Category Archives: Food

Bullheads – The Underrated Fish

No doubt, bullheads are not the prettiest fish in the water, but, boy do they taste good. Seasons and limits on bullheads are very generous compared to other fish. Bullheads are aggressive feeders that put up one heck of a fight once hooked. They might not be known for pulling hard, but they will not give up easily. All of these put together make bullheads a great fish for fast and fun fishing action that keeps fisherman happy for hours.

Because of the bullheads aggressive feeding habits they are a pretty easy fish to catch. They will eat anything from bologna, hot dogs to dough balls. However, my favorite bait is a night crawler on a size 2 long-shank hook. Bullheads are known to swallow the hook more times than not. The long shank on the hook will makes it easier to get to with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Another good hook is the circle hook that will likely hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, but not always.

There is not much involved with fishing tackle for the bullhead. A light-to-medium spinning rod and reel with 6-pound line is more than adequate. Add a splitshot sinker a foot above the hook and you are ready to fish. Bullheads feed on or near the bottom and the sinker will put your bait right where it needs to be.

Bullheads are relatively shallow during the springtime and throughout early summer, with the fishing be good during daylight hours as well as after dark. They can be found feeding aggressively in areas with muddy bottoms. All that has to be done is throw the night crawler out, let it sink, and then wait. There is no need to put any movement into the bait. If there are bullheads around, they will bite.

After the bullheads have spawned and we get more into the summer months, the fish will move to deeper water in the 12 – 16 foot range. During these warm summer months I recommend night fishing. Everything else is the same though: fishing the bottom with a night crawler.

Bullheads are nothing more than a catfish. They too, like a channel cat, has the dorsal and lateral spines that can “sting” you. Hold the fish by the fishing line and with your other hand, slide the fish up from the tail section until your palm comes to the back side of the dorsal spine. Next, grip the bullhead while keeping a watchful eye on the lateral spines. Before you know it, handling a bullhead will be second nature.

Some people like to fillet bullheads like any other fish. I like to clean bullheads the same as I do any catfish. Skinning a bullhead is very easy with a couple of cuts and a couple of pairs of pliers. That way the spines can be eliminated by simply snipping them off, which makes the fish easier to skin. Use one pair of pliers to grab the lower lip of the fish, cut a line in the skin around the head, grab this skin with the other pair of pliers, and pull. With a little practice, you will be able to peel the skin back in one piece.

The only thing that is left to do is enjoy the taste of the delectable fish. They are wonderful to eat with a texture unlike any other fish I have ate before.

Black Walnut-Crusted Bullheads

4 fresh or frozen bullhead fillets
Salt and pepper
¼ cup milk
1 egg
2 cups cornflakes, finely crushed
¼ cup finely chopped black walnuts
1 Tablespoon butter
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup butter, softened

Thaw fish if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Measure thickness of fish fillets. In a shallow dish, beat together milk and egg with a fork. In another shallow dish, combine the cornflakes and walnuts. Dip fish fillets in milk mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Dip coated fish fillets in walnut mixture, turning to coat evenly. In a large skillet, melt the 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Cook fish, half at a time, in hot butter for 4 to 6 minutes per ½-thickness, or until golden brown and fish flakes easily with a fork, turning once. Reduce heat as necessary to prevent over browning. For maple sauce: In a small saucepan, bring syrup to boiling. Remove from heat and whisk in ¼ cup butter until well combined. Serve with fish.

Wild Turkey – How to Smoke and Brine

It’s that time of the year, when you need to be thinking about what you will do with the wild turkey you hopefully kill this year.

If you’re like many, you hope many meals will involve a turkey.

Do you know how to brine your turkey, and get it ready for the smoker?

Stacy Harris of Game and Garden.com did a wonderful job explaining the process of brining a turkey.
Try this technique this season for a mouth-watering wild turkey breast.

It’s a new take on dinner using a turkey you harvested. Of course, you could use a domestic turkey, but using a breast from a bird you harvested would be so much more cooler.

Spicy Goose Jerky is Simple to Make [Video]

This year has been good for goose hunting, and we have had more than we can handle.

Of course we haven given a lot to family and friends, and cooked a lot for ourselves.  But the same old smoked and fried goose was needing a change.

This is when I started searching for alternative methods of cooking it and came up with this recipe for Spicy Goose Jerky from Scott Leysath of Ducks Unlimited.

Jerky is our favorite in our house, and this goose jerky did  not change that.

Long before refrigeration, there was jerky. For thousands of years, humans have been preserving meat by drying it in the sun or by using other sources of heat. Early American settlers learned that practically any kind of well-trimmed meat could be transformed into jerky. Meat strips were cured with salt and then dried by hanging them over the sides of covered wagons or slowly smoking them over a smoldering campfire. Along the way, the pioneers discovered how to add more flavor to the meat, and I’ll bet they also learned a thing or two about food safety.

I must admit to a number of failed attempts at making jerky. My initial motivation was financial. As a college student who spent almost as much time in the field as in the classroom, I quickly discovered that store-bought jerky was expensive. I reasoned that I could save hundreds of dollars a year by making my own jerky and that all the money I saved could be better spent on something useful—like beer. From these first attempts, I learned that you can’t rush jerky. If you can dry the meat at 160 degrees, the process will not go twice as fast at 320 degrees. Oh sure, you can eat it, but it’s not jerky. A few decades later, I’m still tweaking recipes and methods to produce tasty jerky that will have my friends asking for more in the goose pit.

Making your own jerky from game meat not only saves money but also frees up space in your freezer, since packaged jerky takes up less room than unprocessed game meat. Most jerky recipes can be used for any type of antlered game or waterfowl, but you do need to take extra time to completely trim all silver skin, gristle, and fat from the meat. Silver skin or gristle left on the meat will be tough and chewy, and fat may become rancid. [Continued]

Grilling a Whole Pig in Your Backyard

Have you ever had the desire to cook a whole pig in your backyard, but you didn’t know how?

Just a couple of months ago after a successful hog hunt in Oklahoma, I wished I had this information.

Field & Stream‘s T. Edward Nickens will teach you how to cook a 75- to 125-lb. hog in your backyard.

Cooking a whole pig (in this case, a 75- to 125-pounder, butterflied and with hair removed) in a backyard pit puts the neighborhood on notice: You’re taking the party to a new level. Come hungry, y’all, and bring your friends. This D.I.Y. cooker goes up, and breaks down, in an hour tops. Check local laws about open fires in town limits, but many larger cities allow open flames as long as you’re cooking. And, brother, you will be cooking! …[continued]

Collecting Black Walnut Sap: The New Maple Syrup?

We’ve all heard of tapping into maple trees to gather sap with which to make fresh syrup. What many don’t realize is that you can do the same thing with black walnut trees.

Not as popular as maple syrup, black walnut trees can produce a quality syrup that some enjoy as much as maple syrup. Hobby Farms has the step-by-step guide.

Maple trees aren’t the only sugar bushes that offer the prime ingredient for delicious syrup—sap can be tapped from birch, walnut, sycamore, boxelder and ironwood trees, as well. Where I live in Kentucky, we don’t have many sugar maples, but walnut trees are everywhere. The trees were once used for their nut crop or as a timber source to be cut down and sold to support a farmer’s retirement. Syrup tapping is rare in these parts, but when I came across several articles about tapping walnut trees for their sap, I knew I had to try it… [continued]

Using a Beer Cooler to Cook the Perfect Steak

Do You Enjoy a Well Cooked Steak?  Then you need a beer cooler.

You might not want to pack your grill up just yet, but a perfect steak can be prepared in your beer cooler. We admit, it might sound a little absurd, but Field & Stream‘s Jonathan Miles thinks otherwise.

Miles explains how to cook the perfect venison loin with only a beer cooler, a zip-seal bag, some hot water, and a digital thermometer.

BY PERFECT, I MEAN PERFECT: MEDIUM-RARE FROM THE OUTSIDE IN AND SPECTACULARLY, SUCCULENTLY TENDER. AND IT’S FOOLPROOF—YOU CAN’T OVERCOOK IT. AND NO JOKE: YOU COOK IT IN A BEER COOLER. A LITTLE BIT OF BACKSTORY, BEFORE I TELL YOU HOW.

THIS IS A DOWNHOME RIFF ON AN AVANT-GARDE COOKING TECHNIQUE KNOWN AS SOUS VIDE (FRENCH FOR “UNDER VACUUM”). BY VACUUM-SEALING MEATS (OR ANYTHING ELSE) AND THEN COOKING THEM IN A TEMPERATURE-CONTROLLED WATER BATH, CHEFS TURN OUT INCREDIBLY LUSCIOUS CUTS. UNLIKE TRADITIONALLY COOKED MEATS, THERE ARE NO VARIATIONS IN THE DONENESS—THAT IS, THERE’S NO PINK CENTER TO A MEDIUM-RARE TENDERLOIN BECAUSE THE WHOLE THING—EVEN THE OUTSIDE—IS UNIFORMLY PINK. (THE EXTERIOR CAN BE QUICKLY BROWNED AFTERWARD, IF DESIRED.) PRECISE HEAT CONTROL MEANS THAT ­MEDIUM-RARE IS EXACTLY THAT. SOUS VIDE HAS REVOLUTIONIZED RESTAURANT KITCHENS, AND THANKS TO THE ­COOKING-TECH GURU NATHAN MYHRVOLD, WHO ADAPTED A SLEW OF LABORATORY-LEVEL TECHNIQUES LIKE SOUS VIDE FOR HOME KITCHENS IN HIS BOOK MODERNIST CUISINE AT HOME, AND WHO INSPIRED THIS BACKWOODS VARIATION, IT MIGHT REVOLUTIONIZE YOUR HUNTING CAMP, TOO…[CONTINUED]

How To Can Venison

  • If you want to store venison for months, you’d be hard pressed to find a better solution than canning it. Yes, I freeze my share of venison, but I can a lot of it as well.

Canning venison might be new to some of you. If you’ve never tried it before, fear not. It’s easier than you’d think. Pure Instinct Hunting has some advice on how to can venison.

In my opinion, there’s no better way to keep venison for up to a year than canning it. There are two ways to can venison, either by hot packing or cold packing. Hot packing requires the meat to be cooked before canning. Cold packing is canning the meat without first cooking it. Whichever method you choose, it will take a pressure canner to get the job done…[continued]

These Beer Can Bacon Burgers Will Make Your Mouth Water [VIDEO]

Venison can be used in a variety of ways. Some of the favorites includes burgers, sauces, chili, and just about anything that calls for ground beef.  And beer?

 The BBQ Pit Boys have a great recipe for Beer Can Bacon Burgers.

Check out this video, then get the full recipe.  This recipe calls for beef, but I used venison with great results.

Snappers, Barracudas, A Big Shark and More

Feature  Photo:  Jason Houser

Growing up in the Midwest, my fishing opportunities were often limited to bass, bluegill and catfish.  The biggest body of water we ever got to fish on was a local farm pond, or the small river winding through the countryside, and on special occasions, we would launch a boat on a local lake of a few hundred acres.

When the opportunity to fish with Southern Instinct Charters near Ft. Myers, Florida came along, it was an opportunity that I could not turn down. We would be fishing in the Gulf of Mexico for a variety of fish that we certainly did not have in my home state of Illinois.

I certainly could not go on this trip alone, so my brother-n-law Tom, and a couple other guys were quick to say yes to such an opportunity.  Our wives and even my mother wasn’t going to let us go at this alone, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.  After an 18-hour drive, we reached our destination at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ft. Myers.  This would be our base camp for the trip.

The folks at the Hilton Garden Inn did an outstanding job providing us with everything we needed. Photo: Jason Houser

Our accommodations where amazing.  Great chefs, comfortable rooms, friendly staff that were eager to help, and I can’t forget to mention the fresh cookies that were always available at the front desk.  I highly recommend this hotel when you get the chance to visit Ft. Myers.

Our first day in the area allowed us time to do some sightseeing before it was time to rest up for a day of fishing.  The guys and gals thought the best sightseeing would be at the beach, and I agreed.  After a few hours of enjoying the water, it was time to get some sleep, for we had fish to catch the next day.

We couldn’t think of a better way to relax than at the beach. Photo:Jason Houser

Arriving at the docks at Port Sanibel Marina before first light the following morning, Captain Ryan Kane owner of Southern Instinct Charters had his 36-foot Contender ready to hit the water.  While we were fishing, the ladies would be visiting Sanibel Island, experiencing the shopping, food, beautiful beaches, and of course the great shelling the area is known for.

We were going to begin our trip with a 50-mile ride out to where we hoped to hook up on some Snapper.  But, with several hundred horsepower’s of Yamaha pushing the boat, it would be a quick trip.

Arriving where we hoped to catch some Yellowtail Snapper and Grouper, Capt. Ryan and Capt. Trevor Sushil quickly set anchor and begin chumming.  Of course, this type of fishing was new to all of us, so we had a quick lesson on how to fish, and what to expect.

We were quickly on the snapper, but the problem we were facing were the barracudas in the area.  It was a battle between fisherman and barracuda to see who wanted the hooked snapper the worst.  Of course, we did, but more times than we would like, the barracuda took the opportunity to eat our fish before we could get them to the boat.  That is one thing about fishing in these kinds of waters, there is always another fish ready to eat what you have on your line.

It was a frustration, but at the same time it added an extra element of excitement to the adventure.  We caught a couple of the barracuda throughout the excitement.  I have to say that these fish have some teeth, and an odor I have never known a fish to have.

A couple hours into the trip, Tom hooked a nice snapper, but the barracudas were aggressively trying to strip it off the hook.  Tom was reeling like I have never seen a fisherman reel before.  Unfortunately, the barracuda won, and Tom was able to land just the head of the snapper.

Wanting to have a little fun, Trevor hooked the head of the snapper onto a rod and reel combination that was suitable for catching one of these 4-foot barracudas that swam just feet from the boat.  It did not take long for one of these long fish to take the bait, and the fight was on.

A few minutes into the battle, Capt. Ryan made the comment that the barracuda was gone.  Tom knew he was still fighting a big fish, and had to question the Captain’s comment.  He explained to us that the barracuda just got ate by a shark, a big shark.  Now this was not what we expected, and we certainly were not fishing with a rod and reel combo setup for sharks.  We were not in Illinois anymore.

With just a 30-pound leader, the chances of ever landing the shark seemed impossible.  But, Tom was ready to give it a try.  As seconds turned into minutes, then hours, the shark began to show signs of slowing down.  We began to think that we were at least going to be able to get a glimpse of the big fish.

Tom had his hands full fighting the big shark. Photo: Jason Houser

Finally, we caught a glimpse of silver in the depths of the gulf.  Slowly the silver speck turned into the outline of a fish, a big fish.  Ever so slowly, Tom was able to bring the fish to the surface at the boat’s side, and lay a hand on the leader.  The giant fish turned out to be a Bull Shark with an estimated length of 9-feet.

This Bull Shark was the highlight of our fishing. Photo: Jason Houser

The look of excitement and exhaustion on Tom’s face as the fish of a lifetime swam off said it all.  He had the just experienced the fishing opportunity that many anglers will never feel, and he made the most of it.

Ready to move on, we decided to target some Bonitos, a member of the tuna family.  These fish were everywhere, and it was just a matter of getting a lure into the middle of the large schools of fish working the water’s surface.  With just a couple jerks of the lure, we would be hooked up on a fighter.

It was our intention to catch a few Bonitos to be used as bait for bigger fish, but the action was nonstop and we could not leave.  Cast after cast we were hooking into these fish that were fighters like I have never experienced before.  With line screaming from our reels, it was hard to leave the area to go look for fish elsewhere.  A wise fisherman never leaves fish to go look for fish. It turned out that we ended up filleting the fish that many locals release, and were surprised how good they were when cooked to a medium-rare. 

Fifteen hours into the trip we were able to experience fishing like we have never experienced before.  Throughout the day we were fishing in waters with 6-foot waves, but the boat handled it perfectly and no one got sick.  We landed yellowtail snappers, barracudas, and even a bull shark.  What a trip.  If you are interested in fishing with Captain Ryan give him a call at 239-896-2341, or on the web at www.southerninstinct.com

Of course, the Ft. Myers area has a lot more to offer than just fishing.  You can’t come to the area without enjoying fresh seafood.  We ate at several restaurants, but our favorite was Pinchers.  We walked in the doors of Pinchers at The Marina at Edison Ford on empty stomachs, and left with more than satisfied bellies. With fresh seafood caught daily, and several locations to choose from, it is a must to visit one of the restaurants when in the area.

We enjoyed our meal at Pinchers located at The Marina at Edison Ford. Photo: Jason Houser

I reluctantly ordered the soft shell crab dinner.  I was not for sure about eating the whole crab, but once I tried it, it became one of my seafood favorites.  I was able to steal a couple bites of crab cakes off my wife’s plate, and there were no complaints there either.  Without a doubt, the best crab cakes I have ever eaten.

The view overlooking the Caloosahatchee River was beautiful. Photo: Jason Houser

After a lunch overlooking the marina, we made a quick walk to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. 

With over 20 acres of botanical gardens, the walk through the estates was breathtaking.  The women didn’t want to leave.  It was a great opportunity to step back in time to see how a couple of the greatest inventors and business legends lived.

Taking a peek into the homes, you could only imagine what was discussed around the dinner tables at night.  The first inground pool is even on the estate’s property.  Inground pools sure have changed over time.

The highlight of the tour for me was walking into Thomas Edison’s lab.  It was a thrill to see where so many things we take for granted today, were only a thought in a brilliant man’s mind decades ago.

Looking into Thomas Edison’s lab was amazing. Photo: Jason Houser

We chose to take the guided tour so we could learn as much as we could about the estate, but for those of you that would rather go at it alone, there is that opportunity as well with plenty of literature to keep you informed.

After the tour, we decided to backtrack to the marina, and take a boat tour with Pure Florida.  Our wives had yet to be on the water, and we could not think of a better way to spend the remainder of the day.

Our 1 ½ hour cruise on the Caloosahatchee River allowed us to see Mangrove forests, bird rookeries, dolphins, and the Edison & Ford Winter Estates from the water.

Seeing firsthand what the river had to offer was more than we could have hoped for. Photo: Jason Houser

The Pure Florida crew were very knowledgeable of the area, and made the entire cruise not only educating, but fun too.  They also have sunset tours available as well.

The crew at Pure Florida did an exceptional job. Photo: Jason Houser

We went to the Marina of Edison Ford for lunch, but stayed the day.  There was just that much to do. 

Not only is there great food, wonderful lodging, and historical tours in the Ft. Myers area, but there is so much more as we found out.  The area is great for weddings, honeymoons, and family vacations as we witnessed plenty of all.  If you get the opportunity to visit the Ft. Myers/Beaches of Sanibel area, take it. 

 

SIDEBAR

This article started out in my mind to be about our fishing experience, but as I began to write, I could not leave out all the great family opportunities available.  If you would like more information on Pinchers restaurants visit, www.pinchersusa.com.  For Edison & Ford Winter Estates go to www.edisonfordwinterestates.org.  For a great sightseeing tour of the area, www.purefl.com should be your tour of choice.  And of course, for great lodging when you are not seeing the sites or out fishing, rest your head at the Hilton Garden Inn, www.fortmyers.StayHGI.com.  To plan your own adventure, contact the folks at the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau on the web at www.fortmyers-sanibel.com or call 1-800-237-6444.

 

The views off of Ft. Myers are breathtaking.

 

 

               

 

Now’s the Time to Restore Your Dutch Oven [VIDEO]

There’s not a lot going on outside right now. Deer season is over, and turkey season has not yet begun.

If you’re like me, you probably use a Dutch oven alot throughout the year. Now that you have some free time, it might not hurt to restore your Dutch oven.

Check out this video from Field & Stream for helpful tips.

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