Sunday, July 10, 2011

The lowly sunfish

Fishing is definitely a pastime I enjoy for sure. For the most part, I am a catch & release fisherman. Meaning, I let the fish that I catch go back to swimming in the lake or wherever I caught it from. I think that started when I got into largemouth bass fishing, and most people that fish for bass are into catch & release. I do however, love to cook and eat fish. And fish that I caught myself are prized much higher than something purchased. It's like growing your own veggies or hunting game, I get a much greater sense of satisfaction receiving these products from their natural place of origin and with my own hands than buying them in Styrofoam trays & sealed in plastic. This is pretty much how I roll when it comes to fresh-water fishing. When I'm on the beach or bay, that's another story. Then I'm working for the table. Weather for flounder, blues, weakfish or striped bass, maybe my favorite fish to eat, not too much releasing of legal sizer's going on there. Today though, I'm writing about the other end of the scaled spectrum, the sunfish. You know, the fish that you caught as a kid using dough balls and a bobber at the local farm pond or a vacation lake. They go by many different names, pumpkin seeds, bream, red ear and the larger ones that I fish for, the bluegill. You're thinking, who cares about sunfish. There isn't a "Sunfish Anglers Sportsman's Society" or a "Sunfish Unlimited". Probably the best explanation is that they are predictably catchable. That is, when you feel like catching fish just about any time, they will not fail you. And the best thing is that it is so simple, just a light fishing rod & reel fixed with a hook, float of some kind and some bait. Earthworm, cricket, grub, meal worm and bread balls, they all work. There's just something so relaxing about watching your bobber floating still one moment, then erratically being yanked under the surface by a hungry fish. Wait a minute, I take that back, there's not much time to relax when the fishing is hot and furious. For the most part, it's non-stop fish catching madness. Good madness of course.

I started off stating that as a rule I released my fresh-water fish. There are however some exceptions. Occasionally, I am in the mood for a fish fry, and one of my favorites is crappie. Similar to sunfish but can get bigger and at certain times school up and you can catch many. The little breaded fillets can make for quite a memorable eating experience. Then you have trout, wild(native) and hatchery-raised. The latter is what we get in this neck of the woods. They are farmed by the state to release into the local waters just to catch and take home. They're tasty for sure but my favorite has got to be the yellow perch. A pretty little fish with black & yellow stripes and a green hues. The meat sweet, firm and flaky and can be caught easily on live bait or artificial lures.

While at the lake recently, hooking bluegills left & right, I thought to myself, I have never eaten a sunfish. I know many people do, I just never have. Some of the ones I was pulling in were huge, pan-filling size. So it got me thinking, I just might want to see how these guys rate. So I got a nice fire going in the pit, since I had some Korean beef marinating for cooking over coals, I thought I would just stick a cast-iron fry pan over those same coals to fry some fillets.

In the end, I have to say not my favorite fish to eat. That being said, I've had worse. Yes it was very bony, and allot of work for little return but, the meat tasted pretty good. Flaky, sweet & moist and I had a blast catching & cooking them on the open fire and it was a meal obtained just steps from my front door. Good stuff!