Once bass season rolls around here in southern Ontario (3rd or 4th Saturday in June depending on the area) there usually aren’t too many occasions when I go out and willingly target another species. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate or enjoy fishing for trout, big pike, muskie or even panfish – but day in and day out until bass closes at the end of November, I’d just as soon fish the best- and in my mind bass are it baby!
Even today when catch and release amongst most really avid bass anglers is the norm; I still get asked by others if I like bass because of their taste. I pause, take a deep breath and try hard not to act too indignant upon hearing the ill-fated, all-be-it well-intentioned question. I usually just respond that I carefully release all the bass I catch. “Why’s that – don’t they taste good? is a customary response. “Oh- I’m sure the smaller ones are not bad eating ... and I guess it’s ok to keep a couple of those 10-11inchers, but for me, I just prefer to release all the bass I catch so they can continue to reproduce and provide others with the same enjoyment each one gives to me.” If they persist (and some do) to try and really figure me out and why I just don’t eat this species ... I’ll simply come back with my standard perplexing (to some) motto for them to mull over, “Eating a bass is like eating your brother... And that’s just not right!”
Eating Fresh Ontario Fish ... A Fine Thing Indeed:
I do enjoy eating fish and for me ice fishing is the season when I selectively harvest enough for my family and me to thoroughly enjoy. During the open water season though, the odd walleye, pike, trout, whitefish or panfish fulfills our fresh fish cravings. In fact, frequently during bass season one of those other species beets the exalted bass to my bait, so occasionally they are rewarded with an all-expenses paid trip to my frying pan!
Such was the case recently while fishing bass on Go Home Lake. I tossed out my drop shot rigged Trigger X, Emerald Oil colored paddle tail worm along a rocky ledge and saw the line swim off to the side. I thought at first the fish was a largemouth, because it didn’t come up and dug deep and strong during the short battle. There was no doubt what I really had however when it was flipped in the boat. I had just caught my smallest channel cat ever ... and its fate was sealed by winning that free trip to my frying pan.
Wil’s smallest channel cat ever made for a tasty treat
Over the years, I have been fortunate to catch and release a handful of exceptional channel cats while out bass fishing that were much too large to eat. (Check out my Lake Oneida NY piece at: http://www.wilwegman.com/USA/fishing-new-yorks-lake-oneida-for-the-first-time.html .) But this pint-sized version of the whiskered feline fish was exactly the right eating size ... and by golly, I was gonna do just that, so in the livewell it went.
Despite draining the well at the boat launch, I was surprised to see my cute little kitty cat fish still alive 1 ½ hours later when I got home. But that wouldn’t last long! With my razor sharp Rapala fillet knife it was cleaned out into two beautiful fillets quick and easy and although I understood the smooth scale-less skin can be peeled off with a pair of pliers, it came off without issue using my knife.
Similar to what I do with brown bullhead catfish, I soaked the fish in a bit of milk ... just in case there was any ‘fishy’ taste ... even though that may not have been necessary. It was then breaded with some Fish Crisp “Italian Style” seasoning, and placed in a sizzling hot skillet with a touch of oil. The outcome was one very delicious tasting mild flavored fish, and as you can possibly guess by seeing the photo below, with my favorite special brew, made for a memorable dinner.
Wil’s semi-blackened channel cat dinner – served on his favorite plate. “It’s the only time I ever want to see a bass served with my supper,”says this self-induced bass-a-holic!