Monday, April 22, 2013

Mother Nature's Grocery Store - Spoonbill Fish

An abundance of delicious foods can be easily found growing wild and free for the taking right in your back yard, out in the country or even on conservation land, where prohibited.
All you need to know is where to find such wonderful delicacies and how to prepare them.  If you need to harvest from land other than your own, you will need permission from the landowner, or contact the Missouri Department of Conservation for the rules and regulations on harvesting from conversation land.
Some of the bounty I regularly enjoy from Mother Nature's Grocery Store are fish, deer, morrel mushrooms, dandelion blossoms, black berries, gooseberries, mulberries and walnuts.  I know that in Northwest Missouri, there is much more available and I am excited to seek out and harvest a larger variety of foods.  Beyond the native animals that are available to hunt, or even at the grocery store, there are many produce items that you can easily pick.  Persimmons, elderberry and violets are something I would love to try.
This weekend, my family and I spent the weekend taking part in the annual spoonbill season.  Spoonbill, also known as paddlefish, have a harvesting season from March 15 thru April 30 in Missouri.  Harvesting spoonbill is done by snagging them with are large snagging rod and reel set-up  along with a couple of large treble hooks and 14 - 16 ounce sinkers.  Essentially your hooks and lines rake the river bottom and by chance you hook a nice size spoonbill.  We usually snag in Warsaw on the Osage River.  The size requirements there are 34 inches from the eye of the spoonbill to the fork in the tail.  This weekend, we were lucky enough to snag this 70 pound female.  My husband did an excellent job bringing her in!  Here is more information about snagging for spoonbill in Missouri.
Click here for the Missouri Paddlefish Snagging Report
The Spoonbill is a very interesting fish because of it's unusual anatomy.  It has a large bill extending from the front of the fish.  Spoonbill have a slick skin rather than scales and they do not have a single bone in their bodies.  When cleaning a spoonbill, you must remove the fat and the red meat from the white meat.  The white meat is the meat you want to eat.  I know of two ways to clean a spoonbill.  First, if you have a female, you are require by law to remove the eggs at the body of water you caught the fish in and dispose of them there.  They will be recycled back into nature.  The eggs are protected from harvesting due to poachers illegally harvesting female spoonbill.  The innards should be removed.  Then, you may either fillet the meat from both sides of the fish's body or you can remove the head and tail, then carve the meat into steaks.  After removing the meat from the body, remove the skin, fat and red meat from the white meat.  Here is a youtube video that shows someone else's method, which is also very simple.  Warning: this video contains blood and guts!
Click Here to see how to clean a spoonbill
I personally prefer to bread my spoonbill in a cornmeal breading and fry it in canola oil, but there are many ways spoonbill can be prepared.  Spoonbill is a light white meat that more resembles chicken than fish.  When the meat is properly cleaned of fat and red meat, there is very little or no fishy taste.  It is one of the few fish my husband enjoys eating because of it's light flavor.

Click Here for Fried Spoonbill Recipe

Click Here for Baked Spoonbill Recipe

It's not too late, you still have 1 week left to catch your own spoonbill!  Water temperature and flow is perfect for harvest on the Osage River right now!  On April 27th the Old Oar House on the Osage River is holding a spoonbill tournament.  You could walk away with not only a prize fish, but a tournament prize as well!
~ Rebecca

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