By Chris Henderson
For openers this week, let’s look at some signs that Spring has actually arrived. Just yesterday, I heard the sweet song of a male red-winged blackbird. To the ears of an old man, this was definitely sweet music. These are one of my very favorite birds. I feel this way not just because they are a sign of Spring, but because of their beauty. You can usually spot some of them along the river. Spring flora is also appearing. I saw crocuses blooming in a yard in East Brady. The wild chives are also out in full force. This is the time of year to harvest them. Personally, I don’t bother with the little bulbs. They are extremely hard to clean, and are a bit too strong for my taste. The greens, however are wonderful. I have used them many times in recipes calling for fresh chives, and have never been disappointed. They are really easy to harvest. All it takes is a pair of scissors. Great on baked or mashed potatoes. Another sign of Spring is the song of the spring peepers. These tiny frogs really know what to do to make you feel good. I haven’t heard them yet, but I’m hard of hearing. I know that they will soon sing loud enough that even I will hear them. To me, this is the sweetest of all music. If I live as long as my father did, I’ll get to hear them five more times. I even saw a couple of dandelions that popped up in my yard. There are many recipes which utilize them. We’ll look at those as more dandelions appear. Now, as mentioned last week, let’s look a little bit at eating panfish. They are called panfish for a reason, that being that they fit easily into a pan. As for me, I fillet them all. When I was younger, I cooked them whole, of course, after scaling and gutting them. At some point, I became disgusted with picking through bones. By fileting, you don’t really lose all that much meat, and the eating experience is a lot better. My favorite way to eat panfish is to fry them. I have found Zatarain’s Fish Fry to be the very best coating for this application. Of course, as always, I add a bit of Old Bay to enhance the flavor. Another option is to smoke them. Old Bub and I have done this on a number of occasions with good results. The choice of wood to use is, of course, up to you. In my case, I have a friend who makes things out of hardwood on a lathe, and he gives me the shavings. These work great, but if you don’t have such access, there are countless chips on the market. On another front, the Fish and Boat Commission has issued their response to the Coronavirus. For whatever reason, I sort of fail to see what the virus has to do with fishing. Apparently, they have their reasons. As much as many of us would like to get out there and fish, there could be a problem obtaining bait especially, if, like me, you buy yours from bait shops. Our brilliant governor has decided to close them, but, if you know where to look, you can at least find worms. Of course, you can collect your own bait, but it is a pain. The thought of digging worms is a bit less than appealing, but if I have to do it, I will.