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COLUMN: Taking a shine to fishing and fresh food
New American Gothic

COLUMN: Taking a shine to fishing and fresh food

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I waited to go fishing until after a good several days of nighttime temperatures in the single digits. Someone fell through the ice in Bolton a few days before and ended up being saved indirectly by the owner of Bob’s Bait, who called 911 after seeing the fellow fall through the ice while he was watching a live webcam.

I also waited until my asthma attacks subsided.

I had some wretched breathing ailment last March that lasted at least three weeks.

I haven’t been exactly right since. I get hoarse, I get coughing fits, and I seem to have developed asthma.

We could guess what it was or assume, but as the sign over the locker room door in high school said, “Assuming makes an ass out of you and me.”

So, I finally got on the ice. I was catching little perches, around 7 inches.

I kept throwing them back. I figured I’d catch three or four bigger ones, and that would be plenty for supper.

I did keep a shiner. They are kind of carp-like. When I’m fishing with friends up here, I throw them back. A lot of Northerners view them as junk fish and I sort of get embarrassed for being a Southern backwoods bumpkin with swampish tendencies, so back in goes the shiner.

This time I was only on the ice for a few hours during the afternoon, and it started to get colder as the sun started to set. It was already windy enough. I don’t bother to go out if the temperature isn’t over 25 Fahrenheit.

I ended taking just that shiner off the ice with me. I committed the main sin of the perch jigger. I threw back fish that were big enough. You put together those little fillets and fry them with a little bit of corn flour batter and you are the winner.

Shiners have bones running through their flesh, just like carp.

Here in the North people don’t like picking bones out of their fish at the table.

There’s nothing wrong with the practice. It just isn’t practiced that much up here.

As they say in the bayou to visitors, “That’s good eat’n, just be careful of the bones.”

Because I fish in clean water, I don’t worry about fish being “off.”

Since we hadn’t eaten fresh-caught fish since last winter, when I filleted that shiner it smelled delicious, the way only very fresh food can.

I cut the fillet into cubes, fried them in butter, put on salt and pepper, and we ate them as an appetizer by hand — being careful of the bones.

What a relief.

We are just about out of garden pumpkins, we’re cooking mostly our frozen vegetables, and I’m having to buy carrots, onions, meat and some greens at the store.

We do have fresh goat milk and various goat cheeses, but I just want fresh, fresh relief. The store-bought eggs are barely tolerable. The vegetables the same.

Our summer produce seems to be from another world.

That one fish helped my worried taste buds get out of their funk.

But, I’m still kicking myself about throwing back those perch.

Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley, N.Y. You can leave a message at


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