Monday, January 14, 2008

The Elusive Redfish – Pride of the Oyster Bars

If you like sport fishing, you surely will like to fish for redfish. This feisty species is one of the best fighters in the inshore spectrum and, cooked correctly, a great addition to the barbeque menu. Even some restaurants have adopted the fish as a specialty. For example, at the famous Redfish Seafood Grill and Bar on Bourbon Street, New Orleans, they headline, “At Redfish, we serve up a parade of award-winning French Quarter specialties, including classics like Blackened Redfish, Crawfish Etouffee and Jambalaya.”

Young redfish, or red drum as they are often called, feed in the shallows on clams, crabs, mussels and shrimp. When the fish are about four years old and about 30 inches in length, they leave the shallows to join the near offshore populations. A 30 inch specimen will weigh around ten pounds. They can live for twenty years and have attained weights up to sixty pounds (Florida record fifty one pounds eight ounces).

The fish gets its common name from the copper bronze large scales on their bodies which are darker in cloudy water and lighter in clear waters but the most distinguishing feature is a dark spot at the top of the base of the tail. For the fisherman, however, the most recognizable feature is the tail disturbing the water in the calm shallows and frequently breaking the surface. The sight of a dozen or more redfish “tailing” as this foraging behavior is called is enough to set the adrenaline coursing through the veins of the most hardened sportsman.

Catching redfish is like all fishing. You just have to be in the right place at the right time with the right bait and tackle. Use a light medium action rod because you could end up doing a lot of casting before you finally lure your trophy specimen onto the hook, and use the lightest line you feel comfortable with. Just remember to set the drag accurately (the pro’s will actually use a scale and set it to sixty percent of nominal breaking strain).

The right time is easy, fish the feeding grounds on the flats and oyster bars on the rising tide and till just after the tide turns and fish the hiding places in the troughs and sloughs on the ebb. The most reliable spots are on the edge of the mangroves close to deep water. This gives the combination of a great feeding spot with an easy escape route when threatened.

As far as bait is concerned, if you are fishing for the pan, use live bait. Greenbacks, pinfish, or even a succulent shrimp will certainly catch more fish than any lure, but for sport and satisfaction nothing can beat the feeling of hooking that twenty five inch express train on a little gold spoon or shiny plug. Toss your bait or lure as close to the mangroves as you dare, let it sink for a few seconds, then retrieve slowly. When the strike comes, you will know all about it, and the fish will do all the work of setting the hook. Your job will be to get the fish away from the mangroves and then to enjoy the fight of your life. This is when the challenge of light tackle fishing will tax your skill and fill your psyche with pride.

Happy fishing, and look out for the recipe coming soon! Just remember, if you are not going to eat the fish, release it unharmed. Always respect your local fishing regulations.

The Basics of Wine

Wine making is an art that has been practiced for over four thousand years. Essentially wine comes in three basic types: red, white and sparkling.

If a sparkling wine comes from the Champagne region of France it is named after that region. Other French regions that produce good wine are Bordeaux and Burgundy. The best Italian wines come from Tuscany, and the best American wines come from California.

When wine is made the grapes are crushed and the juice extracted. The juice contains sugar and yeast. The yeast ferments the sugar and gradually alcohol is produced. Although the alcohol is always the same, every wine has its own flavor. This depends on the type of grape used and the conditions in which fermentation occurs.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir grapes make full, rich red wines. Merlot grapes produce lighter, softer red wines. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes make white wines.

Good wines usually have their year of production on the bottle. This is called the vintage. Some years produce better wines than others.

Most red wines improve with a little aging, some for as long as ten years. Most red wines are not distributed until about two years after they are put in the bottle. However, most white wines do not benefit from aging, except for champagne and sweet dessert wines.

Wines can be enjoyed like any other drink, but they are often consumed with a meal. For full flavored meats such as beef choose a full red wine, like a Zinfandel, Cabernet or Syrah.

For lighter meat like pork or lamb a medium bodied red like a Merlot or Pinot Noir is usually a good choice.

Chicken and fish are usually accompanied by white wine like a Chardonnay. This wine will also complement a non-meat dish, as would a Zinfandel or Riesling.

Sparkling and white wines are best served chilled. A red wine should be served when it is only slightly below room temperature. Both wines are best left to stand before opening. Some red wines have sediment which should stay at the bottom of the bottle, and an agitated sparkling wine is often much too eager to leave the bottle.

You can serve a white wine immediately after removing the cork, but a red wine benefits from 'breathing' for about half an hour after the bottle is opened. For best results gently decant the red wine into another container. This allows a greater surface area of the wine to breathe and leaves the sediment behind in the bottle. If you do not have a decanter, pour half a glass from the bottle and let both stand for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.