A few months ago, my family became the proud owners of a boat. It's nothing fancy, and it's older than I am, but it floats, the motor works, and it's big enough for the five of us to hit our local lakes for fishing and fun. We named it "The Heat Wave Lizard" after a passage in a favorite book by Jimmy Buffett ... and because the boat is 1970s avocado green. Over the summer, we spent hours and hours on the lake, and even spent the night on the boat with our oldest son. Each boy has had fishing trips on his own with me and Jayson, and they have all caught some nice fish.
Lately, we have been doing a lot of fishing for catfish. One weekend, we took Luke for a few hours Friday night and again Saturday morning, and between the three of us, we reeled in 16 keepers, averaging 4 to 5 pounds apiece. On Jake's solo trip, he landed a nice 5-pounder. Will didn't have quite as much luck, due in part to the fact he took a nap on the fold-down boat seat for about half the trip. He had fun, though! Here are Jake and Luke's biggest catches of the summer:
My husband, Jayson, cleans all of these beasts we catch, with help from the boys. They love the idea that the fish they catch will feed their family. We've had a couple of big fish fry dinners, and the rest of the fillets are frozen, so we can enjoy them later. When we have a fish fry, we cut the fish fillets into nuggets, so they're just the right size for eating with your fingers. We use a couple of different kinds of pre-mixed fish fry coating in our recipe, and add a few spices. I mix big batches of this up and keep it in a canister, then it's ready when we are! I'll probably try to recreate the mixture using base ingredients at some point, but the mix is so good and so inexpensive that for now, we're going with it. Why make things more complicated than they need to be?
Fish fry coating
1 10-oz. package lemon-flavored fish fry mix
1 10-oz. package Cajun-style fish fry mix
1 Tbs. Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
Mix all ingredients together, and spoon only what you need for a batch at a time into a flat bowl. Dip fish pieces into mixture and coat well. You can dip them in a beaten egg with a little milk first, but we just put ours straight from the water bath into the mixture.
Place nuggets into boiling peanut or vegetable oil, using a candy thermometer to keep the temperature between 365 and 370 degrees F. Don't fry too many nuggets at once. They need room to move!
After about 6 or 7 minutes, depending on the size of your nuggets, they will float to the top. That means they're ready! Remove one and test for doneness. The fish should be opaque and flake with a fork. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
Jayson sets up an assembly line for doing a big fish fry. We usually have them at my parents' house, and we heat the oil on the side burner of my dad's propane grill. This keeps the mess out of the kitchen! Most of the nuggets are kept in a water bath in the refrigerator, and he brings a bowl with ice water and a couple of batches of nuggets outside. Next to the fish, he puts a bowl with some of the fish fry in it. His table is set up right next to the grill, so the fish go from water bath to coating to oil in no time.
A fish fry is a great time to invite friends and family over to share a meal! Here's a look at the delicious spread we prepared with my parents for our last fish fry. Fresh tomatoes from my dad's garden, corn on the cob from a local grower, the best cole slaw in the world made by my mom, hearty baked beans, and, of course, fish! We also fried some chicken legs in the fish mix, and they were great!
Yes, fishing has become a regular activity for me and my family. It's great to catch enough fish to feed our friends and family, and to have a supply in our freezer. But the real reason we spend so much time on the lake is that we get to just sit and enjoy our boys. There are no cell phones, televisions, or video games to distract any of us. We just sit and talk, and wait for the next big lunker to take our line.