Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fishing with Mike and Gavin

    I went  and visited my brother Mike this past weekend.  Friday we made an unsuccessful attempt at turkey hunting near Dayton, Washington. Saturday morning we went fishing for whitefish on the Columbia River. Gavin, Mike's oldest son, came with us.  We put in the boat just upstream from the Vernita Bridge. That is a free flowing portion of the Columbia, upstream of the McNary Pool and downstream from Priest Rapids Dam.   Chinook Salmon spawn in the gravel bottom there and the whitefish come in behind them to eat any loose eggs the current pushes out of their nests.  It is pretty fun fishing as we usually do fairly well. The average size of the whitefish we catch is about 14 to 15 inches long and the limit is 15 fish per angler.
My nephew Gavin

    We got up pretty early so that we reached the Vernita Bridge at about 7:00 am.  It was ten degrees and still, which didn't feel too bad when we were putting the boat into the water.  It was a different story when we started to motor upstream towards the dam.  It felt pretty frigid at that point. I felt sorry for Mike who was steering the boat and had to face into the wind.  At least I could turn around and face the stern. Gavin pulled his head down into his coat like a turtle. Once we stopped and started to drift downstream it felt much better.  I hooked a fish within a minute or so after getting my line into the water.
Another whitefish in the boat

    We always drift fish for whitefish.  We use a couple of rubber salmon eggs for bait on a relatively small hook with several feet of leader.  A slinky weight is attached right at the swivel along with the leader. The slinky weight will drift along the bottom and will rarely get snagged.  For the whitefish our bait looks like just a few more salmon eggs drifting downstream in the current.
My brother Mike has to face into the cold wind to drive the boat.

    There were still a lot of Chinook Salmon in the river, but they were a pretty sorry looking lot.  They looked like zombie fish that were dead but didn't know it. Some of the salmon still had the energy to jump clear out of the water but most of them quietly swam in the current, patiently waiting for the end. There were a lot of dead salmon on the bank and a lot of other animals gathered to feed on them.  We saw a coyote on the far bank and lots of seagulls and Blue Herons on the near bank. We stayed on the shallower north side of the river and the water was very clear. We could usually see the river bottom passing beneath us. In some places the water was only three or four feet deep. At times I could see the schools of whitefish beneath us. Surprisingly, the whitefish I saw in the water looked larger than most of the fish we were catching. I don't know if that was because the bigger fish were merely easier to spot or if it was due to the fact that the larger fish were less inclined to fall for our artificial bait.
The end of the road for the salmon

    We ended up catching just fourteen whitefish. That is a lot less than we usually catch. I brought home eight fish while Gavin kept the rest. I filleted them out and put them in a seasoned brine to get them ready for my smoker. I found a brine recipe on the internet at The recipe I loosely followed was called "Matt's Favorite Salmon Brine Recipe". The ingredients were as follows:

Ingredients:   1/2 cup salt
                      1 cup brown sugar
                      1/4 tsp garlic powder
                      1/4 tsp liquid smoke
                      1/4 tsp Lowry's seasoned salt
                      4 Tbsp molasses
                      1 quart water

Instructions:  1.  Mix all ingredients until salts and sugar dissolve
                      2. Soak fish for 6-8 hours in covered container.
                      3. Lay out chunks of fish on smoker racks and sprinkle with lemon pepper.
                      4. Allow to drip dry for about 15 minutes.
                      5. Smoke for 8 hours.

       Obviously, I modified the recipe a bit as usual. I used knotweed honey in place of the molasses. I did not use liquid smoke but rather used alder chips in my smoker. I also used fresh ground pepper and Trader Joe's "Everyday Seasoning" in place of the Lowry's seasoned salt and the lemon pepper.  Since its rather cold out I wasn't sure the smoker would get hot enough. I finished it up in the oven for about an hour to make sure it was done.  So shortly before the timer dings, Linda calls out "Are you doing something with fish?"  Happily, the smoked whitefish turned out well and even Linda thought it was tasty.

1 comment:

  1. Good times. You may not have caught as many as you would have liked, but at least you got some tastey fish out of it. :)