Fish and Eat Cheap

Eat More Fish
By Cap’n Larry Jarboe
Some outdoor fishing writers focus on striving to catch the most unattainable fish as their quarry. I don’t believe Ernest Hemmingway ever caught a monster Atlantic Swordfish so he wrote about catching one in his classic short novel, “Old Man and the Sea”. I know a fellow who writes a seasonal fishing column is fixated on fishing for flounder. He admittedly doesn’t catch many but he spends many hours of time and gallons of fuel in pursuit of this elusive flatfish that some can read about him not catching.
Personally, I prefer to put in the cooler as many pounds of fish per gallon of fuel that I can to feed my wife, my mother, a growing list of women who want fresh fish, and also myself when the day is done. This past winter, I caught a cooler full of Blueline Tilefish and Blackbelly Rosefish in the Norfolk Canyon fifty miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. The party boat trip out to the fishing grounds took over four hours and cost a couple hundred bucks. Then, there was the eight hour round trip to Virginia Beach and back home. Though it was and will be a great annual adventure, this is certainly not the most cost effective way to put fish in the cooler.
My trips to Florida are equally non-cost competitive. It is real nice hanging out under blue skies and warm sunshine in the middle of winter but the expense to travel out to the Gulf Stream only five miles offshore is still a major drain on the pocket. I figure that it costs over a hundred bucks a day in fuel, bait, and maintenance to catch a good mess of fish in Key Largo. That’s not figuring the 2,400 mile round trip to travel from Southern Maryland to the Keys and back.
My most affordable and efficient fishing trips have been aboard a 12 foot long aluminum Sears Gamefisher skiff that I paid a hundred bucks for almost thirty years ago. I built a three wheeled trailer/cart that slides with the boat into the back of my short bed Chevy truck. It’s a pretty strange looking rig that I can launch from most any landing by myself.
I use an marine grade electric trolling motor with a battery pack mounted in an old milk crate for power with a human powered paddle for auxiliary propulsion. The most I’ve ever spent for fuel in a day’s worth of fishing in the electric skiff is less than ten cents. Electric boats may not be fast but they sure are affordable.
The challenge with a small slow boat is to launch the boat close to prime fishing grounds. On the Patuxent River, I have access to the Golden Beach boat ramps which provide a short shot to prime fishing grounds in the Patuxent River, Trent Hall Creek, and Indian Creek. There is good public access to this area of the Patuxent from the DNR boat ramp in Barstow on the Calvert County side of Rt. 231. Lately, Mallows Bay on the Potomac has become my favorite public landing in Charles County with easy access to many species of fish.
Mallows Bay is a beautiful public landing for canoes, kayaks, and trailerable boats near Nanjemoy in Charles County. In this shallow cove, downriver from Sandy Point to Liverpool Point, there are dozens of shallow wrecks as well as old pilings from two steamboat landings and structure from past wrecking operations in the cove and harbor. Also, the deeper river channel comes a stone’s throw from shore at the two points that formerly hosted docks to load steamboats.
A very broad diversity of fresh and saltwater fish can be caught in these waters. In addition to Largemouth Bass, White Perch, Bluegill Sunfish, Crappie, Red Drum, Norfolk Spot, Channel Catfish, and White Catfish, there are two relatively new immigrants to the Chesapeake Bay watershed that may be easily caught in the Mallows Bay area of the Potomac River. The invasive Northern Snakehead fish is showing up in greater numbers on the Potomac and is also being caught to a lesser extent up the Patuxent River. These fearsome looking fish are truly delicious and worth targeting by fishing rod or bow and arrow.
Another invasive fish that has become firmly established in the Potomac River Basin is the Blue Catfish. These fast growing catfish grow as big as a person. The latest record for a Blue Cat caught in Maryland is over eighty pounds. These fish can also be targeted by fishing with fish heads or large cut bait. From a dining point of view, I find the Blue Catfish to be the most tasty of all the cats that reside in Southern Maryland waters.
Also, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been recommending removal of these fish from our waters.
So, while other fishing writers spend hundreds of dollars in fuel to chase an elusive flatfish or capture their limit of two Striped Bass, I prefer to pay a few cents to SMECO for electricity and pack a hundred pounds of Blue Catfish in the cooler. Different strokes, I guess. While the two-stroke and four-stroke engines pollute the air and water while subsidizing Mid-Eastern terrorism, my no-stroke electric motor simply gets the little boat to big fish willing to bite.
This year, I intend to eat more catfish and put far more pounds of fish per gallon into the cooler. The proof is in the pics!
Stick around and in this book I will give you plenty of ideas on how the fill the freezer and eat cheap.

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