For those of you that don’t know, Lake Roosevelt is actually an impoundment on the Columbia River, created by the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam back in the 1930s. It is 150 miles long, from Grand Coulee Dam to just north of the Canadian border, and has over 400 miles of shoreline, a good portion of which is pristine sand beaches. We spend a lot of time there in the summer playing in the crystal clear waters.
In the winter, however, it is walleye season.
My buddy, who I do most of my walleye fishing with, is the walleye guru; the walleye whisperer, if you will. He has often told me, and I believe him, that walleye fishing is all about subtle nuance – the devil is in the details, and fishing for them requires for you to be on the “spot within a spot,” with the exact right lure, twitching it in exactly the right cadence.
I believe him, because his results speak volumes. At 8 fish a piece, we had our 16 fish limit easily before dark (which, since it gets dark at around 4 pm these days, is saying lot).
As is often the case, we also bagged a burbot, or fresh water ling, as a by-catch to our walleye efforts. Burbot are the only gadiform (cod-like) freshwater species. Their only close relatives are all saltwater fish. Burbot are not anadramous, and live mostly in landlocked lakes and rivers, where they are voracious bottom feeding predators. They are more common in the mid-west, Canada, and Alaska than they are, here, so catching them is a bit more rare than catching other species in this lake.
They have smooth, leathery skin, and are very snakelike in appearance – especially the shape of their heads. I honestly don’t like to touch them, because my monkey brain always screams at me “don’t touch the snake!” as I’m reaching into the net.
The one benefit of Burbot is that they are quite tasty. Many people boil the meat in sugar water, to sweeten the meat a bit. The point here is that the meat has a lobster-like texture, and with a touch of sweetness, it pretty much tastes like lobster. In fact, many fisherman around these parts refer to them as “poor man’s lobster”. I ate mine in this fashion, with some drawn garlic butter as a dipping sauce.
As an aside, anyone that wants to try this poor-man’s lobster dish, it is really simple and you can use other white meat fish to accomplish the dish if you like – halibut is my favorite, but you can use any kind of saltwater codfish – ling, true, sable, etc. You just get a sauce pan, fill about ¾ with water, dissolve as much sugar in the water as it will take as it heats up, and then throw the meat into the boiling liquid for a few minutes until it cooks through. Then make some drawn butter, dip and enjoy!
I cooked up some walleye that same night, in panko breading and deep-fried in peanut oil. This is Mrs. Goober’s favorite way to eat them, although I’m partial to broiling them in Mexican spices and eating them as fish tacos.
Since I’m a little hesitant to leave Mrs. Goober on the weekends right now, I took Monday off to take the jet boat up Hell’s Canyon for some steelhead fishing. That way, she won’t miss me because I’ll be gone while she’s at work.
As I’ve mentioned before, steelhead are the same species as a rainbow trout. They can interbreed and everything. The only difference is that steelhead are wired to be anadramous, meaning they travel down river to the saltwater, and live most of their adult life as sea creatures, before they turn around to come back upriver to spawn, just like salmon. Unlike salmon, however, steelhead do not necessarily die after they spawn, and so they will often turn around and head back to the ocean and come back up several times in their life cycle to spawn. Because they go to the ocean, they get big. The Idaho State record is nearly 30 pounds. I don’t know what Washington’s record is, but I’ll bet even bigger.
They really are amazing fish.