Saturday, April 7, 2012

No-Fish Boat Casserole & A Few Fishing Tips

Despite your best efforts there are times when you come up empty-handed with 'no fish.'  I hate these times when Neptune refuses to yield any bounty of the sea.  The hardest part is when you return to the boat empty handed, the crew looks at you disappointed and in disgust. Next, the grumbling starts.  Such as, "Oh, so what are we going to have for supper, huh Mr. Big Fisherman?!" Although you too are suffering from your lack of piscatorial prowess, it calls for quick thinking and action. You're the skipper. Give them comfort food!  Like noodles in creamy, cheesy goodness, and SPAM.  Huh? What? SPAM?  Yes, that magical, mystery porcine meat that really signifies that you can't catch fish.  It is the only way you can redeem yourself with King Neptune is by punishing yourself with SPAM.  Because of this, tomorrow when you go out to fish, you and anyone who eats it will reap the bounty of fresh fish.  I know it, because it repeatedly works with me.  The SPAM humbles me and helps me to think what, where, and how I can be a better and more productive angler.  As a result I always keep a can or two of SPAM in the boat's larder. (Can also be used as shrimp or crab bait in a pinch.)

"No-Fish Boat Casserole" was invented as a result of a wet, miserable day of fishing and not catching anything worth keeping.  Once again the best and most memorable recipes are born from necessity and rummaging through the larder looking for ingredients that would satisfy the crew.  It had to be easy, tasty, comforting, and nutritious, because tomorrow I will need the strength to haul in all the fish I was going to catch.  There are a few victuals in this recipe that may be problematic in your larder - cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and fresh veggies.  I try to always bring a big block of cheddar cheese on a cruise since you can do so much with it.  Cream cheese keeps well and can easily be found at various small groceries up and down the coast.  (These two items are important comfort food items so you should always have them in your larder.)  And, carrots and celery seem to keep well in the dark, cool places on your boat.  Again, carrots and celery are also common at coastal groceries.

Another note for this meal, you'll need a pot or pan that you can place on the grill.  I don't regularly fire up my oven because it makes the boat too hot especially in summer, but I do regularly use my grill.  Besides that, by placing it on the grill to cook you'll add a bit of smoky flavor to it which everyone seems to like.  I also use the time that the pot is on the grill to contemplate in solitude (with a drink of course) where, what, and how I am going to catch fish tomorrow.  Study the tides - when is slack?  Study the charts - where are those "fishy" looking spots?  Get a weather forecast.  Look at your tackle and gear.  Make a plan.  Or, you can waste your time by making excuses why you didn't catch fish and tell the lies about the big ones that got away.  Please note that the more spirits you consume the bigger the fish that got away and as a result your credibility may suffer.  Be forewarned though, these sorts of fish exaggerations may negate your SPAM eating appeasement with Neptune.

Let's get started making "No-Fish Boat Casserole" so you can get back to "catching" versus "fishing."
  • 4 1/2 cups uncooked egg noodles
  • 2 quarts boiling water
  • 1 can vegetables such as green beans, peas and carrots
  • 1 carrot or celery or both, chopped (optional)
  • 1 C milk (powdered: 2-3 T powdered milk, 1 C water)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 C (8 oz) cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 of package  (6 oz) cream cheese
  • 1/2 t garlic powder (can use fresh too)
  • 1 T onion powder (can use fresh too, about 1/4 onion, chopped)
  • 1 can SPAM, chopped into cubes
  • 1/2 cup crackers, crushed (can be Ritz, Cheese-Its, Wheat Thins, or even Saltines)
Cook noodles in 2 quarts boiling water for 2 minutes. Add canned vegetables and any fresh veggies you might have to the noodles and cook 3 minutes more. Drain immediately. You do not want to over cook your noodles and veggies, otherwise you will end up with a soggy, sloppy mess.  Next, add milk, canned soup, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, SPAM, and garlic & onion powders to noodle mixture and mix well.
Put pot or pan in oven or on grill over medium heat and not over direct flame. Cover with foil or a lid and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Resist the temptation to uncover and check.  After 30 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Top with your favorite crackers for some crunch.  Serve to the crew along with your fishing plans for tomorrow.

Here's a few fishing tips to ensure you'll not have make or eat No-Fish Boat Casserole.  Although we do enjoy No-Fish Boat Casserole on it's own occasionally.  It is pretty good comfort food when other things besides no fish ail you.
Click on image to enlarge
  • Look for underwater hills or humps or shelves on your chart for your area.  Note when slack tide is and try to fish the location then.  Just after the tide turns, fish the downward side of the underwater hill, hump, or shelf.  
  • Avoid fishing during the middle of a big tide, or if the current is too strong.
  • Use your depth sounder not to look for big fish, but to look for bait fish.  If you spot bait fish on your sounder you can bet there will be big fish about. If you don't see any bait fish, then your chances are greatly reduced that you will catch anything.
  • If you see gulls working on bait, fish the edges of the area where the gulls are feeding.  Again, there's probably big fish about.
  • If you catch a fish, cut it's gut open and see what it is eating.  Then check if you have lures that match it.  Once, we caught a nice yelloweye rockfish, checked it's gut and found that it was feeding on prawns.  We switched to a red or pink jig and bounced it lightly off the bottom and caught more.
  • Look for small or slight current ripples on the water and fish the edges of these.  The bait fish will get caught in the current making them easy prey for big fish.
  • Fish with the current, not against it.  Once you get to the end of your area, pull up your gear and return to the start.  Don't waste time turning and going against the current.  I've always caught more fish by going with the current than fishing against the current.  Fishing against the current causes you to stay in one place and waste a bunch of gas.
  • If you don't get a bite within 10-15 minutes in one spot, move on.
  • Unless you are trolling, don't let too much line out.  If jigging try to keep your line straight up and down and your jig just above (2-3") above the bottom.  If your line gets too much at an angle, reel up and re-drop down.
  • Always check the regulations for the area you plan to fish BEFORE fishing. If not, this can really ruin your day and eating SPAM will not help.
Good luck and hope you catch the big one!
Day after eating No-Fish Boat Casserole

1 comment:

DeBacle said...

Anything with cheese, noodles and mushroom soup sounds like good comfort food to me!
Good fishing tips, too. Thanks!