Shrimpo de Mayo

I have to admit it, seeing cases of my favorite cat food stacked up 4 feet high over at the Quilcene Village Store the other day made me smile. I never get near as excited as my cat does about cat foood, except for a short window in early to mid May, and that window is about to open.

Shrimping season is here! In and around town you can see folks working on boats, getting out the pots, and generally tightening up their outfit with regards to all things nautical. This year’s opener is TODAY, Saturday, May 5th and as always, it’s circled on calendars throughout the area.

Hood Canal spot prawns make for some of the best eating around, make no mistake about that, and cat food is one of the more popular baits for them. Now sure, there’s a whole bunch of ways to bait a pot, most are top secret recipes involving various sorts of oily fish, fish parts, and such, but for many, a few cases of cat food come in real handy this time of year whether you’re a cat owner or not.

The openers are from 9am to 1pm the 5th, 11th and 12th and again the 16th. The short season insures a big turnout every year, and as many people come from different parts of the state to partake in this event, getting out on the water early is a good plan. Boat ramps are crowded, lines can be long for launching, and the usual boat launch fiascos will no doubt occur, so plan ahead.

If you are short a pot from the ‘ one that got away’ last year, or the bouy that no longer floats, a quick run to McKay’s in Brinnon is all it takes to get in the game again.

Shrimp are bottom dwellers, and can be found from 140- 250 feet out here, and like any fishing related marine sport, everyone has their ‘favorite’ spot. Last year we spent a day off Toandos Peninsula, in about 220 feet of water and got some real nice sized shrimp. A different day was spent in Quilcene Bay in about 150 feet of water and that spot yielded some good sized shrimp too.

It just depends, shrimp are where you find them, and that’s on the bottom. Sometimes a slump where the bottom drops off, or along a shelf can be good spots, as the shrimp can get out of the current and hunker down in heavy tidal periods. A fish finder (or last years GPS coordinates) can be handy, but certainly not an absolute must have here.

A typical shrimp outing is less involved than you might think. We bait the pots, locate a likely spot, drop ’em down, and then relax and shoot the breeze, giving those tasty critters a chance to locate the bait, and crawl on in for a look. An hour or so of ‘soaking’ the pot is usually long enough before you pull ’em up and see how good you were at picking a spot. It’s a relaxing half-day of opening up cans of cat food, baiting the pots, dropping them down, and pulling them up.

Now as I get older, a pot puller has a certain appeal, but then again, pulling up a heavy pot by hand isn’t all that hard, and the anticipation as the first pot of the year comes within view as you’re bringing it in is sort of fun too. Off with their heads and shells, and down the hatch….  prawn sashimi at its freshest.

Limits are 80 per person, and 4 pots per boat. A WDFW license is required to participate. You can get one online, print a copy, and they will mail you the hard copy if you don’t already have one for 2012-2013. WDFW enforcement personnel also attend these openers, so make sure your boat is equipped with the flares, whistles and such before heading out, wouldn’t want to lose valuable time on a 4 hour opener here, when you could be hauling up shrimp.

It’s a minus 2,1 low tide Saturday 5-5-12 at around 11 am, so if you get your shrimp limit, clams and oysters wouldn’t be out of the question either. Public shell fishing grounds are a stones throw from the Herb Beck Marina, and if the lines at the take out are long, may as well get your harvest of 40 clams while you’re out there. Dinners around the area will no doubt be quite good Saturday night.

Local Wild Morel Mushrooms

While we’re on the subject of harvest, Morels have been out in the lowlands for a couple of weeks now, and if you think shrimping spots are held close to the vest, don’t even ASK about Morel spots.

One might try a recently burned over area, perhaps some second growth forest edges around some Alders, and I even see a few in a local lawn in town. As the month moves on and (hopefully) gets a bit warmer, you can chase these up in elevation as the ground temps warm up a bit.

When you are picking Morels, if you see one, stop, do not walk around, don’t even move you feet, and carefully look for more in the immediate vicinity. They have a way for hiding under leaves, and other decaying vegetation, and most cut the mushroom off, leaving the mycelium or root in the ground.

Be sure, very sure, you know what you are picking.

While there are several kinds of Morels, there are also a couple of poisonous mushrooms that share similar habitat. If you aren’t 100% positive, go with someone who is. When in doubt, throw it out is never more true than when dealing with wild mushrooms.

I picked a handful the other day out on ‘The Coyle’, so they are out there and just waiting to be picked. No need for cat food either… or a boat. As always, respect private property, and always ask permission if in doubt.

So what can you do with a shrimp, besides eat it raw? Or a Morel, for that matter?

It is Cinco de Mayo, so how about a quick and easy Shrimp and Chipotle dish, just a bit of heat here, and you could wash it down with those leftover Corona’s from earlier in the day. I got this recipe from Brisas del Mar, a restaurant in Veracruz, Mexico, it’s pretty good if I may say so.

Camarones Enchipotlados (Shrimps in Chipotle Sauce)

You will need:

  • Fresh Hood Canal Spot Prawns (a pound or so)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes ‘broiled’ (’till skins are blistered and starting to char)
  • 4 (or more) chile chipotles adobados
  • 1 garlic clove peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp Oregano

Peel the shrimp and butterfly, leaving the tails on, season with salt and pepper, add lime juice and let sit for 30 minutes in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a frying pan, drain the shrimp (save the liquid) add them along with the sliced onion and fry shaking the pan and tossing the ingredients for about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp and onion with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In a blender jar, blend the tomatoes, chipotles and their liquid along with the garlic to a textured sauce. Reheat the oil, add the sauce, and fry over high heat, stirring and scraping so it doesn’t stick or burn for about 8 minutes. Add the wine, oregano, lime juice marinade and cook for another minute or so. Add the shrimp/onion mixture and cook for 2 minutes, the shrimps should be just cooked and still crisp.

Happy Shrimpo de Mayo!!

So, if you didn’t get out after the shrimp, but managed a few Morels, here’s a good Spring recipe that you can put those Morels into, and it’s an easy dish with lots of flavor.

Asparagus and Morel Risotto

You will need :

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Arborio Rice
  • 1 cup chopped Onion
  • 1 TBS Chopped Garlic
  • 1 TBS Chopped Shallot
  • 4 Cups Chicken (Or Veggie) Stock
  • 1 lb Asparagus (Tips only, save the rest for something else)
  • 1/2 lb (or more if you got a bunch) Fresh Morels
  • 1/2 cup ( or more) Grated Parmesan

 Heat olive oil in a large wide pan, add onion, shallot and garlic and cook over low heat until soft, about 5 minutes, then add rice and cook for another 3 minutes or so, stirring the rice to coat with oil. From a pot of simmering stock, begin adding stock to the rice mixture, 1 cup at first, then 1/4 cup at a time until absorbed by the rice while stirring constantly.  Allow the rice to simmer while continuing to add stock and stirring, not too hot, just a nice simmer.

Add the Asparagus to the rice mixture after you have added about half the stock, and continue to stir, then add the Morels when you have used about 3/4 of the stock. Towards the end of your stock, add the Parmesan and stir well, adding stock if the rice is not soft. It should be creamy and sort of ‘al dente’. Serve immediately, topped with more cheese if you like.

You can also add peas or greens to this, along with 1/2 cup of white wine, or you could drink the wine while you stir the risotto, either way works.

Trout Fishing

Sea-run Cutthroat trout have been hit and miss for me, but to be honest, I haven’t been getting after them as much as I would like. Lowland lakes are now open, so the next nice day that shrimping isn’t open, head up to your favorite lake and wet a line; they should all be producing trout and bass right now. Ling Cod is also open, with decent reports coming in out of the Port Townsend area, and Halibut is just around the corner. So many fish to chase right now it’s hard to make the call on what to try for.

Till next time…………….

 — John Helsper, Quilcene

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