Thursday, October 31, 2019

Alaska, Fish Batter and Late Season Bass Tactics

For many sportsmen the dream of fishing the crystal clear waters of Alaska is high on their bucket list. For me, this dream came true last summer, when I was able to join my Dad and brother on a “Once in a Lifetime” trip to the last frontier. For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into a half crazed tirade about what an amazing time was had by all. As a matter of fact, the limits of my skills as a writer wouldn’t do it justice anyway. Instead, let me share the details of one simple decadent meal that was enjoyed in the small town of Homer, AK.
             Throughout my life, I have eaten a lot of fresh fish, however, I have never experienced anything quite like the taste of caught fresh that day, never frozen halibut. Picture an enormous, heaping plate of halibut, deep fried to golden perfection. Every bite is crispy, salty goodness filled with delicious, melt in your mouth halibut. Add to the exquisite gourmet experience an ice cold Alaskan IPA and a restaurant window with a view of mountain rimed Kachemak bay and well you get the picture. If that was all to this story, I could simply slip into a gastronomic coma and be perfectly satisfied, however, there is more. Imagine, convincing one of the waitresses to provide you with the infamous, family secret batter recipe!

Alaskan Infamous Family Secret Batter Recipe   
- 2 lbs Fish (We were fortunate enough to return home with over 50 pounds of halibut but any “white” fish is perfect with this recipe including: Haddock, Northern Pike, Small and Largemouth Bass, Striped Bass, White Perch and Black Crappie and found them all to be delicious.)
- 12 ounces light beer
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1½ cups Flour
- 4 tablespoons Cornstarch

Place fish gently into deep fat fryer, being careful not to crowd fish. Cook till batter turns golden brown (about 3 minutes) at 375 degrees. Fish can be removed from fryer and placed on a paper towel lined plate and placed into the oven at 200 degrees to keep warm, while the remainder of the fish is cooking.
Anyone who grew up with the Schwan’s truck delivering frozen fish sticks to your front door, is sure to have choked them down with a heaping smear of Mom’s “homemade” tartar sauce. Typically this less than culinary concoction was made by combining equal parts relish and mayonnaise. Instead of relying on this old diehard of a recipe, and trust me it should die. Why not try this blissful tartar sauce recipe.

Blissful Tartar Sauce
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickle
- 3 tablespoons chopped green onion
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; chill at least 1 hour, lasts up to 2 days.

Late Season Bass Tactics
If looking for a great local “white fish”, to enjoy in the above recipe, largemouth bass is one of my favorites. For many anglers, bass fishing season ends soon after Labor Day. Committed bass fishermen know, however, that some of the best bass fishing occurs as the leaves change color and the shorter days of sunlight begin to drop water temperatures. September marks the beginning of the fall turnover, a time of year when the cooling upper layer of water becomes heavier than the water underneath. This causes the denser cold water to sink, pushing the warmer water to the surface. During this change, a majority of the lake's bass population will be drawn into the shallows to feed. In the fall, bass cover large amounts of territory in search of food as they fatten up for the long winter season. Once found, fickle late season bass are highly transitional and anglers must be prepared to move on once the bite goes cold and target new areas.
During the first part of fall turnover, top water lures like shallow water crank baits (ex. O.S.P Blitz Max in Red Claw and Bagley Honey B in Baby Bass and Red Crawdad), are king. Hungry bass, patrolling the shallows, really hammer these lures which mimic creatures of the shallows like crayfish, minnows and frogs. After the fall turnover, around the time aquatic plants begin to die, bass begin to transition into deeper water. At this time, anglers should make the switch to deep diving crank baits. Fished correctly, deep diving crank baits can break the 20 foot barrier, meaning anglers can successfully pursue big bass in deep water. Many fall anglers, fish Carolina rigs or Football jigs. Unfortunately, the biggest bass often prefer a crankbaits over rigs and jigs, as Bass Master Pro Paul Elias has seen this first hand. He noted that, while fishing deep water, he would consistently catch 2 pound fish on a Carolina rig, but nothing larger. After switching to a Mann's E-Z 30+, got fewer bites, but began consistently catching 3 to 5 pound fish.
This data is exciting, as it really cements something my grandfather always said, “If the fish ain’t biting, or you ain’t catching the fish you want, try something different.” Don’t be afraid to switch it up and try something new this fall, you may just be surprised by the results!

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