December 2013

December 2013 Blog of Education

Putting Meat in the Fridge and on the Table

Egg Sacks

Brown Trout and Salmon eggs ready to be tied

How well do you know where your food comes from? Prior to the industrial revolution, most food came from the neighborhood where refrigeration and preservation wasn’t necessary from the farm to the table. Today, your meat can come from the Midwest, your fruit from South America, your seasoning from Asia and your beer from Europe. It is really amazing to think how the global economy has made a multi-continental breakfast possible. As convenient as this may be, there is a certain charm, a reassurance in knowing the person who puts food on your table and where it comes from. I recall my good friends from Michigan, Rich and Melody, giving me a taste of the pork they harvested from one of the pigs on their farms. Not only was this a great experience to share a BBQ ribs meal with them but it was a throwback to the past seeing the satisfaction of Rich serving people an animal he was so proud to raise. Imagine then, what is it like when you can put your own meat in the fridge and on the table. Recently, I had a great new experience in Western, NY that would provide pounds of fresh protein I could trace right back to the source.

Egg Sacks Ready to be Tied

Eggs portioned out to be tied

I recently went to Western N.Y. to a popular steelhead fishing destination called Oak Orchard. I won’t disclose the exact location as my fishing buddies would kill me but let’s just say it was THE spot for fishing. We used steelhead rods and egg sacks we tied from both brown and salmon eggs days before. We drove through the night and straight to the river. With plenty of caffeine coursing through my veins, I survived the 6.5 hour drive and the cold sting of the wind woke me up as we head down to the fishing spot my buddies were lucky at before. We waited until the legal time to throw the first line and fearing the ever present chance of getting stopped by the environmental police, no one wanted to be the first in the river.

Steelhead grounds at Burt Dam

Burt Dam in Western, NY. Great location for fishing if you have the right knowledge.

Over the course of 2 days, we pulled in a variety of fish. Some of these fish were not legal and were quickly and unobtrusively released. Many were “Christmas trees” with previous tackle either negligently left in the fish or accidentally snagged on their dorsal and pectoral fins. It was an amazing experience watching others up and down river partaking in less-than-legal ways to catch fish including snagging and using weighted hooks and a suspicious retrieve. I’ll be the first to tell you, in a survival situation, anything goes but for a sportsmen, I don’t see the sport in poaching fish. I also don’t see why so many folks were happy to pull out king salmon that already lost their color and are called “zombie fish” by many of the locals. One look at the patchwork scales, the slowly whitening body or the intermittent flail of their tail and you understand why they are given this name.

Kevin Estela December Blog

Kevin Estela with a steelhead near Burt Dam

The king salmon wasn’t our query though. We went for browns and steelhead. I know what you’re saying, why not catch and release. I’m not going to get into a debate over that philosophy or the hook and cook perspective. Conservation is about proper use of resources and at proscribed amounts. We aren’t wiping out the fish but controlling the population. Don’t forget about the tons and tons (literally and not figuratively) of fish coming from the Great Lakes. My friend Jay told me the steelhead is a fish lost 90% of the time in the first 10 seconds. This couldn’t be more true. Once hooked, they run and give the angler good chase over rocks, through pools of water and in the maze of other anglers’ lines who fail to reel in despite the calls of “fish on.” Throughout the weekend, we hooked into our fair share of browns and steelhead and Jay hooked into many more than all of us combined. I swear, he has fishing in his veins. Above all, we had fun and laughed over and over.

Kevin Estela December Blog

Kevin Estela with a Brown Trout near Oak Orchard

We took advantage of a local fish processor who for a few bucks will fillet, skin and package your fish. At the local lodge, we used a Foodsaver vacuum packer to seal our fish in manageable portions. I through them in my Yeti Cooler and I made it back home on the final day. The filets are now frozen nicely in my fridge and, apart from a single meal I made that night of brown trout, all the fish I could take in the couple days of fishing  are ready to thaw and serve in the next couple months. I know when I serve this fish to either myself or to a friend, I can recall exactly where and when it was caught and I can revel in the fun I had and the challenge the fish gave me. It is extremely satisfying knowing I (YES I!) caught that fish and endured the cold, the wind and the rain to land it. I can not only share something that tastes good with whoever eats it but the story of the hunt, the pursuit of food, you don’t have when you buy from a large grocery store or a market.

Estela Wilderness Education December Blog

Fish vacuum packed and ready for the fridge

If you claim to be a foodie, you need to experience your food in a new way. If you have never put food on your table before, you need to try it. The process of planning the trip, partaking and preparing the harvest provides great appreciation and reverence for the food eaten. On top of that, you get some cool photos too.




POST SCRIPT: It was a great year here at EWE and there was a lot of information exchanged from coast to coast and overseas. Look for more programs in 2014. Thank you to all the supporters and fans of this page! You help make this site possible.