Sometimes “the bite” is not always in reference to what the fish are doing.
Sure, that is the ultimate goal, but hunger can build up when you are fishing all day. In the 1930s, my great-grandmother made her famous fried chicken and biscuits for the family before they went down to the Confluence, where Alligator Bayou and Bayou Manchac met in Ibberville Parish. She cooked and had food ready before they set out, then fried up fish that they caught during the day. My grandmother spoke fondly of that experience. Apparently it is in my blood to take notice, and participate in, eating well on fishing trips. On a few trips with others, I discovered similar conveniences.
In 2003 I fished a speckled trout tournament in Vermilion Bay with Whitey Eschete and John Dooley. Dooley hosted us at his camp in Cypremort Point and in the predawn hours before we launched, I watched him boil a pot of eggs and dice up cucumbers and tomatoes that he topped with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. I thought his snack mix was an odd combo until later that day when we were anchored offshore near a platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The sun was beating down on us and it seemed like we could not get enough fluids in us. John broke out the food and it was like a God-send. What seemed odd at 5 AM was the most refreshing meal I could have asked for at that time and John Dooley saved the day with his unique snack.
Chris Hebert is Cajun to the core and probably the best seaman I have ever met. By trade he is a ship captain and travels the world pushing oil rigs around continents to find black gold. Whenever he is back home, he wants to fish. One of Hebert’s favorite spots is the Eugene Island block south of Vermilion Bay. While many would drive to Cypremort Point to launch, Hebert preferred making a long run in his bay boat. One evening we launched in Delcambre and made the run to the Point to stop at Legnon’s store for fuel and provisions. Hebert’s choice? Cold drinks and a big box of fried chicken. Then he drove his boat through the night to the Eugene Island 51 rig and anchored so we could fish the moving tide. And we sat all night fishing, snacking on drum sticks until the box was empty.
Mark Beauchesne is a bass fishing guide in New Hampshire that I met when I lived there in 2004. Mark took me under his wing and showed me how to fish the area’s crystal clear lakes. The target was always smallmouth bass and the two lakes we frequented were Umbagog on the New Hampshire/Maine border, and Squam in central New Hampshire where the movie On Golden Pond was filmed. Both lakes could take your breath away.
Mark was afirst-rate bass angler and teacher and I learned a lot from him. On one scouting trip to Lake Squam, we were running to a spot and he opened up a small ice chest and pulled out an ear of corn and offered it to me. I did not know what to say and I could not hide the surprised look. We both started laughing, but he explained that fresh corn only appeared for a brief time in the northeast and he was crazy about it when he could find some. He had boiled a batch of corn and brought them to snack on while we fished. Being the good guest, I obliged and it was really good. Sometimes you do not appreciate what you have access to.One of my favorite fishing snacks came from a blueberry patch along the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire. I was fly fishing for smallmouth one day, walking the bank and trying to find a good spot to chunk a popping cork when I literally walked up on the patch. The berries were ripe and beautiful. I ate a few handfuls and sat along the bank admiring where I was. No snack has ever been so beautifully packaged for a day of fishing.
I cannot speak of fishing and unique eating quirks without mentioning the man that taught me to love fishing and hunting–my dad. Dad did not fish a lot, but enough to get me passionate about the sport. As you read earlier, we come from a long line of anglers that like to have food ready in case we didn’t catch. Trips with dad to Lake Henderson in St. Martin Parish always included a stop at the bait shop for the usual, like worms and crickets, but also Vienna sausages and a wide array of snack foods. Dad’s trips were easy ones, and we often did well catching bream. Sometimes we scratched, and that was okay. We had snacks to get by on until we got home.
Finally, no story on eating and fishing can be told without mentioning the rituals I have with my best pal, Spencer Bienvenu. The two of us have had some great fishing trips, but we have also had some rotten luck. Through the years, we learned to prepare for the unexpected, always be ready for misfortune, and have a hefty supply of food ready for any possibility.
Bait shop owners probably get dollar signs in their eyes when they see us coming. While most people are looking for information or the hottest lure, we are eyeing the boudin, cracklin, Honey Buns, Doritos, Snickers candy bars, and barbecue burgers under the heat lamp. We fill bags of snacks, throw in some bait, and then stuff it all in the boat for later. If the fishing is hot, we neglect the food until we cannot stand the hunger pains anymore. If we are getting skunked, we dive in a little earlier. Either way, we don’t starve on our fishing trips.
Once I worked with a man who had been a professional bass angler. I asked him about that lifestyle and what it would take to get back in to the business. He said the first thing he would have to do is lose 30 pounds through intense exercise. While doing that, he would have to start fishing hard all the time. Then he made the comment about diet.
“I didn’t even eat on competition days,” he said. “I couldn’t afford to stop fishing to eat when money was on the line.”
If that is the norm, then I am automatically disqualified from that career path. Go ahead and pass the Doritos.
Images courtesy Marty Cannon