Outdoor / Fishing

Thursday, Aug 21 2014 04:14 PM

STEVE MERLO: White sea bass on the prowl

By The Bakersfield Californian

Salt water anglers are finding excellent action on schools of coveted White Sea Bass running a few miles from the central coast town Port San Luis, near Avila Beach. The great eating fish, while not necessarily huge, are still running from 30-inch keepers upwards to and over 30-pounds each. Best bait for the croakers remains live squid, but there are so many fish swimming around in the area off the Coke Plant that even frozen baits are working.

Most anglers are plying the 60-80-foot depths with dropper loops after spotting the hoards on their electronic fish locators. Calm, windless days are the key for private boaters to getting where the fish are, some 16-miles south of the tourist Mecca. The fish will remain in the area until the waters cool off and the squid biomass moves back down and out.

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These are Steve Merlo's opinions, and not necessarily The Californian's. His column appears every Friday. Write him at merloworms1@att.net

Aqueduct stripers still biting

Striped Bass are hitting a wide variety of baits and lures out at the concrete canal known as the California Aqueduct. Fishermen are making contact with the linesiders at many of the computer controlled gates located along the entire stretch from Utica Avenue to the Grapevine.

Don Crabtree, my wife Candy and I sampled the action several times in the last week and found the fish eager to hit artificial 'Gitzits' or Rattletraps cranked through the boiling water. We also had a ball using live sculpins we caught the night before and found the stripers hungry for the hard-to-come-by baitfish.

As long as the water flow remains, which seems to occur at night until mid-morning, the fish bite well, but when the current stops, so does the bite. Temperatures in the upper 90's make standing on the concrete banks a tough proposition for most people, but those willing to put up with the blazing sun can reap some decent rewards. Most of the fish we've caught have all been keepers over the magical 18-inch mark, with limits the rule on stripers running upwards of 25-inches and three-to-five-pounds each.

Fish casserole

Recently, my friends and I have been enjoying a really good recipe for all types of salt- and fresh-water fish, but one that works especially well with striped bass filets. While stripers are inherently delicious with white, flaky meat, the red-flesh on the outside portion of the filets can taste a bit 'fishy' unless it's removed. The easiest way to get most of it off the cutlets is to raise the knife an eighth of an inch when making the final cut, leaving the vast majority of the offending meat on the throwaway skin. After that, I simply 'shave' off the smaller, remaining darkened portions with a sharp knife, then soak them in milk for a few hours or even overnight. Works miracles, believe me.

Merlo's Fish Casserole

3-lbs. Striped bass fillets Salt and pepper

Medium red onion (diced)

1-cup grated Mexican Jack cheese

1 can chopped tomatoes

3-cloves Garlic (chopped)

1 small can chopped green chilies

1/2 lemon

1/2-cup bread crumbs

1-tbsp. olive oil

1/2 red bell pepper

1/2 green bell pepper

Tabasco sauce (to taste)

Remove all traces of red meat from the fillets. Lightly oil a deep-dish casserole dish, then put a layer of fillets across the bottom. Sprinkle with onions, peppers, chilies, tomatoes and garlic, then squeeze lemon over the fish. Continue 'building' (if necessary) another layer until all fish is gone then sprinkle cheese, then bread crumbs over the top to finish. Bake covered in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes, then uncover and broil until top lightly browns -- about five more minutes.

Gun cleaning challenge

Dove season begins with a literal bang on Sept. 1, and hunters will find lots of birds hanging around the valley floor until cold weather drives them south. With this season's liberal bag limit set at fifteen birds per day per hunter, a triple bag possession and an all you can shoot Eurasian Collared dove non-limit, hunters can have the opportunity to fire lots of shells during the Labor Day opener.

But just for the sake of argument, when's the last time you really took a good look at 'Old Betsy?' You know, your favorite shotgun, the one you hunt with, and decided she was in dire need of a good cleaning? Nothing is more frustrating than to arrive at a prime location filled with flying gamebirds and have your shotgun get jammed or fail to fire with birds smothering your position.

Even if you don't know how to clean your favorite piece, the internet has dozens of sites open to everyone regarding the cleaning of individual makes of guns, and all one has to do is go on line and search. Local gun shops can do a great job, but the time element is critical and you may not get your gun back in time for the opener, so get on it now, rather than waiting for the day before the season starts.

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