Last weekend Brad and I went on our last Illinois fishing trip for the year. We woke up early and drove down to the Chain of Rocks on the Mississippi River near St. Louis. Even though it was mid-November, the weather forecast predicted warm and sunny, so we were a little worried that we'd have to fight for space. However, when we arrived around 8:30 am, we pretty much had the whole shore to ourselves.
When Garren and I fished here in the summer, we each caught a few small blue catfish. This time I decided to try for a bigger one, so I set up one of my two rods with an 8/0 circle hook with a nice big chunk of cut bait. It was a "go big or go home" gamble, but unfortunately it didn't pay off. It didn't get touched all day even though I swapped out the bait a few times.
I set up my other rod with a whole nightcrawler on a smaller circle hook. Both rods had baitfeeder reels with the secondary drag set just tight enough so that the current didn't pull out line. It took 4 oz pyramid sinkers to keep our lines from being pulled parallel to shore. Even though the water level was fairly low, the current was still very strong.
Brad cast out a nightcrawler downstream of me and then tossed around a Panther Martin spinner with his other rod. He told me that "river fish absolutely love Panther Martins", but apparently the fish didn't get the memo this time.
After about two hours of no activity, I finally got a bite and reeled in a nice freshwater drum. It's my new personal best (I'm pretty sure) at 20 inches. Unfortunately it didn't put up much fight with the gear I was using.
Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)
I rarely do blog posts about eating fish, but since it was such a slow day of fishing, I'll make an exception. The drum ended up being our only fish of the day, and it went on the cutting board right after we caught it.
I filleted it and very carefully washed off any grains of sand before cutting the fillets into bite size pieces. There were a few bones to deal with, and I was able to cut most of them out.
We sautéed the fish in butter with some sweet peppers from my garden. Once they were cooked, we dumped in a can of creamy mushroom soup and half a can of vegetable soup. We let it simmer for about a half hour to help the drum get nice and tender, and as we stirred I added some wild oyster mushroom powder made from mushrooms I had dehydrated earlier in the fall. Hunting, gathering, and gardening all in one pot!
As I mentioned, it was a slow day. We kicked back in our camp chairs, ate our fish stew, and watched our rods do absolutely nothing. The weather was perfect though, so we didn't complain one bit.