Saturday, February 25, 2012


I wouldn't call it a killing spree exactly, just some damn cooperative crappies that I couldn't seem to leave alone. Not that they are the tastiest fish around. Not that they are good fighters. Not that they are the most beautiful to look at. They were just so eager to come through the hole, night after night. And big. Big to me is 12 inches or larger. They were that and more.

Maybe it was about the bobber. That little orb of connectivity between the earthly realm and the limnetic underworld. Seeing its descent into that icy tunnel of fading light. Staring intently, waiting for the quick pop, the slow roll onto its side, and then that slow journey down the hole, knowing that there is a fish at the bait, anticipating the weight at the hook set,the distinct crappie struggle, sliding another slab onto the ice. Irresistible delights all. Perhaps it also had something to do with the lack of a real winter. Virtually no snow, so that the ease of accessing  the panfish grounds coaxed me out there several evenings per week.

So, instead of killing a fish or two like I normally would do in the summer, I started to uncharacteristically kill numbers of fish- first two, then seven, then five, then seven again, then two more. After I had eaten and frozen ahead a bunch of them, I went back to the well again and couldn't leave 'em alone.  Maybe it was the flask full of Bushmills, but maybe it is because ice fishing is about making meat. After all you can't do any casting ! Somebody stop him,will ya !? 

So, what's a guy to do ?  Stop fishing for a while I guess and make some chowder. I'd never made one before, but have partaken of the pleasures of several fish soups over the years. I remember stopping by a friend's place a very long time ago one April morning,  to an aroma filled kitchen and big stock pot on the stove.  Daniel was brewing fish stock with  the carcass of a freshly filleted steelhead.  In those days, you could still kill three fish a day, legally on the Shore - and we always tried to be as legal as possible.  So, I helped to peel a few carrots and potatoes, shoot the breeze, and waited around for what turned out to be a fantastic experience in great eats - one that I will not forget.

But I've gone in a different direction here:

3 Tsp olive oil
1 medium onion
3 stalks celery
3 carrots
3 medium potatoes
1 can chicken broth + 2 cans water
1 can evaporated milk

2 bay leaves
5 sprigs fresh tarragon (one good pinch dried)
3 good pinches thyme
salt & black pepper to taste

1.5 - 2 pounds white fleshed fish (crappie, perch, bluegill, eelpout, walleye - hell, bass if you're desperate). Cut he fish into 2 inch chunks

In a heavy sauce pan or stock pot heat the oil to a shimmer and add the chopped onions, carrots, and celery and sweat for about five minutes. Season well with salt and black pepper. Add the fresh chopped tarragon, bay leaves, and thyme. Stir a bit until the tarragon wilts and begins to get pungent. Add the chicken broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes. Add the chopped potatoes, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for another fifteen minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add the evaporated mik and bring back to a simmer.  Add in the fish and cook until just firm - this depends entirely on the thickness of the fish chunks.  Bluegills can be done in two minutes, while walleye and eelpout could take ten.  Just don't over cook the fish ! 

 Oh baby !!