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Recent entries


Through the Lens

You Can’t Beat a Buffalo

Sat, June 30, 2018

It’s no secret that I love bowfishing, and consequently we tend to pile up a whole lot of rough fish. One of the things about bowfishing that seems to be an issue with some folks, is that it’s a waste. Especially when native fish are shot.

I try pretty hard not to waste any of our fish. We eat the rough fish, I preserve the gar hides, use the scales, and am even considering trying my hand tanning some silver skins after seeing a gorgeous fish skin handbag online.

What seems to trouble most folks, especially when it comes to eating the rough fish is how in the world to clean and cook appropriately.

I previously did a blog post here that explained cleaning gar. Trust me once you master cleaning gar – the rest of the rough fish become easy peasy.

We’re going to look at cleaning buffalo today. Thanks to expert buffalo cleaner,  good friend, and fellow river rat Jesse Peese for helping me put together – gasp – a video how to for cleaning buffalo.

Some things to remember when cooking buffalo that we touch on in the video – For the frying process to negate those pesky bones – DEEP FRY! Pan frying just wont crisp up and get rid of the bones. Make sure that the grease is HOT – minimum of 350 degrees – 380 or 400 is even better. Additionally, it’s important to back your breading down into the scored slots. All of the above will help you turn out a perfect plate of tasty buffalo.

For smoking, smoke as you would any fish.  Brine it it over night with any seasons you prefer and some brown sugar or maple syrup. Rinse, allow a crust to form as it dries, and the toss on the smoker. We also will marinate in whatever marinade strikes my fancy and then smoke. That method works equally well.  I prefer “hot smoking” over cold and then any extra (you may have to pull a few bones) gets mixed in with cream cheese for really tasty cracker spread, or made into a salad. If I really have a pile that I have smoked, I vacuum pack it and it will last in the freezer about 3 months.  This makes it easy to always have smoked fish on hand for making appetizers when company arrives.

Lastly, because I firmly believe in waste not want not – some even gets pickled. Any recipe for pickling fish will work, and the pickling process also softens up those pesky bones.
So, next time you find yourself with some beautiful big buffalo in the boat – don’t just send them to the fertilizer pile – cook them up and enjoy a midwestern favorite river fish!



Time to Run the Nets!

Tue, June 26, 2018

Imagine heading up river in the early morning light in hopes of having nets full of fish. That’s a twice a week endeavor for Ron Joellenbeck who at age 80 is still setting and running nets each week on the lower Kaskaskia.

“Jolly” as he is known around the neighborhood has been running nets and chasing fish since the mid 1970’s, and plans to keep going as long he has a couple a good helpers. “I can sill do it, but boy I am slower than I used to be.” He laughed.

I have the pleasure of being friends with Jolly and my husband took one of his vacation/ retirement practice days last week to help Jolly “run nets”. There might have been a mishap or two with a couple of big buffs arcing out of hubby’s grasp and back into the river instead of the barrel. Jolly now refers to Mr. Steele as “Buffalo Man”, and will likely still be hounding him about losing the buffs for the next 20 years!

Seems as if running the hoop net sets is a dying art these days. Likely because it’s more work than most young folks want to contend with. Tagging, setting maintaining the nets. The license fees, and record keeping requirements can be daunting. Add in the various regulations and the ever-increasing numbers of silvers and big heads that end up in the nets in place of what used to be mostly catfish and buffalo and most younger folks just don’t want to be bothered. Here’s a look at the commercial regs in Illinois.

The day isn’t done when the nets are emptied into the boat either – then it’s time to clean all those fish! My dearly beloved has been known to grumble “You have to really like cleaning fish if you are going to run nets”.

Be sure to watch for the August print issue – I’ll be writing more in depth about “Runnin’ Nets” and what it’s been like for my friend Mr. Joellenbeck to hold a commercial license all these years. Things have changed, the rivers have changed, but a few crabby old men – they are still out there hauling in the nets in the early morning hours.


Today’s Battle in the War on Woody Invaders

Fri, June 15, 2018

I had the unique experience of having a front row seat this morning at Peabody SFWA in southerwestern Illinois for an aerial attack on that dreadful Russian Olive and Bush Honeysuckle.

Let’s face it, we are at war with those invaders, especially in the strip hills where our DNR is working hard to re establish the grasslands and prairies.

Today’s battle was fought with the aerial application of a targeted herbicide.  Here’s where I probably should interject that many a dinner table conversation with husband at our house has taken a contentious turn given my overall distaste for herbicides and pesticides. Consequently, I was greatly relieved to see the care, planning, and safety that was involved in this mornings application.

It was a well-controlled, well planned attack – with careful input from the pilot, the site super, the wildlife biologist, all concerned parties.  Despite everyone’s distaste for the offensive plants, the overall goal of reestablishing some prime grassland habitat was paramount in everyone’s mind. Safety and proper use was reviewed, maps consulted, and off-limits areas designated prior to a single drop being loaded onto the helicopter for spraying. As much as we may hate those invaders this was not some crazy slash, burn, dump and run attack on every living thing in sight.

Here’s a look at today’s aerial battle against those woody invaders!

The helicopter staging area was placed at the far back side if the SFWA where interference with morning anglers, hikers, birdwatchers and general park traffic would be minimal.

Site Super Mic Middleton makes sure everyone is clear on all aspects of the project before start time.

The planning and safety meeting

All set up and ready to start transferring chemical

Time to get things loaded and underway!

And he’s off!

The attack on the woody invaders

This is just one of example of our “boots on the ground” men and women working everyday to provide us with the best possible land experience we can have. Hats off to those fellows out there in the unrelenting heat today doing battle against the woody invaders and helping to reestablish some soon to be prime grassland habitat!


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