Manila Clam Pasta on the Grill!

DeerAgainstOceanWebsize“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.” ~ Christopher Reeve

One thing learning how to hunt and fish has given me is a real sense of pride in providing for myself. I know I still buy a large majority of my groceries from the super market, and I am not trying to say I go out and cut all my own wood to heat my home. I am not suddenly “living off the grid.” But I do know I am developing into someone who appreciates knowing where my food is coming from. This year, I opted to grow a larger garden, and have learned how to process and can much of what I harvest. I rarely buy beef from the super market because I have my own supply of elk, deer and pronghorn. It is very satisfying!

When I visited my sister in Washington this past month, I was excited to see what new things I could catch, prepare, and make a fantastic meal from. My sister lives along a bay in the Puget Sound. She essentially has the ocean at her backdoor and access to an abundance of amazing seafood, such as oysters, crabs, salmon, mussels, and clams. We spent a morning while the tide was out digging for creatures in the mud flats. Our catch was plentiful. We prepared Kumamoto oyster shooters one night and a manila clam pasta another. Seafood, in my opinion, is always a treat, but nothing can compare to fresh caught seafood.

Manila clams are actually an imposter to the Washington ocean ecosystem. They are native to Japan and were accidentally introduced to the salty seas of the Washington coast line in oyster shipments. They can be found all along the Pacific coast line of the United States, and are actually a welcome addition to the waters because they are delicious! The clams are identified by their oval shaped shells with heavy ridge lines running the horizontal length of the shell.

ClamsSauceinPanThe worst part about eating clams is the sand! Nothing, and I mean nothing, is worse than biting into the tender meat of a clam and feeling that sand grind between the surfaces of your teeth. I can’t count the bowls of clam chowder I have had ruined by sand. So awful! On that note, you can see why it is very important to properly clean the clams. Clams are siphon eaters. Through their little bi-valve systems, they filter in sand and separate out tiny micro-organisms. To clean out this sand, place the clams in a bucket and cover it with salt water. You can use freshwater, but the clams can only be in freshwater for a certain amount of time before they die, usually no more than a couple of hours. Let the clams sit in the bucket for at least an hour. I let mine hang out overnight. During this time, the clams will continue to filter feed, but since there is not any sand in the bucket, they will only filter in water and will push out the sand still hanging out in their system. This works great! After you have let the clams filter for a while, be sure to scrub off the outside shells too.

ClamsonGrillYou also want the clams to be alive before you cook them. Dead clams can make you sick. So, after cleaning the clams, look for open shells. If you tap the clam gently against a hard surface it should close. Any shells that do not close should be discarded.

Preheat the barbecue with a large mound of coals. You want the grill hot and the heat in the center.

In a large aluminum pan, pour in a cup of white wine, half a cup of extra virgin olive oil (go for the good stuff!), five cloves of minced garlic, and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.  Add the cleaned clams to the pan and cover with aluminum foil. Let the pan cook on the grill for ten minutes.

While the clams are roasting away, start a pot of water for the linguine. You could actually use whatever type of pasta you fancy: spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccini.  I went with linguini because it is a bit thicker than spaghetti and that seemed like a good idea with an oil based pasta sauce. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, which just means that the pasta is still firm when you bite into it, and not overly mushy.

After ten minutes, pull the foil from the clams and give everything a quick stir. Return the foil cover and allow the clams to cook an additional ten minutes. By this time, the clams should mostly be ready. Pull out all the clams that have opened. If there are any remaining closed clams, allow them to continue cooking a few more minutes. If they still do not open, discard them. They are bad clams! Reserve all the liquid from the pan, as this will be your pasta sauce.

Place the pasta into a large bowl and top it with the clams. Pour the juices from the aluminum pan over the pasta and clams. Sprinkle chopped basil leaves over the entire dish. Finally, squeeze the juice of half a lemon and you are ready to eat!

ClamsinBowl

I have to say it: this dish was so amazing! I was really, really impressed with how delicious it was. Manila clams are very sweet in flavor and have a wonderful texture. But for me, the best part was the broth that was created from steaming the clams over the grill. The salty seawater from the clams mingled with the dry white wine and the olive oil creating a beautiful sauce. The best way I can describe it is it tastes like the ocean. It is fantastic!

ClamsFinalDish

Happy Hunting!

Manila Clam Pasta on the Grill!

Cook Time: 20 minutes

4-5 servings

Manila Clam Pasta on the Grill!

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 dozen manila clams
  • 1 pound linguini pasta
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 a lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat outdoor grill to high heat.
  2. In a disposable aluminum pan, add white wine, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir until wine and olive oil have combined.
  3. Drop in clams. If there are any clams that do not close when lightly tapped, discard them.
  4. Cover pan with foil and grill for ten minutes.
  5. While clams are grilling, start a large pot of water boiling. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
  6. Uncover clams and stir. Return foil cover and cook additional ten minutes.
  7. Uncover clams and pull out all clams that have opened. Any clams still closed should be covered and cooked an additional few minutes. If at this point, the clams have still not opened discard these clams.
  8. Reserve the cooking liquid from the clams.
  9. Place linguini in a large bowl and top with clams. Pour all the reserved liquid from the aluminum pan. Give the pasta and clams a light toss.
  10. Sprinkle over chopped basil and squeeze lemon juice over the top.
  11. Enjoy!
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Seeking Solitude: Stream Fishing

StreamFishingCreek“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” ~ Paul Tillich

I spent some time up in the mountains this past weekend. I gathered up my pole and some tackle, a few snacks and some water, and my hiking boots. I took my time driving the hour trip along a bumpy dirt road. I passed a few spots I knew were places I considered “easy fishing,” and I instead continued on in search of new and different holes. I reached the summit of the dusty road, and it was here I encountered a stream I had many times contemplated fishing but had never “found the time to do so.”

I pulled out my pole, knotted a hook on the end, weaved on a worm, and dropped my line into the lazy moving stream water. I watched as it drifted slowly along, bobbing every so often, and finally rested in a small catch of grass. I dropped down into a seated position, folding my legs underneath me, and prepared for an afternoon of solitude.

StreamFishingDandelionMany people say fishing is boring. It is a lot of waiting, a lot of sitting, a lot of silence, and a lot of not catching anything. I can see how fishing appears to be a very boring activity. There isn’t much physical movement needed. If the fishing isn’t going well there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, as it is just the way the day is going to be. I sometimes joke with others that fishing is like taking a much needed nap. You can drop that line, close your eyes, and literally fall asleep. Don’t worry, the pole jiggle will wake you up. Sometimes that is what we need: a quiet, mountain air nap.

StreamFishingPoleWhile the fishing nap is definitely a perk to fishing, I actually find fishing to be where I find my solitude. Our world is filled with noise, lights, and physical stimulus. We are constantly looking at our bright, lit up phones and listening to the loud sounds of traffic. Every task we do is filled with so much stimulus. Take for example a simple trip to the grocery store. The lights in the store are florescent, and every package you look at is covered in bright colors explaining nutrition and ingredient information. There are the beeping sounds of the cashiers, the loud speaker announcements, the background music you probably don’t even notice but is playing continuously the entire time you wander down aisle after aisle. You are bumping into people, excusing yourself for getting in other’s ways, chatting with friends you find in the dairy section. Your mind is trying to accomplish maneuvering through the store while also remembering that you need toilet paper and chicken stock. It really can be an over-stimulating nightmare!

For me, stream fishing is my break from all of that. The only noises I hear are the different birds practicing their calls, the wind subtly crawling through the branches and leaves of the aspen tree, and the water rushing below my feet, carrying my line slowly down the stream. The only things I see are the bright blue sky filled with puffy white clouds and the ever-reaching mountain peaks. And the only thing on my mind is fishing. I don’t worry about the emails I need to check, or if someone “liked” my Facebook status. I don’t care what is happening at work. I am not worried who will be president. I’m not even worried about what I will have for dinner that night. Somehow at that moment, everything seems like it will work itself out and my only concern is to watch that pole tip, waiting for that jiggle.

An empty mind can be a beautiful thing! I highly suggest everyone do a little stream fishing this weekend.

Happy Fishing!

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Humpy Fishing in the San Juan Islands

Seaweed “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” ~John Buchan

No story is more circular than that of the salmon. Salmon begin their life in the freshwater streams that flow from high, crisp mountain tops to the vast ocean. After emerging from their tiny sacs, some will spend a year or more journeying the course of the fresh water towards the ocean, using the shadows of foliage, boulders, and logs to hide from the numerous predators they encounter along the way. Their bodies mature from one that thrives in freshwater to an ocean worthy, fully-scaled body. Once their evolution is complete, the salmon emerge into the ocean.  Depending on the species, they live at sea anywhere from eighteen months to over eight years. No one is sure how or why, but after their stint at sea, the salmon suddenly become homeward bound, returning to their natal stream. Their sleek, silver frames transform and the males develop vibrant colors and grotesquely hooked jaws. Upon returning to their birthing grounds, the females build small gravel nests while the males engage in battles, hoping to win the opportunity to mate with females. Once the new fertilized eggs have been laid, the salmon die. Their bodies feed and nourish the stream bed sheltering their next generation of offspring. The cycle begins again.

I love the story of the salmon. Their life cycle truly reflects that life is short, but that there is a purpose for everything we do during and at the end of our life. While we were fishing in the San Juan Islands this summer, I was able to see pink salmon, locally referred to as humpies, in the different phases of their maturation. Some of the fish we pulled from the ocean were small and covered in silver scales. Their shape was very linear and clean, and their jaws were small. Others were building into their final fight bodies, with their backs swelling into large humps and bottom jaw curling up almost over their snout.

Unlike some of the other salmon types, the humpies have a very short life cycle. Upon emerging from their egg sac, they immediately work towards the sea and spend very little time in freshwater. They mature in the ocean for a short eighteen months and then make the long, final trek back up their natal stream. In the islands, this means the humpies make a “run” every other year. You can still catch some humpies during the even numbered years, but the odd numbered years are when the fish are hitting hard and often.

buzzbombhot_pink_1789_generalDirectly before the pink salmon return to streams, they quit eating. This may not seem like an important detail, and I guess when talking about fishing it isn’t really important but it is interesting. I point out that the humpies quit eating because it begs the question: “Then how do you catch one?” When fishing, we tend to think about what would be appetizing to the fish. What is just going to get his belly rumbling. But the humpies aren’t eating, so nothing should be appetizing to them, right? Right. However, they are in a very aggressive state, and they are looking to fight. So, when fishing for humpies, you want to use a bright pink lure because apparently they despise pink lures and instantly want to attack it, or so the tale goes. My recommendation is the pink buzz bomb.

The man at the store directed me on the best kind of line, a monofilament with 8 pound test, barbless hooks, which are required when fishing in the San Juan Islands, and the pink bomb. He said, “If nothing else, grab a handful of pink bombs and the humpies will hit all day.” I grabbed two from the shelf and was on my way.

I went fishing for salmon in a lake boat. Normally I would never recommend taking a Sea Ray lake boat out on the ocean, but the San Juan Islands are protected from the open ocean, and while the currents can get nasty and you have to watch the wind kicking up, it is very similar to jetting around on a lake, a very large lake, but a lake nonetheless. While waiting for the down riggers to get set-up, I threaded on my pink buzz bomb and lazily casted from the side of the boat. Within a few minutes I had a bite! And within another few, I pulled in a humpy! He was small, but he was a humpy! We trolled the rest of the day with both down riggers out and with hand-held poles. Both set-ups were successful, but I have to admit, the down rigger brought in a bit bigger fish. It also brought in a beautiful ocean rock fish, which we released since you are not able to keep them.

RockFish HumpieinNet

The daddy fish of the day was a nice seven pound humpy that was starting to mature for heading to freshwater. His jaw was starting to curl and his back was swelling into a noticeable hump. Coming from an area where the big fish is considered two or three pounds, this was a treat to reel in. The humpies put up a great fight all the way to boat, and the play you get using light tackle makes the fight that much more exciting. BigHumpieinNet

Well, I better get started on smoking some salmon now! It is calling my name!
Happy Fishing!

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Cleaning Up Those Dungies! – A Step by Step Guide to Cleaning Dungeness Crab

WholeCrab“I would be the simple fisherman in Perseus village. He lives a quiet life, brings in crab pots and is extremely happy.” ~Sam Worthington

One of the more difficult parts to learn when taking up hunting and fishing is how to clean the animals. For many families, hunting and fishing are family traditions, and parents and grandparents teach the skills and techniques for hunting to the younger generations. Being a novice hunter and not having a background full of hunting and fishing trips to pull experience from can make tasks such as cleaning a deer seem very daunting.

The nice thing about cleaning and prepping your game though, is it is something that can be learned and with practice become second nature. I have assisted with cleaning an elk, and to be honest, it was hard! The animal is so heavy and cumbersome, and the hide dulls your knife quite quickly, so you are constantly sharpening the blade. And it makes a GIANT mess and takes hours to do! That was just to field dress the animal. Once we arrived home and let the animal hang for a couple weeks, we had even more work to do! Like I said, it is hard work!

Cleaning crab is easy! I actually think it was a very good experience for me in learning to clean an animal properly. After assisting with two or three crabs, I was able to complete the rest as though it were “second nature.”. It does make quite a mess, but the clean up isn’t too bad. The only down side, I would say, is it kind of smells like crab in your kitchen for a good couple hours, which coming from the desert was an odd smell to have stick around, but it wasn’t too bad.

There are actually two ways you can clean the crab: 1)cook the crab whole and then clean, or 2) clean the crab first and then cook. I prefer the first method because it is much less messy. You can do either way you prefer though. So, first you need a large stock pot full of water, and bring it to a boil. Once the water is rolling good, drop the entire crab in and cover with a lid. Depending on the size of your pot, you can boil more than one crab at a time. I was able to do four in my pot. Set the timer for 15 minutes if the crabs are between a pound and half to two and half pounds and for 20 minutes if they are more around the three pound mark, and you can tell they are finished because their shells will be a vibrant red color. Run cool water over the cooked crabs and allow them to sit in the sink a bit, they are VERY hot to handle when they come out of the water.

So, once you can handle those babies, it is time to start cleaning dungies! To start, flip the crab over on the back and look for the abdominal flap. It is located on the center of the crab’s bottom side and starts near the rear of the crab and runs towards the eyes. It is the same flap used to identify the gender of the crab. Grab the tip of the abdominal flap and pull it towards you. Remove the entire flap.

AbdominalFlapRemoval

Once you have removed the abdominal flap, flip the crab over and grab at the back end of the crab along the top shell where you just removed the abdominal flap. Pull the entire top of the crab shell off. It should come off in one large piece, leaving behind the legs and internal parts of the crab.

Shelloff

With some crabs, such as the Blue Crab that is served in Maryland and along the Chesapeak Bay, the crab is served whole and people break open the shell of the crab tableside and enjoy the internal parts of the crab. Don’t knock it until you try it! It is definitely dinner and a show at Maryland crab house restaurants. The tables are usually covered with white paper, which after you see the mess you will make you understand the need for disposable tablecloths, and the waiter brings you a large cafeteria tray piled high with boiled crabs dressed in Old Bay Seasoning. You are given a miniature wooden mallet, crab crackers, and plenty of napkins. At this point, you just go at it busting crabs and hunting for meat. It is crazy fun and delicious. Unfortunately, Dungeness crab are not quite as much fun to eat.

I don’t know of anyone that eats the internal parts of the Dungeness, but I guess it might happen. For our purposes though, I am going to clean the internal parts of the crab out before storing or eating my crab. So, with your thumbs and under running water, push out anything that is green, black, slimy, gooey, yucky, or gill looking. The idea is to end up with the crab looking clean. Now, there is meat in the “knuckles” of the crab, which are located where the legs attach to the body of the crab. That meat is good, so don’t throw it out.

Cleaninginside

Okay, so once everything looks pretty and nice, break the legs into two pieces right down the center. Viola! You now have two beautiful crab legs ready for eating or storing. These legs would look delicious served next to a juicy ribeye steak or New York strip. Or if you are looking to store them, two crabs, or four legs, fit into a gallon-size freezer bag and they will hold in the freezer for about a month. I have read you can keep them for up to six months, but I personally think the flavor and texture of the crab really starts to change after about a month. The legs tend to get kind of mushy and the smell of crab becomes a bit overwhelming.

ReadytoStore

That is all I have! So, start boiling up your Dungeness crab and get to eatin!

If anyone wants know more or needs advice on their first Washington crabbing experience feel free to email me at 12gaugegirl@huntingandcooking.com.

Happy Hunting!

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Crabbing in the San Juan Islands

Bouy
“You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.” ~ Aristophanes

I am not a morning person. I struggle with getting out of bed. I can recall a story from the past (okay, it was just last spring) where I may or may not have elected to stay in bed during the turkey hunt, and everyone returned about an hour later with toms slung over their shoulders. I did get to sleep in though. Totally worth it, right?

Okay, okay, not worth it. I am working on the getting up early thing, because we all know that animals tend to be more active in the early morning and late afternoon to evening. I know that when I pull myself out of my warm sleeping cocoon, rub the sleep angrily out of my eyes, pour a cup of warm, steamy coffee and complain to everyone around that getting up early is the worst idea ever, I ALWAYS have a much more productive day. I may not end the day with filling my tag, but I always have more bites on my fishing line, see more game, and have a plethora of stories to share upon my return to camp.

That being said, I still hate getting up early. And if you are like me and hate getting up early, then you will adore crabbing. Crabbing does not require getting up early! There is no advantage to throwing your covers off at the first peek of morning sunlight and racing off to pull your crab pot. It is an activity designed for ANY time of the day. I love it!

Throughout the world, there are over 850 different species of crabs. Crabs can be found in saltwater, freshwater, and on land. There are many different species that are edible, and this website is a great resource for discovering crabs that you maybe haven’t tried out yet: abcsofanimalworld.blogspot.com. I am a huge fan of crab! I think it is delicious, and have tried Alaskan King Crab, both red and blue, Alaskan Snow Crab, Blue Crab, Red Rock Crab, and Dungeness Crab. However, I have only fished for Dungeness and Red Rock Crab.

SettingthepotLike any recreational fishing, there are regulations for specifics states and even areas within the states. Be sure to check out the regulations before heading out. In the San Juan Islands, which are located in Washington State, you are required to purchase a shellfishing license. I purchased a three day shellfish/seaweed and fishing license combination, since I was also going to be salmon fishing during the trip. There are several licensing options and they can be found at: fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov.

With your license, you will also receive a reporting card. Each time you catch and keep a crab, you are required to immediately document the catch on your reporting card. The reporting card must be turned in, either via mail or internet, to the Division of Wildlife and failure to do so will result in a $10 penalty added to your next license purchase in Washington. It’s not hard, but it is good to take note so you don’t lose out on ten bucks. Plus, the information you provide on the reporting card is used for assisting in maintaining sustainable crab harvest numbers.

The San Juan Islands are located in Marine Area 7, which also includes the waters near Bellingham, Washington. Each coastal area in Washington has a designated Marine Area, and the fishing and shellfishing regulations are unique to each area. For example, the shellfishing season in Marine Area 7 is open during different dates than Marine Area 13, the South Puget Sound area. There are also different regulations on the size and types of crabs you can keep, so it is important to know which area you are going to be shellfishing in, and the boundaries and regulations for that area.

In Marine Area 7, you can fish for both Dungeness and Red Rock Crabs with the method of your choice. I used a crab pot. The crab pot, which is a wire pot coated in black vinyl, has a bait bag attached to the center of the pot and then one-way entrances for the crabs. Other needed items include rope, which is to be constructed of 100% cotton or other natural material, a crab measuring ruler, and a red and white buoy marker with your name and address visibly labeled on the buoy. You also want to bring something to store your crabs in during transportation. Holding a crab while you are boating back to camp or your hotel might not be the easiest task. Crab pot regulations for Washington State can be found here: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/harvest.html.

Okay, so all the nitty-gritty details are out the way. The license has been purchased for the correct marine area, and you have a crab pot full of all the necessary goodies for catching crabs! Now what? Bait! For bait, I used chicken legs. I also let it sit in the sun for a day so it would be nice and juicy and stinky and rotten. Yum. Crabs are omnivores, feasting on both plants and animals, but they tend to prefer animals, so basically any type of meat could be used. I have seen people use hot dogs, but I don’t particularly like hot dogs because the crabs can easily rip up and destroy the hot dogs. Chicken works a little better because it is harder for the crabs to remove the meat from the bones. Another bait option is fish. I have tried using the heads and bodies of fish on two different occasions, and for me personally, it didn’t go well. The pot returned completely crabless both times. It might just be me, but that is the experience I have had. So, I stick to chicken.

CrabMeasure
When purchasing a crab pot kit, most include the yellow crab ruler. In order to keep the crab, it must be at least the size of the area cut out in the ruler, if not larger. This crab is much larger than the base size for keeping.

Anyway, with the bait in tow, I headed out to drop my pot. There are areas in the San Juan Islands closed to shellfishing, so be sure to check a map for those regions, but otherwise look for an area that is protected from the currents, so your pot doesn’t just end up being drug around for a couple of hours, and is not out where it will be run over by speeding boats. You also need to take into consideration the length of your rope. The pot should sit on the bottom of the ocean and there should be slack in the rope, which means to remember there is tide change! If you have 50 feet of rope and drop the pot at 48 feet during low tide, your pot will end up floating in a couple of hours as the tide rises, which means no crabs. And it is a sad feeling when you pull up an empty pot.

Since I don’t live in the area, I dropped my pot in an area where a couple other people were also crabbing. I also was on my boat, which meant I could leave my pot in the middle of a small, protected bay. If you don’t have a boat, people also fish off docks and other rocky areas.

CrabFemale12Gauge
Notice with the female Dungeness crab the abdominal flap, which runs from the rear of the crab near the thumb in the picture to the eyes located near the front claws, is very wide and rounded.
CrabMale12Gauge
The abdominal flap for the male Dungeness crab is much more narrow than the female’s flap and is not at all rounded.

Since I was also salmon fishing, I would check my pot in the morning after fishing, and then again before sunset. With the Red Rocks crabs, you can keep either males or females and the crab must be larger than five inches, which you check this with your lovely crab measuring stick. For Dungeness, the crabs must be male and larger than 6.25″. Distinguishing if the crab is male or female is simple. You grab the crab out of the pot (move quick, they pinch!), and flip it over. On the crab’s underside is an abdominal flap. It is a well-defined flap running from the rear end of the crab towards the head. The female crabs have a wider and more rounded flap than the males. The males are long and narrower.

Before you place the crab in your cooler for dinner tonight, there is one other test you need to perform. The crab needs to be checked for softness. Crabs are from the arthropod family, which to make a long story short means they shed their exoskeleton at least yearly, sometimes more often depending on their age. This process is known as molting, and during molting the crab’s shell becomes very soft and pliable in preparation for shedding and replacement by the new shell. All crabs that are molting must be released, and this is determined through a softness check. You will notice that once you flip the crab over to check its sex, they tend to fold their legs in and the claws rest against their shell next to their eyes. To check for softness, gently push the folded claw towards the crab’s eye area. The exposed shell area is where you apply slight pressure to check for softness. If the area bends or flexes, the crab is molting and should be returned.

I usually checked my pots right before I was returning to land, so I could immediately cook, clean, and store the crab.  I didn’t want to drive around in the boat all day with a cooler full of crabs, but there are a few tips for transporting the crab so they stay alive, especially if you are in a situation where you can’t deal with them for a few hours.  I filled an ice chest with ice, placed the crabs in the ice and laid a towel soaked in salt water over them, and then placed more ice over the towel.  This keeps the crab cool and alive.

Well, after all this talk about crabs, I am craving some crab legs.  Maybe a little surf and turf!

Happy Hunting! (And Crabbing!)

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A Desert Girl Heads to the Pacific Northwest!

IMG_2340“Someone asked me, if I were stranded on a desert island what book would I bring…’How to Build a Boat.'” ~ Steven Wright

Finally, at long last, vacation has arrived! I am so excited to be heading to the San Juan Islands for eight days of fishing, crabbing, whale watching, and strolling the streets of the Washington State islands. Two years ago, my family ventured to Orcas Island and spent a week exploring the waters. This time, we have decided to station in the popular Friday Harbor, located on San Juan Island.

Visiting the San Juan Islands is an adventure, but it does help to do a bit of pre-planning. First, decide what you are interested in doing on your trip. We are focused on fishing and crabbing, and the whale watching is a bonus. We also do a bit of island hopping and exploring. Since we want to spend as much time on the water as possible, we bring our own boat. Our boat is not a special “sea-worthy” vessel. Instead, it is a small sporty Sea Ray 180 lake boat. We use our boat primarily at Lake Powell. I would not trust this boat on the open ocean; however, the San Juan islands are different. While they are considered the ocean, they are very protected from the elements common to the sea and most of the time you feel like you are riding in a very large lake and tend to forget you are actually in salt water. If you have a boat, I would highly recommend you consider pulling it along for the trip. If not, there are charters and boat rentals available so you can get your fishing fix in.

LifepreserverAnyway, if you are planning a trip to the islands, you first need to decide which island you would like to establish as your homestead. There are several options available, but the Washington State Ferry System provides service to the following four islands: Lopez, Orcas, Shaw, and San Juan Islands. The main ferry terminal is located in Anacortes, Washington, and there is also a Canadian based terminal in Sydney, British Columbia. Lodging is widely available, and there are many options ranging from small studios to large cabins that can sleep up to 24 or more. I find the following websites to be especially useful for booking lodging on the different islands: visitsanjauns.com, vrbo.com, tripadvisor, and flipkey. For our trip this time, we stayed with the Nichols Street Suites, and I have to say, it was an amazing little place. The suite is located above a small antique shop, Funk and Junk, in an old board and battin sided building. The place is quaint and funky with original artwork and a huge wrap around couch in a large bay window. It is also located a block from the main downtown streets, with convenient access to the marina, a grocery store, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping. It is a great little place to stay.

FullSizeRenderOnce you have booked your place to stay, it is time to reserve your spot on the Washington State Ferry System. When I came two years ago, all you had to do to get a spot on the ferry was show up. However, the islands have become so popular, that the system has been revamped and now requires a reservation prior to setting sail. The ferry ride to the islands is a treat in and of itself. The time spent on the ferry varies depending on which island you are visiting, but generally you can expect to spend an hour on board. The ferries are enormous and provide a unique opportunity to view the landscape and wildlife in the island chain. Prices also vary depending on your final destination and all the information for booking a ride can be found at: www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. I will heed a small warning, and this is not meant to be discouraging but I think you should be aware before you head out, riding the ferry systems is not cheap. Bringing a full-size truck and boat can cost you well over $200 for the round-trip.

Once on the islands, there is a wide-variety of food, entertainment, expeditions, and even wildlife. We went for a couple hour drive our first evening on San Juan Island and visited Lime Kiln Point State Park and San Juan Island National Historic Park.. I have to say, I was amazed by the amount of wildlife we encountered on what I would consider to be a very populated and isolated place. At Lime Kiln, we saw a pod of killer whales. And in the National Park, we met up with a family of raccoons, Columbia black tail deer, a bald eagle, and a grey fox. The islands are also home to gray, minke, and humpback whales, seals, porpoises, sea lions, and otters. I am hoping to bump into a few more of the animals as we continue to explore the island network. Also, a must have for bringing to the San Juan Islands is a pair of binoculars. If you remember nothing else, at least remember the binoculars!

Well, that is just a little update on what I am doing for the next couple of days. Stay tuned, as I will be posting some more blogs on how to salmon fish the islands, which I am working on as we speak, and how to go crabbing, which is sooooo easy and fun! Also, I am going to be making some amazing meals with all this fresh fish and shellfish that I am planning on catching, so watch for those recipes too!

Happy Hunting!

sailboat

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Adventure Six: Trout Fishing in the High Country

GroundhogReservoirSoon after I embraced the sport of angling I became convinced that I should never be able to enjoy it if I had to rely on the cooperation of the fish.” ~ Sparse Grey Hackle

I remember a lot about fishing with my dad when I was little. I remember watching his big, calloused hands tie delicate knots to small copper colored hooks. I would try and sit patiently while he threaded an uncooperative worm onto the hook and then clasped a small red and white bobber to the line. He would swing the long line behind his back and then swiftly cast the entire awkward collection out onto the water. It would plop as everything hit the water. I remember his dirty and worn tackle box, stuffed with lures, hooks, line, and powerbait.

As a kid, I think powerbait almost defines fishing. Its smell is unique and easily discerned, and stays on your hands and everything you touch long after you have attempted to wash it away multiple times. The small yellow jars with the screw top lids contain brilliant colors of pink, orange, green, and sometimes blends of two colors sprinkled with glitter. And it lasts forever! I sometimes think that the jars in my dad’s tackle box now are the same ones from those trips so many years ago.

So, when I started fishing more seriously as an adult, I always shied away from using powerbait. Powerbait said “kid fishing” all over it. I tended to think of powerbait as my dad’s way of buying time to fish for himself when my sister and I were along for the trip. I don’t recall having many bites with powerbait, and if I did manage to pull a fish in it always seemed small. I quickly decided that if my dad was ready to help me catch a fish he added a worm to the end of my pole. If he needed me to be patient while he fished for a while he added powerbait. Powerbait had a bad rap with me, but that has since changed.

This past Fourth of July weekend, my family ventured to the high country for lake fishing. I haven’t been very successful the last few fishing trips I have been on. The days have been slow and the fish few and far between. A couple of weekends ago, I even went to a lake known for its abundance of stockers and threw in a worm. I actually went home not only empty handed but completely biteless. It was a long day. I didn’t have much expectation for this trip either.

IMG_2279Upon our arrival to the lake, I heard many stories from other campers that the fishing was hot. The weather, however, was not as positive as the fishing appeared to be. The mornings opened with strong, blue, cloudless skies, but the afternoons quickly developed into dark storms filled with heavy rains and lightning. The afternoon fishing for the first day was quiet and slow. After spending a few hours trolling just off the shores of the lake, we docked the boat as large clouds rolled over the mountain tops and settled above our camp. The storm lasted a few hours and was intense.

My sister insisted we head out immediately following the storm’s departure. It was cold and still quite gloomy, but she kept talking about the great fishing she knew that was waiting in the calm after the storm. We had our doubts, but followed her to the boat.

My dad, having missed the afternoon fishing session, opened his tackle box and prepared his line. He pulled out that familiar yellow jar, two hooks, and a small weight.

“Dad, serious fishing here!” I said, pointing to the powerbait with disapproval.

He had spoken to some of the other camps and they said powerbait was the secret to the lake. They instructed him to set-up two hooks below his weight: one with a worm, and the other with a ball of powerbait. Hesitation definitely set in for me. It was, after all, powerbait.

IMG_2278Despite my inner critic to the situation, I followed suit and set my pole up the same way. I assumed the powerbait from his tackle box was the same jar from my childhood. However, within the hour, I had two beautiful rainbow trout and a cut-bow on the stringer. The rest of the stringer was filled with equally large, beautiful fish from the rest of the boat. Some bites were on the worm and some were on the powerbait. I don’t know if it was my sister’s insistence on the calm after the storm, the combination of the worm and powerbait on one line, or just a joke on me that powerbait is the ultimate trout lure, but that was some of the best trout fishing I have ever experienced.

And, after that weekend, I actually have to buy more powerbait to keep in my tackle box. You know, just in case I need it.

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