Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Shenanigans: Plum Jam, Wild Trout, Bowfishing Carp, and Strawberry Ice Cream

We are gearing up to launch a new Youtube channel dedicated to our California hunter-gatherer lifestyle in a few weeks. As a result I have not been snapping many pics, but instead have been compiling footage of outdoors adventures. I will keep you posted as to when the vlog begins!

In the meantime, here's a little rundown of a few things we've been up to lately. Diane and I got some killer strawberries at a farm stand the other day and made some exquisite strawberry ice cream!

It was absolutely incredible! We also harvested some of the summer's first blackberries (which we froze and I have yet to use). The bass bite is back on as is the trout action! While I forgot to snap a photo in the field, here's a couple of dinner last night!

This was a really tasty snow-melt-run wild trout dinner!

And Martijn and I got out with the bows he made us from Osage Orange we cut last year in pursuit of Asian Carp!

The Santa Rosa plums were ripening like crazy at the family orchard, so I harvested a bunch and my girl and I made a small batch of incredible plum jam too!

Well, I'm gonna go try to shoot some more rabbit hunting video! Wish me luck!

Keep the old ways alive!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Poke Poling for Intertidal Eels

"Many fish bites when you got good bait, here's a little tip that I would like to relate. Many fish bite when you got good bait. I'm a goin' fishing, yes I'm goin' fishing, and my baby goin' fishing too!"- Taj Mahal

Got eels? We do!

It had been weeks since I had the opportunity to get out and do a bit of catching and cooking. I had to take my PhD Qualifying Exams (QE) last week, which was the single most important test of my graduate career. As a result, I locked myself in my house and avoided the sun for weeks on end as I read every book and article I could think of. This was the state of my life for most of the month.

Well, I passed! To celebrate, my girl Diane treated me to a trip to the coast. I looked up marine conditions beforehand and lucky for us there was a low tide of -1.58 in the morning. We had planned to fish, but this gave me the opportunity to show Diane an old style of fishing we used to do as kids at the low tide: Poke Poling.

When we neared the coast we started calling campgrounds. That's when we realized that it was Memorial Day weekend. Out of seven campgrounds, there was not a single campsite available. We were not about to let a little thing like not having a place to sleep get us down, so we cooked up some amazing ramen on the bluffs of one of my favorite beaches and waited until the sun set. Now, I don't break the law often, but since I grew up along this coastline, so I knew of plenty of spots we could "go ninja" and camp for free for the night. I'm not saying that we did do that, I'm just saying that hypothetically if we did, then it was a very nice night on the sand listening to the waves lapping against the seashore while we slept.

The next morning after coffee and a snack we stopped at a pullout near one of my favorite northern California fishing spots and unloaded the gear while I rigged up a poke pole in a matter of minutes. 

Lucky yellow rainboots and basic tackle (bring a good jacket just in case...we had on four layers each at times)

Look mom! A local hillbilly rigging up a pokepole in his natural environment!

All it takes to rig a poke pole is a stick (like this one I cut from the roadside) or a length of bamboo about 8-12ft in length, a coat hanger, some string, duct tape, and an octopus hook on a 6" leader of at least 25lbs test mono-filament line. The coat hanger is trimmed to about 1' in length, half of which is wrapped around the tapered end of the main "rod." The other 6" of the coathanger extends from the rod tip and a loop is bent with pliers and twisted securely so that no matter how hard a fish pulls, it will not bend open. The haft between the wire hanger and stick pole is then reinforced with string and tape. Finally the leader and hook are tied to the wire loop and the hook is baited with a 1" piece of squid.

Next we scrambled over boulders and across cracks out in the intertidal zone to locate our prey. We were after monkeyface prickelbacks aka monkeyface eels (Cebidichthys violaceus). These guys live in tight cracks and under overhangs in the rocky reef that cannot easily be accessed by a standard fishing setup. The pokepole allows you to work the bait deep under the rocks and back into cracks. In a minute or less you will likely feel a subtle tug. Pull back to set the hook and pull the quarry from the hole.

I suggest bringing a tight mesh net and a stringer as these eels are very hard to keep hold of once caught. 

We spent a few hours fishing and poke poling and honestly, by the end of the day, I had decided that next time I am only bring poke poles. The poke pole out-fished the standard rods and reels to an astonishing degree!

Of course, my baby out-fished me as well! She had never used a poke pole and yet she caught four juvenile fish and a nice eel. I only caught two eels, but they were both keepers for sure! The first eel I caught, I was just showing Diane how to probe a good fishing hole while telling her, "now this is the kind of hole where you might find a...HOLY S#%T! EEL!!!" That was just five minutes into the trip. After that, the eel was not the only one who got hooked! We couldn't get enough!

Hard to believe that these eels would go anywhere near such an ugly poke pole... but they sure did!

Some happy intertidal anglers

It was a hell of a good time and when all was said and done, we had a nice red rock crab and three sizable eels to bring back. I filleted one of the eels and Diane got to cooking seaside on my old propane burner.

I can smell the spices and sea air still!

Eel sauteed in chili-garlic sauce, oyster sauce, and soy sauce was placed over udon noodle soup with a stock we made from the crab and eel skeleton. * Keep in mind that rock crabs are not safe to consume in most of northern California currently, and though I will not tell you where we were because I always keep my spots secret, I guess that is a subtle hint. Please call the Biotoxin Information Line maintained by the California Department of Public Health before harvesting any sea-life to be sure it is safe to consume in your area (800-553-4133).

In any case, the crab and eel imparted the most incredible base to what I can honestly say was the best sea-side meal I have had all year! We were absolutely thrilled. It was a great day fishing, laughing, cooking, and ended with one hell of a feast! It doesn't get any fresher than that!

Sooooo goooood!

The pictures look good right? But believe me,  they simply do not do justice to this exquisite meal!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the story. 
Can't wait to see you out there! Be safe! 
And keep the old ways alive!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Gone Fishin': Asian Style Panfish

"The first time we did it I was scared to death. She snuck out in that cotton dress. Jumped on in and we drove to the lake, put her hand on my knee and said 'I can't wait!' I had everything we needed in the bed of my truck... turns out my baby loves to... Fish! She wants to do it all the time, early in the mornin' and in the middle of the night! She's hooked and now she can't get enough! Man that girl sure loves to ...Fish!" - Craig Campbell

My girl had never landed a fish in her life, and that just didn't seem right to me. So, with my knee on the mend we loaded up Sweet Dee (my aluminum monster of a canoe) and headed to a secret secluded lake a couple of weeks back. 

I knew that we could go all day without necessarily hooking a trout or bass, but I wanted some good fun and plenty of action so we paddled across to the shallows, tossed in some hooks and line and had ourselves a great time!

Our targeted species of the day is quite possible the most ferocious freshwater species in California... the bluegill. Now bluegill are not known to be a trophy fish by any means, but they sure hit hard and frequently! And for Diane's first real fishing experience I figured we could have a lot of fun landing fish all day. And boy did we!

By the end of a few hours on the lake we must have brought in 30 fish (eight of which we kept).

The following evening I scaled the fish and we got to cooking using an Asian method of frying the fish whole until golden brown, followed by poaching with soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, green onion, etc. 

Diane also made some excellent bok choy and a traditional Chinese cucumber salad which paired perfectly with our fresh caught pan-fish! The subsequent meal was exquisite!

I am seven days away from beginning my Qualifying Exams for my Ph.D. so I will not have another story for you until the end of the month. I hear the striped bass are running in the Sacramento River now, so if you get a chance...try to get out there and greet them with a rod and reel!

Keep the old ways alive!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

More Clams, More Mushrooms, and Camping on the Coast

"One thing I know, no matter where I go, I keep my heart and soul in the boondocks!"- Little Big Town

Before I begin to tell the story of our coastal foray the other day, I have to say, I have bad news as far as my bipedal mobility is concerned. I went out for a quick ride on my skateboard the other night to get my blood pumping as I had been working on the final touches on my most recent draft of my dissertation proposal the whole day. Fifteen minutes later, my wheels locked up in a crack in the pavement and I went flying forward, striking my kneecap on the pavement. A CT scan and a few X-rays later revealed that I had sustained several fractures to the patella. That's right, my kneecap was in five pieces!

Painful is a massive understatement! But I have subsequently undergone knee surgery and am currently on the mend. 

It may be a while before I have a decent new foraging story for you as I cannot walk, but in the meantime, here's my recollection of a great weekend with my lady-friend Diane, our buddies Nick and Jeremy, and a few other good friends and family who stopped by for the day. 

Diane and I hit the coast on a Friday and set up the tent near sunset.

We could see that the tide was way out and that the evening clamming could be quite good the following day. *It is illegal to harvest clams any later than a half hour after sunset in the state of California so we would have to wait until the following afternoon to dig.
We made an excellent pasta the first night and relaxed around the fire after harvesting some local cypress wood to burn.
The next morning after pancakes, coffee, spam and eggs, we headed to a secret spot to meet up with our buddy Jeremy for a little mushroom hunting.

 It's quite easy to pass by a patch of cryptic black trumpets huh?

The forest floor was covered with edible fungi. Though at first we did have to hike a bit to find the right mix of shade, moisture, and mix of conifer and tan oak duff.

But soon after we were loading up on black trumpets, winter chantrelles, hedgehogs, and even a few oyster mushrooms!

 Jeremy found his first black trumpets!

Diane got her first trumpets, hedgehogs, and winter chantrelles!

After a massive bounty of excellent fungi, we made our way to the edge of the woods with just enough time for cooking up a little wild harvested lunch before heading back for the clam harvest.

We sauteed some of the mushrooms in oil and garlic and added them to bread with a spread of goat cheese and a dash of balsamic vinegar (a simple seasonal snack that is always well received). We also ate the last piece of king salmon that I caught on my dad's boat a few months back (and he subsequently smoked for me). We were all smiles!

Jeremy headed back to Sacramento to dry his massive harvest of coastal fungi!

In the meantime, Diane and I made our way to the coastal mud flats to meet up with Nick, my brother, Jeff, his son, Robert, and his sons for a little clamming. My older brother Justin, of course, showed us all how it was done ;) He had a limit of 50 littleneck clams in half the time the rest of us were able to dig 30 a piece!

We used modified water jugs for buckets to hold our quarry, and though we didn't get as many clams this time as Diane and I did the time before, we still cleaned up and went back to camp with plenty for an incredible wild mushroom-little neck clam chowder (with enough clams for a subsequent clam sauce spaghetti with Diane's roommate Cindy). 

It was Nick's first time clamming and he got a nice harvest! He enjoyed it so much he took his girl back out last weekend and did it all over again!

Wish me luck healing up so I can meet you out in the woods soon. In the meantime, get out there soon on your own, with friends, family and loved ones, and have yourself a lot of laughs while pursuing the delicious harvests that only wintertime brings!

Keep the old ways alive!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hillbilly Hunting and Clamming with Class

"I'm like a little troll who lives on nothing but river water and squirrel meats!" - Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.

My brother and I headed deep into the woods for a little squirrel hunt the other day. We encountered hears of elk, huge flocks of doves, and a pair of golden eagles! It was pretty amazing!

Late in the day my brother had two squirrels in the bag and we both had wide grins!

My brother cooked up a nice batch of squirrel with dumplings and he said it was incredible!


Next, my ladyfriend heard about how much fun clamming was the other day. She had never been clamming before, so the two of us hit the coast for the low tide and had a great sunset foray! The night before, Diane kept threatening to bring her classy gold rain boots with heals. The idea of her tromping around the mud in those boots had me cracking up!

In no time she had her first legal sized littleneck clam!

We had to race the sun as you can only legally take clams until a half hour after sunset. However, by that time we had plenty of mussels and ninety clams (just ten short of our limit) as we repaired the portions of the beach we had excavated and reburied juvenile clams to let them grow for next season.

By early evening we patiently waited as our clam appetizer steamed in sea water and onions. The subsequent beach-feast and clam chowder with our wild harvested black trumpet mushrooms were absolutely superb!

Well, the tides will be low again soon and we hope to greet them with shovels, buckets, and big smiles!

Keep the old ways alive!