Raging Creek, Nice Walleye

Tried to get a couple fishing buddies to go walleye fishing to the stilling basin at Blue Marsh Dam one March, 2011, morning. No answer from one and the other was going to go to church. "My church is out on the water", I say, not meaning any deference to those who enter a sanctuary on a Sunday morning. If I walked in, the walls might fall down, just so you know.

The water was cold, 44 degrees, at the stilling basin at Blue Marsh, which is an Army Corps of Engineers dam, built on the Tulpehocken Creek in the late 1970s. The stilling basin is where the water rushes out of either the top or bottom of this dam (I have not been able to pin that down), charges through a concrete trough, and flows out to re-form the Tully. All this is water is rushing through that trough right now, several miles northwest of Reading, PA. Anyway, the air was around 48 degrees at 9 AM and rose to 51 by noon. The sky was promised at partly sunny, but it turned out to be mostly cloudy. The water was raging down the trough, faster than I've ever seen it, due to a 2-inch rain that had dumped on the Tuesday or Wednesday prior. The water in the creek was way too fast to fish as it came out of the dam, but I'd heard about the pool next to the trough, that guys were fishing for walleye the week earlier. The season was closing in two days, and I'd never fished for walleye. This was my chance, with or without any help. I started to bounce a nightcrawler on a Texas rig along a ridge of underwater rocks, I think, that separated the raging creek from the quieter pool. I was playing in the seam between the fast water and the still water, when I decided to reel in and throw my bait more toward the middle of the pool. I hit what I thought was a snag and started to walk left along the bank the try to clear it when, "Jumpin' Jehovah, there's a fish on there," I said either aloud or to myself. A brief fight later, and was landed a 21-inch walleye. "Zowie!", I said.

Brought it home because I knew that this fish was renowned as the best-tasting freshwater fish out there. I dressed, beheaded, de-finned, and skinned it. (Warning: no need to try to scale a walleye or perch; it's impossible. Just skin it with the scales on; the skin comes off pretty easy.) I drizzled it with olive oil and rubbed it with Pride of Szeged fish rub, and wrapped it in foil. I cooked ol' bug-eye on a Weber charcoal grill over medium-low coals covered for 30 minutes. I checked it at that point and left it on for another 10. Use your own judgment for cooking times, knowing that when the fish flakes away from the backbone it is done.

This fearsome-looking fish is excellent, with a lobster-like flavor. And, with my belly full, I had a glowing joy from my first walleye fishing trip. I really didn't wonder about how the prayers went.

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