning gar. Trust me once you master cleaning gar – the rest of the rough fish become easy peasy.


We’re going to look at cleaning buffalo today. Thanks to expert buffalo cleaner,  good friend, and fellow river rat Jesse Peese for helping me put together – gasp – a video how to for cleaning buffalo.

Some things to remember when cooking buffalo that we touch on in the video – For the frying process to negate those pesky bones – DEEP FRY! Pan frying just wont crisp up and get rid of the bones. Make sure that the grease is HOT – minimum of 350 degrees – 380 or 400 is even better. Additionally, it’s important to back your breading down into the scored slots. All of the above will help you turn out a perfect plate of tasty buffalo.

For smoking, smoke as you would any fish.  Brine it it over night with any seasons you prefer and some brown sugar or maple syrup. Rinse, allow a crust to form as it dries, and the toss on the smoker. We also will marinate in whatever marinade strikes my fancy and then smoke. That method works equally well.  I prefer “hot smoking” over cold and then any extra (you may have to pull a few bones) gets mixed in with cream cheese for really tasty cracker spread, or made into a salad. If I really have a pile that I have smoked, I vacuum pack it and it will last in the freezer about 3 months.  This makes it easy to always have smoked fish on hand for making appetizers when company arrives.

Lastly, because I firmly believe in waste not want not – some even gets pickled. Any recipe for pickling fish will work, and the pickling process also softens up those pesky bones.
So, next time you find yourself with some beautiful big buffalo in the boat – don’t just send them to the fertilizer pile – cook them up and enjoy a midwestern favorite river fish!

 

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Time to Run the Nets!

Tue, June 26, 2018

Imagine heading up river in the early morning light in hopes of having nets full of fish. That’s a twice a week endeavor for Ron Joellenbeck who at age 80 is still setting and running nets each week on the lower Kaskaskia.

“Jolly” as he is known around the neighborhood has been running nets and chasing fish since the mid 1970’s, and plans to keep going as long he has a couple a good helpers. “I can sill do it, but boy I am slower than I used to be.” He laughed.

I have the pleasure of being friends with Jolly and my husband took one of his vacation/ retirement practice days last week to help Jolly “run nets”. There might have been a mishap or two with a couple of big buffs arcing out of hubby’s grasp and back into the river instead of the barrel. Jolly now refers to Mr. Steele as “Buffalo Man”, and will likely still be hounding him about losing the buffs for the next 20 years!

Seems as if running the hoop net sets is a dying art these days. Likely because it’s more work than most young folks want to contend with. Tagging, setting maintaining the nets. The license fees, and record keeping requirements can be daunting. Add in the various regulations and the ever-increasing numbers of silvers and big heads that end up in the nets in place of what used to be mostly catfish and buffalo and most younger folks just don’t want to be bothered. Here’s a look at the commercial regs in Illinois.

The day isn’t done when the nets are emptied into the boat either – then it’s time to clean all those fish! My dearly beloved has been known to grumble “You have to really like cleaning fish if you are going to run nets”.

Be sure to watch for the August print issue – I’ll be writing more in depth about “Runnin’ Nets” and what it’s been like for my friend Mr. Joellenbeck to hold a commercial license all these years. Things have changed, the rivers have changed, but a few crabby old men – they are still out there hauling in the nets in the early morning hours.

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