For our family, like most firmly rooted within The Blue Line, the equation is simple:
Summer + Camping x Kids = FISHING!
When my son RJ was 4, he was out fishing one morning at Bull Rush Bay with his “Gramps”.
Gramps overheard RJ humming to himself, singing a little tune while they fished. When they returned to camp, Gramps wrote RJ’s lyrics down. They went like this:
Water Brings Weeds
Weeds bring Bugs
Bugs bring Fish
Fish Bring Fishing
Fishing Brings Happiness!
And so, in all its various forms and formats, for our family it has, ever since.
We are a catch and release family. No matter the size, species or circumstance, once boated, every catch is expediently de-hooked, weighed, measured, photographed, admired as appropriate, then, as quickly as possible, released back to the lake.
Each summer though, despite our best efforts, there seem to be one or two fish that just don’t quite make it back into the lake. Which is what batter, salt, pepper, butter, and frying pans are for! Not all amongst our clan are fish eaters, but there are enough who enjoy it that a “catch of the day” treat never goes to waste.
One summer, a few years back- my son RJ caught a nice bass in the river somewhere above the locks. He went through our usual de-hooking and measuring routine. However, through excess hook or admiration- this fish was clearly menu bound.
So, upon RJ’s return to camp, my brother Ray and I set out to prepare a nice camp fish snack. Ray stoked up the fire while RJ & I filleted the fish. I prefer camp cooking bass filets skinless. Carrying years of practice and a good sharp knife, through time I have become reasonably fillet proficient, a skill passed down to me by our father. RJ has worked diligently to acquire the same skill from me. In relatively short order, father & son worked together to accomplish our task.
But alas! As Ray rummaged through to food bin, I heard,
“Crap! Forgot pancake mix!”
“Nope, forgot that too.”
“Corn Meal? Since when have we ever brought corn meal to camp!?”
“Sorry, Ray, just checking. You never know.”
So now we had a real problem. We had a fish, a fire, a frying pan, but no batter. How on earth does any respectable camp cook fry fresh fish without batter?!
We reviewed our options:
Option I: Ray could boat to the beach, walk in, drive to the house, get some pancake mix, walk back in and drive back. ( I wasn’t doing it! I wasn’t the Moron WHO FORGOT PANCAKE MIX!!!)
Option II: We could gather acorns or beechnuts, craft a mortar and pestle, and grind our own camp flour……
Option III: KETCHUP!
I thought, pondered and mused.
Then, suddenly- VOILA! There it was! Our solution in the form of a five gallon jug.
“I’ve got it!”
“Ray – get me some butter. We’ll poach it. We’ll use Lemonade!”
I poured off a big bowl of hybrid camp lemonade, added several healthy shakes of pepper, dropped in the fillets. Ray brought butter to a sizzle in a pan on the fire. We added the pepper/lemonade bass.
Recalling a technique from one of those cooking shows on TV, I grabbed a big spoon. The technique has a name. I surely don’t know it.
I spooned hot, buttery lemonade mixture over the fish until it poached nicely through.
Once done, we plated the fillets, hit them once more with pepper and a light dash of salt & announced:
“Voila! Chere Famille- Le Festin Des Poisson Est Pret!”
Translation: “Fish is Done! Come and Get It!”
It didn’t last long. My Sister in Law, Patty, gave the greatest review:
“Well, Big Brother, I don’t like fish- but I REALLY like this!”
What greater compliment can an outlaw cook get?
My brother Ray concurred. I was promoted to “Camp Chef” on the spot.
Stop by and join us for a meal, fireside, “Chez Bull Rush Bay.”
Staffed seasonally in July & August. The Menu varies. The kitchen is always open. BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat). Reservations not required. Ferry service available upon request.
See you there!
Chez “Camp Bull Rush Bay”
All photos courtesy of Richard Monroe