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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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February 01, 2017

Spoon-Feeding Pike and Bass

by Bob Banfelder

Part 1 ~ A Nostalgic Moment in Time: The Thousand Islands

One hundred sixteen-years ago, the Lou Eppinger heritage had started. In 1906, Lou hammered out a 2-ounce spoon of his own design, fishing the Ontario frontier. Six years later, Lou had turned his prototype spoon into a successful lure that he named the Osprey. Four years later, in 1918, the name was changed and later became widely-known as the Dardevle. You have probably used one of those tins as a kid. The spoon is easily recognizable by the logo's horns and devilish facial features imprinted on the red and white striped lure. That is, until several toothy denizens of the deep did their thing and marred the face and finish.


Circa 1982 and new 2016 Dardevle Midgets ~ red/white striped 3/16 ounce, nickel back

As a kid, I don't believe I ever made the Dardevle connection to the term daredevil until I became aware of a different form written on the packaging of Drake's Devil Dogs, which I ate voraciously as a child and throughout my adolescence. Interestingly, Dardevle, taken from the German language, Teufel Hunden [or correctly written together as Teufelhunden], became an apocryphal nickname applied to a United States Marine by German soldiers referencing a Marine's fighting ferocity with specific reference to the 4th Marine Brigade and Belleau Woods. When I joined the Corps as a young man, I was most disappointed to learn that there were no Devil Dogs to be found in boot camp, or offered up post-boot camp in the mess hall as dessert, not even in the PX!

Years later, having had my fill of Drake's Devil Dogs, I turned my interests back to hunting and fishing. I had fished from the age of four; hunted (legally) since the age of fourteen. In 1982, I was fishing with family in Gananoque, Ontario; the Canadian gateway to the spectacular Thousand Islands. I was using my go-to Dardevle spoons to nail some nice-sized pike and bass in the shallows. That was thirty-five years ago. Wow! Yeah, time certainly does fly by when you're havin' fun—fishin'.

Donna and I navigated out of Brown's Creek, then up, down, and around the heart of the 1000 Islands section of the St. Lawrence River. We cruised all the way to Kingston, partway up the Rideau Canal, then back downstream to Brockville and beyond. The August nights were cool, a perfect time of year to enjoy some serious fishing. One island in the chain is suitably named Camelot. Paradise personified. A fishing utopia awaited us just a short island hop to the northeast. The northwest section of Gordon Island provided the serious angler with some of the most fantastic northern pike and largemouth bass fishing to be had anywhere in the area. It was also the quieter side of the island to dock as boaters tended to congregate along the south central docks, somewhat protected from the prevailing west wind. But even on a windy day, the L-shaped northwest dock (accommodating three boats back then) posed no problem save a gentle undulating motion.

Immediately to the east sat a solitary dock that actually accommodated two boats, but as the adjacent side was painted yellow, and therefore reserved, yet seldom used by Park's personnel, it afforded perfect privacy and was one of the hottest fishing spots in the area for pike and bass. However, it was not necessary to nest ourselves there if either of these docks was occupied because the entire several hundred yards of shoreline was indeed productive, along with Jackstraw Island to the north and Jackstraw Shoal to the west. The key to one's success was a willingness to rise early, quietly working the shoreline. And as both these fighting fish, especially pike, have a propensity to strike red and white striped spoons, well—you've practically put fillets in the skillet.


The author with a morning's catch in the Thousand Islands

The secret in preparing pike is simple; the timing crucial. It was revealed to me by a soul who could have passed himself off as a native guide, sporting two-weeks growth of beard and an uncanny ability to locate and catch northern pike as long as your arm, along with largemouth bass whose mouths are as large as a man's fist.

The man was actually a dentist from Philadelphia who annually immersed his whole being into a fortnight of action-packed fishing and camping on Gordon Island every August for several summers. After taking Donna and me into his camp and confidence referencing a fishing hot spot, he demonstrated the art of filleting pike by quickly running a razor-sharp fillet blade along both sides of the bony contour, discarding the skeletal remains, resembling some sort of prodigious prehistoric tooth. Turning the strips over, he swiftly swept the blade beneath the flesh, separating skin and scales and forming perfect fillets. Lifting and placing them into a hot skillet, he invoked his magic with a modicum of seasonings.

"Little but equal amounts of extra virgin olive oil and margarine because butter burns," he stated solemnly. "If you don't fillet them, by the time the flesh cooks to the bone, the outside is already tough and you lose the sweet, juicy flavor. Bass, you don't need to fillet." He turned the pike fillets over the hot open fire as soon as the fleshy meat turned white. "Best tasting fish ever," he declared. The smell of the sizzling fillets was as heavenly as the stars under which we sat. In short order, we were all feasting on very flavorful fish—pike and bass. "Best tasting fish ever," he repeated. "Yes?" Through a protracted silence, I nodded the man's pronouncement in sincere agreement, eating contently. Donna seconded his sentiments.

Armed with a newfound knowledge and an eagerness shared by my almost ten-year-old son and Donna, the three of us were ready by 4:30 a.m., attaching the necessary wire leaders to our 8- and 10-pound-test monofilament lines. Checking our drags, we quietly began working the shoreline downstream, applying new lessons learned from that marvelous mentor from Philadelphia.

The water proved a perfect mirror, reflecting images of overhanging branches and a solitary green heron gliding across the surface. We casted and retrieved our red and white striped Dardevle spoons for a good thirty minutes before listing a multitude of excuses. And then it started to happen. Slowly at first. Large swirls out all around us. Then closer. Fish feeding frantically. Suddenly a fish broke the surface—its magnificent outline rising with our expectations. Jason casted some 20 yards to the right of the swirl. Three cranks of the reel, and there came a tug; then nothing. The retrieve produced a long length of weed.

"Don't give the lure time to hit the bottom," I instructed excitedly. "Start reeling as soon as it hits the water."

Another cast and a sudden strike. Jason instinctively set the hook securely. The drag screamed violently—then stopped as Jason gained some line. The rod bent almost frightfully, and the drag screamed insanely. It was certainly a good-size fish. Jason was losing more line than he was gaining. I scrambled for the net, praying that I'd have the chance to use it. The boy was beginning to tire of this give-and-take situation and needed words of encouragement.

"The fish is beginning to tire," I stated resolutely.
"My wrist," he pleaded.
"Keep reeling—you're gaining some line back."

Another run—straight down deep. Frustration turned to exasperation.

"Get that rod tip up. Higher. Now reel! Pump him gently . . . That's it. Now you're gaining on him."

A series of grunts and groans followed, accompanied by my son's reeling and pumping action. After what seemed an eternity, a long torpedo-like missile began to emerge. Exploding the surface, it shook violently against the rim of the too-small net that I held. Carefully ladling its lower extremity, I quickly swung the beautiful prize over and into the boat.

"A fantastic fish! You did great, J. Really great," I offered proudly.

A very weary but exulted young fisherman wholeheartedly agreed, smiling down breathlessly at his first respectable northern pike.

A half hour later, I picked up a nice pike, and Jason hooked into a good size bass. Of course, Donna had us all beat. She does that. Then Jason was on another fish. After a very long and serious tug of war between bass and boy, it appeared that Jason would be the overzealous victor; but at the last moment, as the fish appeared on the surface, it thrashed about defiantly—shaking the spoon clear. The 4-pounder fell back into the dark waters and disappeared. But persistence rewarded my son generously with a nice largemouth in the 3½-pound class. Before the sun rose over the top of the island, I had caught and released a smallmouth bass. Donna, as almost always, had caught the first, the biggest, and the most.

After a gourmet breakfast of fresh fish and buttery biscuits, followed by a refreshing late morning swim, Jason and I decided to try our luck at catching some nice size perch and sunfish we spied swimming in and around a dock. Within an hour, we had caught and released some two dozen panfish.

Excellent panfishing was enjoyed during the day, especially for the more conservative angler, as no special equipment or time schedule was adhered to. Fishing from almost any dock produced sunfish, rockbass, and perch in abundance. Also, shady spots along the shore near rocks, stumps, and weeds were likely places. Even a dropline is sufficient and will provide hours of excitement and enjoyment for young children. One simple fact to remember is that a small hook, with a small piece of worm, will catch more panfish than a big hook with a gob of worm attached. Interestingly, our small Dardevle spoons out-produced live bait.

The evenings, especially just before dark, tended to be quite buggy. Of course, the bass and pike were out there along with those miserable mosquitoes. Although you can secure a fair catch in the late afternoon without being eaten alive, you will most assuredly be certain to miss out on more productive fishing by packing it in too early. A simple remedy to the situation was a long sleeved garment, a good insect repellent for the hands, and a hat with a mosquito net that fits securely around the crown, protecting your face and neck. Good to go.

Tomorrow we'll continue by addressing SAVVY RIGGING REQUIREMENTS FOR SPOONS, so please stay tuned.

Bob Banfelder
https://www.robertbanfelder.com

Award-Winning
Crime-Thriller Novelist & Outdoors Writer

Member: Outdoor Writers Association of America
New York State Outdoor Writers Association
Long Island Outdoor Communicators Network

Cablevision TV Host Special Interests with Robert Banfelder & Donna Derasmo

Bi-monthly contributor to Nor'east Saltwater ~ presented on the 1st & 2nd of every month.


Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format


Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format

March 01, 2015

Four Essential Kitchen Tools: For Fish, Fowl & Meaty Favorites

by Bob Banfelder

Four indispensable pieces of equipment that positively belong in your kitchen are a food slicer, meat tenderizer, meat grinder, and vacuum sealer. Through the years, I have prepared many fine meals by utilizing these essential machines. I could not have done nearly as neat or as efficient a job without them. They go hand in hand to not only help produce gourmet-quality fare, but to also aid in eye-appealing presentations upon the finished plate. But to merely mention these four items rather than specifically elaborate on the important elements to be considered before selecting such equipment for home use would be foolish of me because you'd likely be wasting your hard-earned money in the long run. So let's home in on what's important before purchasing these items.

Pictured below are three Cabela's machines that are employed in our kitchen: an electric food slicer with tilted stand for easy cleanup, stainless steel blade (left); an all-important commercial-grade vacuum sealer, which is a godsend for preserving foods for extended periods (middle); a heavy-duty electric meat grinder (right). As you pretty much get what you pay for in this world of ours, of the three Cabela's machines shown, I'd strongly suggest purchasing the best model of the commercial-grade vacuum sealer that you can afford because of its importance. If you are an angler/hunter, planning to put up both fish and game through the four seasons, you want a top-quality machine that will last many years. During the fishing season, I fillet and freeze a fair amount of fish for our family to enjoy over those cold winter months (like this past January and February): striped bass, fluke, porgies, blackfish, black sea bass, (one of my favorites), eel, mackerel, shad, tuna, and—yes—even bluefish. Keep in mind, too, that you can take advantage of fish, poultry, and weekly meat sales offered at your local supermarkets and specialty shops throughout the year. Simply seal, freeze, and savor for a later date. A top-quality vacuum sealer is of paramount importance. You can easily keep fish for a year without the threat of freezer burn; meat for two years. Amazing.


Cabela's Electric Slicer, Vacuum Sealer, and Meat Grinder

Next is Cabela's meat grinder, which I not only use for making venison sausage and burgers in the fall and winter months, I also operate the machine to produce fresh, flavorful fishcakes through the spring and summer. With that kind of a four-season workout, you would not want to purchase just any meat grinder; you'd want to purchase a heavy-duty electric meat grinder for all occasions: fish, fowl, and meaty favorites. This will facilitate matters and ensure the unit's longevity. With an eye on heavy-duty quality equipment for home use, do not envision machinery that is going to break the bank and send you to the poorhouse, for companies such as Cabela's offer different grades of heavy-duty/commercial equipment.

Pictured below is a bowl of freshly mixed seafood for the finest fishcakes this side of Riverhead, Long Island. Its ingredients are comprised of fresh and/or fresh-frozen cherrystone clams, blue claw crabs, bluefin tuna (all from our local waters), herbs, vegetables, and secret seasonings. Cabela's heavy-duty meat grinder includes a 3mm (fine), 4.5mm (medium), and an 8mm (coarse) stainless steel grinding plate to allow for desired consistency. The unit includes other accoutrements for additional uses.


Grinding Fish for Fish Cakes

Last but not necessarily least in the Cabela's kitchen-trio lineup is a stainless steel electric food slicer. Apart from slicing meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and hard breads, the machine comes in very handy for preparing sushi and/or sashimi. One process begins with thick, frozen fillets, slightly thawed for a semi-firm consistency, as the section will now easily pass through the slicer. Your prep work is cut [key word] dramatically. You can make thin slices for sushi rolls, thicker pieces for sashimi, slice precise cuts of fresh cucumber, avocado, asparagus, carrot, et cetera. I make delectable sushi rolls but with one caveat. I'll explain in a moment.

Last weekend we were invited to our good friends' home, Chris and Candy Paparo, to chow down on some fantastic sushi rolls and sashimi. The couple has their act down pat and work together as a team. Chris had caught the fish in Alaska this past July; namely, rockfish and salmon. He had done the prep work before we arrived. Candy put the rolls together like a pro. Retraction. She is a pro; an artist at work. I stood over her shoulder in their kitchen, asking a question every now and again, making sure she wasn't holding back on any secret(s): Asian condiments to be shared. Cutting the rolls, too, is an art; believe me. Chris worked deftly with a sharp, wet knife, arranging the fare on a platter before we all sat down to a satisfying sushi/sashimi feast as pictured below. By the way, if you enjoy nature photography, follow Chris on Facebook/Instagram at Fish Guy Photos and visit www.fishguyphotos.com.


Splendid Sushi and Sashimi

Although my own sushi rolls are delicious, they are just not up to par when compared to Chris and Candy's presentation; therefore, Donna and I do not put ours out for company—just yet. As Chris and Candy reside just across the Riverhead town line, I can still hold firm to the fact that I make the finest fishcakes along with, well . . . fair to middling-looking sushi rolls this side of Riverhead.

Lastly, I would like to introduce you to a marvelous tool that is worth its weight in mako meat. The Jaccard. It is a must-have implement for the kitchen. Billed as a meat tenderizing machine, it is an invaluable piece of equipment with which to brine or marinate red meat, poultry, and fish for the smoker. It will cut your brining and marinating time by forty percent; cooking time by half. For expediency, I wouldn't be caught preparing fare without this handy-dandy tool. For example, whereas whole cocktail-size blues or fillets ordinarily require approximately six hours of brining time (twelve hours for very thick fillets or larger whole fish), you can cut that curing time nearly in half by first using the Jaccard. The Jaccard is available in two models: a mini Jaccard with one row of sixteen blades; the larger model has three rows of sixteen blades; i.e., forty-eight blades. Donna and I elected to purchase the larger model and are certainly glad we did.


Jaccard Meat Tenderizer

Check out Cabela's Outfitters at www.cabelas.com for the aforementioned units as well as www.jaccard.com for this handy tenderizing device. Detailed methods for brining and smoking fish, in addition to several gourmet seafood recipes, can be found in my book titled The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water, available online at www.amazon.com.




Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller/Mystery Author & Outdoors Writer
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Co-host, Cablevision TV, Special Interests with Bob & Donna
www.robertbanfelder.com



May 01, 2014

North Fork's Fresh Fish & Loaves of Fine Breads

by Bob Banfelder

Last month's report referencing the Riverhead Farmers' Market in downtown Riverhead received a good deal of attention. Therefore, I allowed it to mushroom (pun intended) into a second foodie article covering the month of May. You'll recall that I wrote a piece for April highlighting the Long Island Mushroom Company, Inc. of Cutchogue, abbreviated LIM, which is owned and operated by John Quigley and Jane Maguire.

This month's report shall feature two specific booths at the Riverhead Farmers' Market, offering items near and dear to many of our hearts: local fresh fish and wholesome fresh baked breads for the multitude of folk. Just add your favorite wine for a worthy repast. But before you subliminally conger up Christ-like images or perhaps wonder if I am going to proselytize and/or launch my own ministry, take solace in that I but solely plan to put you on the path to fine fare. As a matter of fact, the path is short in that both stalls are adjacent to one another; that is, fish and breads. You may purchase these fresh and delectable products on Saturdays from 11a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Riverhead Farmers' Market, located at 117 East Main Street in downtown Riverhead. After being open for only a month, the market became so popular that the town plans to expand as well as extend the operation past the projected May 17th date—on through November.

The indoor Riverhead Farmers' Market opened in February of this year at the former Swezey's department store on East Main Street. In addition to the purveyors who take pride and part in the indoor market, organizer Holly Browder said the market expects to add a few more local vegetable farms for the summer season, including Garden of Eve, Mar-gene Organic Farm, and Invincible Summer Farm. The current level of 35 vendors will increase to 50 in the summer. Browder said that after November the market may move into a different location and larger storefront on the same street.

First off, let's go fishing for fine seafood at the downtown Riverhead Farmers' Market. Easy parking is accessible at the rear of the building, which is set along the beautiful Peconic River. Be sure to take a stroll along the boardwalk before or after shopping. As you enter from the rear, you will find Meredith Daniell and her display of fresh fish and shellfish to your immediate left.



Merken Fisheries boasts a proud family-owned and operated commercial fishing business that provides sumptuous seafood from their decks to your lunch or dinner plate, not that I haven't chowed down on a seafood omelet at 6 a.m. before hitting the surf, river, or a trout stream. Whether it is breakfast or brunch, lunch or dinner, fish and shellfish have a place at your table. Meredith Daniell of Merken Fisheries in Hampton Bays brings to Riverhead the company's fresh-caught seafood from our local waters, including sea scallops just off the boat at 8 a.m. By 11 a.m., you will find Meredith purveying a tasty selection of seafood.

The commercial vessel F/V Lady J is out of Shinnecock, and captained by Captain Kenneth Jayne. His first mate (when she's not busy with other responsibilities) is Meredith Daniell. Meredith's helper at Riverhead Farmer's Market is Kaitlyn, pictured here with Meredith. What you can expect to find during the season are locally caught cod, yellowtail flounder, fluke, monkfish, ocean perch, swordfish, clams and sea scallops. Included are tuna, wild salmon, and shrimp brought in from other areas.



Among several meanings of name and origin, I guess it would be apropos to pigeonhole Meredith (taken from Welsh) as Guardian of the Sea, or at the very least, master of all she purveys. Good to go. Fine product, Meredith.

****************

Adjacent to the fish concession at the Riverhead Farmers' Market, you will find Renée Duarte, an employee representing the Blue Duck Bakery Café. Donna and I have been dealing with Renée at the Riverhead store since December of 2012, which is located at 309 East Main Street. The company's owners are Nancy and Keith Kouris, also with stores in Southold and Southampton. So if shopping at the Riverhead Farmers' Market does not fit in with Saturday's11a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule, you have a few options. Check them out at their three locations.



The only item shy from your fish, bread, and wine repast would be a nice cheese. Well, the Riverhead Farmers' Market has virtually everything you need to prepare a fantastic spread, including wonderful cheeses. This is one-stop shopping under a single roof: fish, bread, wine, cheeses, salad greens, vegetables, gourmet spreads, preserves, Italian delicacies, ad infinitum.

Blue Duck Bakery artisan breads are truly fantastic; the selection is wonderful: ciabatta, baguette, brioche, pain pugliese, semolina, Tuscan, et cetera. There are positively no preservatives, stabilizers or dough conditioners added. Hence, these loaves are to be eaten soon after purchase. What these breads do contain are unbromated, unbleached flour, water, sea salt and natural leavenings. Rather than lecture you on the positive aspects of unbromated, unbleached flour in baking bread, let me succinctly state that the United States FDA is more concerned about special interests than it is consumer interests. Bromated flour has been banned in the United Kingdom. Of course, lots of TLC is the not-so-secret added ingredient alluded to on the Blue Duck Bakery Café's web site. Allow me to excerpt from their web page regarding what is quite germane so that you will enjoy their genuinely fresh baked breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and pastries:

[Artisan breads are created by hand in the centuries old tradition of European bakers. The technique and observation of sensitivity of the artisan baker produce distinctive and personalized loaves. Artisan bread may differ from day to day and loaf to loaf with variations in shape, color and texture due to human touch and the breads' organic nature. Each loaf is formed by hand, assessed by the eye and subject to the baker's judgment at every step.

The Blue Duck Bakery Café bakes our own signature line of artisan breads as well as the finest quality pastries and cakes. Our bakery products are made fresh daily on premises, under the expertise and direct guidance of Keith Kouris, master baker with over 25 years of experience and a graduate of the French Culinary Institute's International Bread Baking Program.

Storage for our breads: Artisan breads should be eaten as soon as possible for the best flavor and texture. After slicing and if you will be eating more bread the same day, you may store the bread cut-side down on the counter. Moisture is a crusty bread's worst enemy, so if you must store your bread, place it in a paper bag and then inside a plastic bag sealed tightly. Do not refrigerate. You may freeze it stored this way for up to one week. After defrosting, refresh your bread by wrapping it in foil and placing it in a 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes.]

There you have it, folks. North Fork's one-stop shopping on Saturdays from 11a.m. to 3p.m. at the Riverhead Farmers' Market. Two suggestions to make life easier: bring a tote bag and arrive a half hour earlier for best selections.

Ah, just when I thought I was finished with this report, Tom Schlichter, outdoors columnist for Newsday, arrives at the door for a taping of Special Interests with Bob & Donna, our monthly Cablevision (Channel 20) show. Tom turns up with treats before we get started taping: a nice piece of salmon seasoned with cHarissa, an "authentic" Moroccan-influenced spice. cHarissa comes in powder as well as liquid form; package (3 oz., $6) or jar (9oz., $12). Too, both items are offered either mild or hot. I've been hearing a great deal about this spice. It is indeed versatile in that it may be used on virtually everything! For example, fish, meat (great on game), vegetables, pasta, and cheese. The seasoned piece of salmon that Donna and I greedily shared was absolutely fantastic. Vegans are in for a special treat as cHarissa when added to humus or mayonnaise will pleasantly surprise your palate. This is a condiment that positively belongs in your kitchen, for it is a winner.



And guess what? These package and jar spices are also featured at the Farmers' Market, midway on the left as you enter through the rear of the building. Look for Liz Clayton and be sure to say hello.

For further information about cHarissa, Google Tom Schlichter's Web Site: www.outdoortom.com.


Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller Novelist, Outdoors Writer & Creator of a Unique Writing Course Guide
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Cablevision TV Show Host, Special Interests with Bob & Donna
www.robertbanfelder.com











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