Monday, December 31, 2012

Butterflies Are Fast

   One sunny summer afternoon a few months ago I saw some movement outside my window. I stepped outside and found a few butterflies chasing each other around my sunflowers and Passion flowers. I had never seen butterflies like this before, some Googling eventually lead me to identify them as being "Gulf Fritillary." It took me a while to find the name of the species as they are more common around Flordia than here in Central California. 
I followed this pair for some time, taking pictures as well as I could...
The problem is they would not hold still long enough for me to take a shot. 
I gave up, so I left them on my camera's memory card. Even though they were not the shots I was after there was something beautiful about them. In a way they symbolize how this year has gone for me personally. It has been a disaster that has somehow worked out. Like Bob Ross says "There are no mistakes, just happy little accidents." Things did not work out for me the way I wanted this year but they worked out. 

I am looking forward to next year, and all its happy little accidents.

Thanks for reading,
Dan

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rambling Yak

   I got to thinking about all the bodies of water my kayak has seen since I got it two years ago. I wanted to list them while I still remembered them all:

Kings River, Lemoore Illinois

Lake Michigan, Great Lakes, Illinois
DesPlaines River, Wadsworth, Illinois
Mead Reservoir, West Chazy, New York
Kings River, Lemoore, California
Sterling Lake, Lake County, Illinois
Lake Wissota, Chippewa County, Wisconsin 
Lake Michigan, Kenosha, Wisconsin
Fox River, Geneva, Illinois
Cayoucos Beach, Cayoucos, California
Chazy Lake, Dannamora, New York
Lake Michigan, Racine, Wisconsin
Cayoucos Beach, California




Lake Delavan, Delavan, Wisconsin
Saranac River, Morrisonville, New York
Lake Success, Porterville, California
Lake Hallie, Chippewa, Wisconsin
Pineflat Reservoir, Fresno County, California
Busse Lake, Schaumburg, Illinois
Big Sur, Central Coast, California
Salt Creek, Cook County, Illinois
Beck Lake, DesPlaines, Illinois
Avacado Lake, Fresno County, California
Leffingwell Launch, Cambia, California
Tomahawk Lake, Fresno County, California
West Branch DuPage River, Winfield, Illinois


   In the shot time I have had mu kayak it has seen some good use, but all I can think about is all the places I want to fish and have not been yet. My little Ocean Kayak has been real good to me for the past two years, and I plan on taking her to many more places.

Thanks for reading
Dan


Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Best of 2012

My best fish of 2012, made using Youtube's new slide show tool. 

Enjoy

Looking forward to the next year already

Thanks for watching,
Dan

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pickling Asparagus

I was at Costco the other day and they had a deal on asparagus, I could not resist. I have wanted to try to pickle it for a while, because I have always liked store bought asparagus pickles. I estimated 5 bags would fit 7 mason jars, and I hit the nail on the head.
I cold-packed the asparagus in the wide mouth jars using the handle of a wooden spoon to help me pack them in tight. After I packed all the jars I added 2 cloves of garlic, 2 or 3 red peppers and 5-6 black peppercorns into each jar. The brine was 1 cup white vinegar  2 cups H2O, and 2 table spoons of salt. It is an easy brine recipe, I use it for about everything.
The water in my water bath was on the verge of boiling when I dropped the jars in, but it just would not boil. I realized cold air from the open kitchen window might be keeping my water from boiling. I closed the window and within 3 minutes my water was boiling. I let it boil for 10 minutes, but it was too long. My pickles shriveled up, if only I closed the window.  
\On a positive note, the pickles taste good. The have the consistency of overcooked asparagus , but the tang from the vinegar and heat from the pepper still do them justice. Learn from my mistakes, keep the window closed.

Thanks for reading,
Dan

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to Cook Perfect Beer Battered Fish

  I wrote this for an English assignment, and thought I would share it with you.

Lingcod
      In northwest Ontario, Canada, a tradition of a fish shore lunch is a staple among northern outdoors men and women. Many outdoors-men return home from a guided trip with fond memories of eating fried fish that was cooked fresh lakeside. This can also be done at home using items already in your pantry. Making crispy beer battered fish is quick and easy if you use the right fish, equipment, and maintain the proper oil temperature.
     


David filleting up a Canadian Northern Pike
           Choosing the fish is important; you want to buy fresh fish with firm white meat such as Walleye, Cod, Halibut, Pacific Rockfish or (my favorite  Lingcod. Buying fillets from a grocer means you will have less chance of bones ruining your meal. When preparing the fillets, cut them going across the grain of the meat, forming finger-wide strips. This makes the fish easier to cook and allows the “fish finger” to flake when bitten. Use a shallow bowl or pie pan to hold flour for dredging the fish fingers; dredging is simply coating a food item with something else. For the batter, I like to use cheap American beer like Pabst Blue Ribbon and pancake batter mix. I like using buttermilk pancake batter mix, but any will work. If you don’t have any on hand, all-purpose flour and a pinch of baking powder will do the trick. Some Cayenne pepper powder helps add a little kick to the batter, but don’t use too much if you are cooking for people sensitive to heat.
Chef Gene cooking up a shore lunch
Brotherhood of the Yellow Pants
      One of the best vessels for deep frying is a Dutch oven; due to their cast iron construction little heat is lost in the cooking process. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, another cast iron pan would work in its place. A stainless steel or steel pot could be used; however, you will have to work in smaller batches to avoid temperature loss when you add food to the oil. In any case, make sure you have a lid that fits the pot and a fire extinguisher in case the oil catches fire. Vegetable and canola oil are great for deep frying fish. A candy or frying thermometer is useful for making sure your oil maintains the proper 400 degree Fahrenheit cooking temperature. If the oil gets too hot, your batter will burn, and if it is not hot enough, you will have oily fish. A cooling rack flipped upside-down on a baking sheet with a layer of newspaper makes a good place to keep the fish you cooked warm and ready to serve. The newspaper will wick the oil and keep your fish warm and crisp. A spider is the optimal cooking utensil to have for deep frying. It is a shallow basket with a long handle that is good at fishing food out of hot oil. If you don’t own a spider, a pair of tongs will work.
My lovely wife with her first Norther Pike
      Once your oil is at the proper temperature, and you have your other materials handy, you are ready to cook some fish. Prepare your batter by mixing the beer into your pancake mix; batter should be runny enough to pour, but not so runny it runs off your fish. Then take a fish finger and dredge it in the flour, and then in the batter. Place the battered fish finger in the hot oil away from you to avoid burning your hands.  Repeat until you have 4 or 5 fish fingers in the oil; watch the thermometer to monitor the heat in the pot. Use your spider to flip and rotate the fingers to ensure even cooking. Remove from the oil when they float and appear golden brown and delicious; it should not take longer than 3 minutes to fully cook a finger sized piece of battered fish. Repeat these steps until you cooked all your fish.  Serve with a classic Tartar sauce, or be more outgoing with a spinach dip or an Asian sweet pepper sauce.
Ontario sunset
   While it may not have the scenery or nostalgia of sitting next to a Canadian Shield lake, you can still have a delicious meal that is sure to inspire good memories. By using fresh, firm, white fish, the cast iron cook ware to prevent heat loss, and maintain the proper oil temperature by controlling heat using a thermometer; you too can cook quick and easy beer battered fish.

The pictures were all from my trips to Big Eagle Lodge. The first was with my father, and uncles. My second trip up was with my wife on our honeymoon. I am a lucky man. 

  Hope it made you hungry,
  Dan




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leffingwell Landing Kayak Trip 08 Dec 2012


My limit of Lingcod

   The past few months have been pretty hectic, between my responsibilities at work and home combined with the weather I have not been able to get my kayak on the ocean as much as I would have liked. Last week the weather looked like it was going to cooperate so I made sure I had my school work done well before the weekend. Derrick, Jeff, and I were supposed to hit the beach at sunrise. Jeff ended up having more important matters to take care of and rain checked us. I must have checked the forecast 1000 times that week, praying the conditions would be favorable. Thankfully everything worked out. I woke up prior to my alarm on Friday morning and got up to meet Derrick at the Harris Ranch, and before we knew it we were at the Leffingwell launch ramp by 0630.

This picture didn't turn out right, but it shows the surf well
   Driving down 41, I made a short list of the things I forgot: fishing crate, GPS, stringer, rod leashes and trash bags. The only thing Derrick forgot was his seat, which made for an interesting outing. When we got to the beach it was still about an hour before dawn, the tide was high with 4 foot waves crashing on the beach. Derrick had his new Hobie and is not fully set up yet so he put his rods and gaff in my hull for the launch. I have to admit the Hobie Revo 13 looks pretty sweet, and I experienced a bit of jealousy to be honest. The lack of storage seems to be the only problem I can see with it. Once the sun came up it was time to launch, my first attempt a wave pushed my nose down and filled my leg wells with water. I paddled hard but it was not enough, before I knew it I was pushed sideways and in the water. I realized the "self draining" scupper plugs were failing me, I pulled the two form the leg wells and tried again. This time I sank to the bottom and another wave washed me back on shore. I pulled the plugs from below my seat, I looked inside and saw more water than I would have liked to see. I drained it quickly and made another attempt, this time I was successful. Problem was since I forgot my crate I brought along a 5 gal Home Depot bucket for storage. It came ajar during the launch attempts and was hanging out catching water, pulling me hard back and to the right. I was heading right towards some rocks and rough breaking water before Derrick came up got the bucket out of the water. Thank God the rest of the day was much less eventful.
My first fish of the day was a 25 inch Lingcod, he hit my squid in about 70 feet of water. Today was a bad day for artificials for me. Most the bites came on frozen squid, I got a few on a Stankx Tube and one on a Swim Bait.
Derrick's impersonation of the CCKF logo. Here he was hooked up with his first fish of the day, a keeper Ling.
For those of you that think kayak fishing is all extreme, getting tossed around and paddling for miles; here is what it normally looks like.
Derrick was a little upset the only ling picture I took of him was of a short Ling. I say if he wasn't off Hobie'n around I would be close enough to take a decent shot.
The Gopher fish were numerous, I ended up taking home 6. They were delicious crusted in Panko and pan fried. Watch out for these guys though, I stabbed myself in the pinkey moving one to put another on the stringer. An hour and a half later my arm cramped up and spasmed on me.
Derrick caught this nice Vermilion on a swimbait. I was pretty jealous, having never caught a red myself.
But catching this Canary made up for not catching a red. It was a beautiful fish, I wish a picture could do it justice. I kept it under the water while setting up the camera and let him go right after the picture. I was relieved he swam straight back to the bottom. He made it up to the surface from 97 feet down and back, that is pretty cool.
I caught a few more short lings and this barely legal one, but I was waiting for a larger one to fill my limit. We decided to move and fish the shallower water for a bit before heading back in. I had to tie another rig as Derrick peddled in. I got rigged and started heading towards Derrick when he called me on the radio, the swells were getting higher and he thought it would be a good time to head in. I agreed, when I looked down at my fish finder I saw a rock with what looked like a fish above it. I dropped down and got a bite as soon as it hit the bottom. I pulled up a 26 inch ling and made my limit.  
We secured all of our gear and made the landing easy. I used my Lucid Fish Grips on all the Lings and got through a trip with only one stab and one cut (from fishing line). What a great day,  I got to fish and was going to be home in time to cook fresh gopher fish for dinner. Most of the time I get home so late by the time I clean the fish it is time for a shower and bed.
I learned a few lessons:
-Radios are handy
-Buckets are bad
-Seats are good
-The trip is as good as the company

I got to thank Derrick for being a great fishing buddy, a good fishing buddy means not dying on the water. We didn't see any sharks but an Elephant Seal hauling through the water got our hearts pumping for a minute. I don't think I will be able to make another trip out, it is going to feel like a long time until the season opens again.

And one more time if you didn't understand me the first time; leave your bucket on the shore.

Thanks for reading,
Dan

Friday, December 7, 2012

On Sharks and Kayak Fishing

Sharks hug with their mouths
   I am not an old salt when it comes to fishing in the ocean. I have to admit, the thought of a looming Great White Shark does scare the pants off of me. Each time I prepare to go out on the ocean in a 13 foot long plastic boat, I think about those teeth and I get the chills. When stories about shark attacks make the news I take steps to assure my wife does not see them, I do not need to scare her the way I am scared.  As I dangle my feet in the water after a successful launch rigging my pole I realize I am not in my comfort zone, I am in the sharks comfort zone. Even writing about it gives me the willies, I can't help it. Sitting out there bobbing in the waves literally like a sitting duck. Tomorrow I am headed to where a kayaker was attacked in  May off Moonstone Beach. In fact most of the Great White attacks have been off the Central Coast this year.
Shark attacks and fatalities around California

The store has plenty of fish, why risk it? 

I am not saying it is impossible to get attacked by a Great White, I am just saying it is unlikely. There are thousands of swimmers in the waters off the coast of California. There are also thousands of surfers and at least hundreds of kayakers. Looking at the numbers of attacks and potential targets there are better odds of being trampled on Black Friday than being killed by a shark.

Around 450 people a year die from falling out of bed, think about that the next time you have one of those falling dreams.  130 people are killed by whitetail deer, though it did not say whether hitting a deer with a car was a factor in any of the deaths. This year around 13 people will be crushed by vending machines and, 6 people will be riding a roller coaster when something goes wrong. Five people a year are killed by sharks, I am still afraid of sharks but the juice is worth the squeeze.

    Drinking and fishing/paddling is far more dangerous. What brought this all on was a trip to Cost Co yesterday when I came across a surfboard. I started thinking about people's comments when I talk about kayak fishing in the ocean, most are bound to say something like "aren't you afraid about getting bit by a shark?" Or "isn't that dangerous". But when someone talks about surfing people say "I have always wanted to learn to surf" or "That looks like so much fun." Not trying to bag on surfers, but it is way more dangerous to be attacked by a shark on a board than in a kayak. Looking at the numbers I am willing to take the risk, as far as I know there have been no kayak fishing deaths due to shark attack.

   My point is worrying about being attacked by a shark, while being a terrifying thought, is very unlikely and worth the risk to fish the pacific coast. It is much more dangerous to fish without the proper equipment than a fish, period. Stay safe out there, Rockfish season closes on the Central Coast December 31st and does not open until May.

If you are out tomorrow off Moonstone beach I will see you out there, other wise be safe out there. I copied some info on shark safety and pasted  it below along with two links to more information.

Thanks for reading,

Dan


"The following is a summary of some of our discoveries:
  • The white shark is the only species in California that presents a significant danger to humans.
  • White sharks live worldwide in cool, coastal waters. In the eastern Pacific, they live from Baja California, Mexico, to the Gulf of Alaska, and appear to be most abundant in California at the Channel Islands off southern California and locations north of Point Conception, California.
  • Adult white sharks feed primarily upon pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), and typically stalk their prey from behind and beneath before attacking -- in most cases, neither pinnipeds nor people see the shark before it bites them. The initial attack is so rapid and so forceful (adult white sharks weigh as much as 1-3 tons) that the victim is often lifted from the water, then released, after which the shark typically waits for the victim to bleed to death before attempting to consume it.
  • White shark attacks upon humans typically occur near shore in water 10-30 feet deep.
  • The majority of attacks occur at the surface, placing swimmers, surfers, kayakers, and scuba divers (when at the surface) at greatest risk. The appearance of a surfer on a short surfboard, for example, might easily be mistaken by the shark for a basking sea lion.
  • White shark attacks are not random. The Farallon Islands, Año Nuevo Island (San Mateo County), and Tomales Point and Bird Rock (Marin County) are particularly dangerous locations and should be avoided.
  • White shark attacks have occurred during every month, but are most common in September and August.
  • White shark attacks have occurred between 7:00 (AM) and 6:00 (PM).
  • White sharks can see color, however they do not appear to discriminate in that they usually look skyward before an attack and only observe the surface silhouette of the victim.
  • One should never enter California waters alone in that the "buddy system" has saved the majority of attack victims.
  • Biologists now understand the importance of white sharks in coastal ecosystems through their role as top level predators within food webs. They are protected in California and elsewhere in the world and, like many other species of sharks, are endangered through over fishing and habitat destruction."


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal,_unprovoked_shark_attacks_in_the_United_States

http://www.dumpaday.com/random-pictures/21-ways-youre-more-likely-to-die-than-a-shark-attack/

Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Cook Jack Smelt

I had a blast catching these Jack Smelt, They are the most prolific species on the West Coast, easy to catch, and super tasty. They are full of protein  beneficial oils, calcium and lack the heavy metals and toxins larger fish contain. One of the biggest reasons people don't fish for them is they get a bad wrap for tasting fishy... For a fish I guess that is a "bad" thing. Jack smelt are oily with a consistency of herring or sardines. They take well to smoking, wrapping in grape leaves and grilling or frying simply like I will show you.


While we were still fishing I gutted and rinsed out the fish and put them on ice in the cooler. To enhance the flavor I like to brine most my fish. Kosher salt, water and a pinch of sugar, if I have time and reason to cook any fish just after it is caught I do it but if it has to wait a day or two I have never had bad results with a brine. From what I have heard you should never use fresh water to store your fish, it will make it mushy and could harbor bacteria. (hopefully I am not just promoting a rumor with that last bit of advise.)

I used the back of my fillet knife to scale them, followed by a quick fillet. It is not worth cutting the meat off the ribs, so just cut them out. I could see the relief in my daughters face when she realized I was not going to serve her fish heads. I gave them the shake'n fry treatment with some flour, black pepper, and Chipolata pepper powder. I fried them in some olive oil in a cast iron pan. It doesn't take long to cook them, They start with a blue tint and turn white as they cook.

I finished them off with a drizzle of lemon juice, the acidity really adds to the taste of the fish. My wife and kids ate them up, it was a quick and easy meal. One of best parts is teaching my girls where their food comes from. They got to catch it, see it cleaned and, eat it; So many people have no idea where their food comes from. The girls were more interested in the meal because they helped bring it to the table. If you dislike oily fish due to a past cooking travesty, give it another chance. The having fresh, well prepared fish can make a huge difference in taste and texture.
 
Thanks for reading,
Dan

I you like my photos please check out my Tumblr.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Great Grandfather's Tackle Box

Going through his mother's garage my father came across his grandfathers tackle box. He brought it home and gave it to me figuring I would be interested in it. I don't think I have ever even seen a picture of my great grandfather. I have heard a few stories about his love of juicy fruit and how he made his grandchildren stein the creek for minnows to fry up. Everything appears to be from the early 50s, and it is all pretty interesting (at least to a fishing fanatic like me). 
Here it is a brown Sport King locking tackle box.
2 drawers and plenty of room inside. There was some old newspapers that did not appear to be anything other than to wick away moisture. There was also a Hedden spinning reel, a fillet knife, a rusty metal fish stringer and some half melted flies. 
From what I understand this Jaleoxe reel made between 1939 and 1950 and manufactured in Bronson, Michigan.
I wonder how many muskies the old man caught with this. 
Next up is a Copper Circle spoon made by  Canadian Baits Inc. of Minneapolis, Minnesota. 
At first I thought it was some king of dodger for trolling. There was a large J hook in the box that I thought went to something else until I started doing some research on the lure. From what I read this lure claimed to catch: Northern Pike, Musky, Black Bass, Walleye and Lake Trout. I wonder if my great grandfather ever caught anything on it. 
He also had a ton of spoons. I am not sure if Daredevil marked their lures back then or if they are imitations. The large chrome one is a KB spoon made in Superior, Wisconsin some time around the early 50s. They all seem to have some wear and tear like they got some use. 
He also had some bait harnesses and a few inline spinners, I bet that spinner adds a lot of action to a lure, today a lot of fishermen seem to be more concerned over the stealth of their fishing line is than how much flash or vibration their lure has. 
This last ite, really threw my wife and I for a loop. Is it a Whistle? Does it make a sound? Is it a swivel weight? Nope, a internet search of the patent number proved this is a fishing bait quick release. You attach one end to your line and the other to your lure. When the fish takes the bait it pulls and drops the weight leaving you to fight the fish. With the cost of lead these days, this would be a hard sell on today's market. The patent was applied for in 1946 and granted in 1948. 
I was never able to meet the man, but I know a little more about him. It is amazing how far fishing technology has and hasn't come in the 60 or so years since these items were manufactured. I wanted to know more about these items, not what they are worth. The sad thing is a majority of the web pages brought up in searching for info on these items were auction sites. I only found a hand full of sites with any real information about the products.

This stuff is history and should be preserved, not for a cash value but for its cultural value. If anyone reading this has any more information or sites with more information about these items, don't it hold back, share it with me.

Thanks for reading,
Dan

Active Duty? Visit All the National Parks for Free!

Being prior Active duty I like to look out for our service members and guide them when I can.

Naval Aviation Station Lemoore has a horrible reputation for being in the middle of nowhere, far form what young Sailors and Marines look for in a permanent duty station. It is avoided by those aware of it's existence and cursed at by those obligated to serve . Drive 40 miles in any direction and all you will see is farm land and cattle lots. The base is small, the valley is hot during the summer and foggy during the winter. There is not a lot for a city fella to do in a one horse town like Lemoore or Hanford.

What is great about the base is what many dread, it's , location. It sits dead smack in the middle of California's San  Joaquin Valley. Forty Five minutes from Fresno, CA, and 90 minutes from Bakersfield where you can catch about any band you would want to see on tour. A two hour drive west to Morro bay where one can do some saltwater fishing, sightseeing, whale watching, surfing or eat fresh caught sea food. An hour south is Pismo beach and an hour north is Big Sur; keep driving north and you hit Monterrey, CA. If you drive east you head into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the base is an hour away from Sequoia National Park, an hour and a half from Kings Canyon and 2 hours from Yosemite.

I just found out as of May 12th 2012 Active Duty Military members and their families qualify for a free Annual National Parks Pass.  The pass costs $80 for a civilian and gets you in to any National Park. I would have jumped all over that when I was on Active Duty. If you know a service member that enjoys the outdoors pass it on.





Thanks for reading,
Dan

Click the link for more information.
http://www.nps.gov/hove/parknews/news051812.htm

San Simeon Pier Fishing

I really wanted the girls to get in on some fish so I decided to hit the coast this weekend, it worked out because my wife had homework to do, so we had all day. The plan was to leave the house at 5 am and head to San Simeon until around noon. then we would head to Cayucos for lunch and spend the rest of the day there. When I woke up at 4:30 the girls were both anxiously waiting in the living room. The said they had been up since 1 because they were too excited to sleep. Maybe there is some hope for this generation?

We hopped in the car and headed out into the thich Tule fog, it was so thick I was startled by a car parked on the side of the road. It just appeared 20 feet enfront of me and was enough to make me jump in my seat. The fog lifted by the time we hit Rt 41, but did not dissappear completely. We got to San Simeon pier around 730 and my oldest had her first fish on by 0745, a Barred Surf Perch.
My daughter with her Surf Perch
She caught another before I could get my line back in the water and by 0800 she caught a nice sized Jack smelt. I really like the colors these guys have in person, silver sides, a dark green tint on their backs and an electric blue stripe running down their sides. I wish it would show in photos better.

Pacific Jack Smelt
My younger daughter was fuming, the last trip she caught most the fish and here she is getting showed up. She made me change her rig to a feathered Sabiki and got back to fishing.
Standing on the pipe to get over the rail
A few more casts and she was on her first fish, a nice little Surf Perch.
Surf Perch
We continued fishing and cathing up until the tide went out around 1030 and the bite stopped. We kekept at it with no bites until Noon when hunger over took us. We drove down to Cayucos adn grabbed a bite to eat. The wind was much strongerthan it was at San Simeon but we tried any way. 3 casts adn 2 tangles later we decided to go back to San Simeon for the day. The point really helped block the wind and made it possable to cast easier.

Low low tide. 

We fished for a few more hours getting not as much as a nibble, The surf was steady but the tide was still low. I tried to cast my rig towards the kelp bed and would have made it if I didn't run out of line. I was watching my rig fly out after the perfect cast, then suddenly it stopped and dropped. This was followed by a small crack as the knot tied to my spool broke, the line shot past the last eyelet, and it was gone. I think I might have to pick up a slightly larger reel... Maybe.

My oldest and I kept it up into the evening, my youngest played in the surf andcollected crabs and mussels to show us.  

Our little crab friend
The sun set and it was time to go home, we had some fish and got to spend some quality time togeather. I really hope we get to do it again soon.

Sunset on San Simeon Pier
Thanks for reading,
Dan