Forage Friday #35 Fish

Hello friends! Tonight’s feature image was taken just for Forage Friday. All of the photos are my original work and are available for purchase by the instructions at the bottom of the article.

It occurs to me that in 35 #ForageFriday posts that I have yet to put any meat on the table. Also, with the onset of winter finding edible plants is definitely a bit of a challenge. So when I found the fishing photos in my archive I knew that I had to include them in my Forage Friday posts.

Thanks to Jack Spyrco of The Survival Podcast my definition of survival skills has expanded to include things that benefit every day life and not just the worst case scenario. I’ve tried to reflect this take on things in my Forage Friday posts and provide you with things that have a potential to wild foods that can be given space to grow and flourish in off lawn areas or even in a garden setting. With fish it’s a little more of a challenge. Most of us don’t have ponds on our land and for those in an urban environment installing a pound a pond large enough to accommodate a reliable stock if food fish may not be possible. For those folks I’d recommend that you look into something like aquaponics. Otherwise you’ll need to find a body of water where you can drop a line. Pollution is a huge concern with fish. The mercury found in tuna is of particular importance because it accumulates in the fish. While humans have a way of clearing mercy from the body over consumption of contaminated fish can lead to health problems. Freshwater fish can also be contaminated and mercury is just one of the potential substances that you need to avoid. Fortunately, your local fish and wildlife conservation service will have a list of areas where the fish should not be eaten.

A large bass and a carp in the tank of my local Cabelas sporting goods store.

As far as aquaponics and aquaculture goes I really don’t have experience beyond a tank of tropical fish from the pet store. The main concerns of caring for them were keeping the tank clean and the fish healthy. I can only presume that those concerns get larger when you talk about tanks that are in the thousands of gallons. Regular maintenance seems to be key there. Fortunately for me, I practically live in water-world. There’s at least 5 fishable rivers and a multitude of smaller streams as well as a lake with 50 miles of shoreline all within a short drive of my home. Artificial resources like stock tanks would guarantee that I would have something for the grill but I just haven’t made the investment. The economic potential of supplying fresh fish to farmers markets and restaurants might just be worthy of the effort one day and could even be a good cottage industry for someone who’s willing to learn the techniques.

For the rest of us fishing is a form of foraging. It’s a way to connect with nature and enjoy the simple blessing of partaking in God’s creation. We crave the ambiance of the life in wild places and the challenges of the sport side of fishing.

Image Titled “Hang Ups On Muddelty Creek”

It’s easy to lose your situational awareness when you so focused on that perfect casting technique. This power line above one of the more popular fishing holes in my area has a collection of tackle from those who became so lost in the activity that they forgot to look up.

Speaking of those iconic red and white bobers hanging from the cable, I’ve come to believe that in some areas that the fish have learned to avoid them. I’ve tossed them out of my kit in favor of natural cork. Cork is made from tree bark and tree bark is naturally found in the water. The fish are actually attracted to it and don’t associate it with the hook.

In most of the USA game fish like bass, catfish and pearch are regulated and techniques like weirs and spears are strictly prohibited. However, not all fish are considered game fish ( check your local regulations) and can be taken with a bow and arrow.

The tricky part of bow fishing is learning how to aim. Because the water bends the light the fish appear a little higher in the water than they actually are.

Image Titled “Life In Perspective”.

The image here shows the refraction of the light making the fish appear in a place where they are not. Bass and Bluegills are not legal to take with a bow but if it was you’d need to be able to estimate how low to aim.

Once you’ve got the fish out of the water and cleaned there’s as many ways to cook the fish as there are fish in the sea. My favorite way is to simply open the robs and prop it up over a pile of hot coals. A Native American way of cooking fish is to wrap it aromatic leaves and seal it in wild clay from the river bank. The whole package is buried directly in the hot coals and slow roasted. Once it’s done you just crack the clay open and dig in.

I have more to say about fish and fishing but I think I’ll save it for a later date. For now I hope that you have a blessed day!

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The Providers

The cold December air bites my face as I approach the tree growing in the middle of Muddelty Creek. I’m not sure if it’s technically a delta but I’ve always thought of it that way. It’s almost impossible to see all of the little fingers of water that stretch out in this spot where the ducks and geese rule. I’ve come here on this wintery day to check out the scenery and seek new images and new thoughts to feed my passions. My ever active imagination wonders and in my mind’s eye I can see pre-columbian hunters riding a canoe silently through the water. With them an elder sits in silence occupying the center of the vessel. As they patrol the waters edge they stop occasionally and he mumbles a few words of prayer and gathers medicine growing in mud. A few twigs of willow here and some dried berries there. From the muddy banks they gather a few roots from the arrowleaf plant. These “duck potatoes” will help sustain them during the winter. As they paddle in a little farther they check the fish traps set out the on the prior evening. The traps are empty. They are moving towards the next set of traps when a large ripple breaks the surface of the water. The hunter in the front of the canoe takes notice and cautiously rises to his feet as the man in back of the craft attempts to bring them to halt. With a subtle thrust he sends his Atlatl dart into a spot just beyond the swirl. The stone bladed spear finds its mark and the swirl of water morphs into slashing. The huge alligator gar fish is pinned to the muddy bed of the creek by the shaft of the spear. The large fish barely fits in the little dugout canoe with the three men. The elder grins as heart swells with pride. His grandsons have learned their lessons well and fed the family with their skills.

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Anything Is Possible

My West Virginia Mountains are home to some of our nation’s most creative problem solvers. The 3 rivers area of Gauley Bridge is no exception. In 1954 there were two problems. One, an old Greyhound bus that was no longer able to do bus stuff and a rock in the middle of the river with no fishing camp. Enter problem solver Walter “Bruiser” Cole. I have to admit that I never met this person and I have never been to his unique fishing camp which still looked like a Greyhound bus when I was a kid. I have never been able to figure out how he got it out onto the river either. But it’s been an icon of Gauley Bridge my whole life. I do remember talk in the 70s about the State trying to take his little camp away from him in a clean up effort. They called it junk! Such a unique and artful form of recycling and the State wanted it to go away.

In 2016 there was the worst flooding our area had seen in my lifetime. The News reporters call it the one thousand year flood. With all the damage to our entire state I thought for sure that it was the end of the bus on the the rock. But, on my next trip into town there was the little camp right there on the rock just like always. It kinda became a symbol of hope for me. If that camp could withstand the fury of both the State and nature in such an unlikely location then anything is possible as long as you’re anchored in the rock.

Today, the little camp has a new red,white and blue paint job and an extra room built on. From the front it doesn’t look as much like a Greyhound bus as it once did but the bus is still parked in the middle of the river.

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A Few thoughts On Summersville Dam

Driving cautiously down the winding road to the tail waters of Gauley River I think about my Grandfather. He was one of the many men who built Summerville Dam. In the days before the dam, the raging Gauley River destroyed small towns downstream. Near my home is Brown’s Service Station. The Owner once pointed out to me a watermark on the wall of his office from one of the pre-dam floods. I’m guessing that the water had to be 12 feet high in order to make the stain. When it was finally decided that something had to be done a monumental effort was made. There’s a great Video of the men building the Summerville Dam on YouTube. I know that my grandfather was one of the heavy equipment operators but I’ve not been able to recognize him in the video.

Today, the dam not only helps us to control flooding but it’s become a wealth generator to the local economy. The campers and boaters who spend summer on the lake also spend money in town. At the time of this writing, Gauley season is fully open and whitewater enthusiasts are enjoying the rapids as the Corps Of Engineers drain the lake to winter pool levels.

Rafters taking a break on pillow rock below Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park. Image was taken at the extreme range of my 300 mm lens.

The highly oxygenated water below the dam is popular among fisherman too. On any given morning the banks full of lines cast into the eddies in hopes that a trout will come to dinner.

As I stand at the foot of dam and look up I’m in awe of the accomplishment. The tunnel on the left is large enough for a train to pass through and a highway is on top of the dam. Just on the other side of this massive earthen dam is the sunken community of Gad,West Virginia. There is of course the local story of how close Government came to naming this are Gad Dam Lake which would have been a gold mine for memes and internet trolls.

I hope you’ve enjoyed tonight’s post but nothing beats coming to West Virginia for whitewater sports or just relaxing by the water. It’s all made possible by the flood control of Summersville Dam.

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A Perfect Start To The Day.

Gently floating on the Kanawha River just above Kanawha Falls the fishermen works his line. I was a bit envious when I spotted him peacefully maneuvering his one man craft across the river. He seemed to be so free. The morning mists were cascading down the mountains and spilling out over the falls as he casts out and slowly retrieves the bait. The ducks on my side of the river slyly slip into the water unsure about the big blue truck that came to an abrupt halt near their perches. As I scan the water a trail of bubbles break the surface. That’s the tell tale sign of big mud turtle lumbering on the bottom. With my camera in one hand and my ever present coffee in the other I step out of the truck to enjoy nature for a few minutes and thank God for the new day. Silently, I wish the fisherman luck as I preserve the peaceful scene in my lens. The ticking of my internal clock urges me to resume my daily commute. The engine purrs and I check the mirror as I pull out taking the peaceful feeling with me as I drive away.