Although we are now totally steeped in winter, the one thing that is good is that fresh fish are again pretty available for the menu. The lakes are totally frozen allowing travel to most fishing spots.
There is a time in late fall when the lakes are in transition from being navigable by boat to being walkable on ice. There is a period of a week or possibly several weeks when the fish get a reprieve from fishermen. It’s kind of a fish vacation, perhaps a time of carefree and reckless living in the fish world. We don’t know what may go on under those partly-frozen lakes during the transition. Now as we again travel on the ice by foot, snowmobile, and car, we can harass them again, the next reprieve occurring during the spring ice-out period.
Our land-dwelling wild creatures probably fare less-well during the depths of winter. The fall this year was dry and harvest occurred early, so most grain fields were not only harvested but plowed, leaving little residual grain for deer and birds to eat. Add to that factor the continuous snow cover we’ve experienced since Mid-December and times are tough for pheasants, deer, and other birds and rodents. The biting sub-zero cold also is becoming more problematic since grasslands and wooded areas are being reduced as more wildlife protective cover gets converted to cropland.
For the last 150 years or so this part of the country has been pretty much controlled by the economics of agriculture. Right now high grain prices encourage farmers to put as much land into crops as possible, making for less grassland, wetlands, and brush-land.
The great conversion of much of the area began as we learned the technology of draining wetlands and plowing up vast areas of prairie. We do, of course feed a hungry world here in flyover country, but change in our natural landscape is one of the results. Certainly residual grain and a balance of natural habitat have been good for wildlife, but the balance seems at the moment to be swinging towards more cropland. The future of all creatures seems to rest with the land.
Getting back to the water topic; being able to bring back a meal of fish once in a while has inspired me to venture into new preparation techniques for fish. I just made a fish casserole-not bad! The major ingredients were all found either in my freezer from last year’s garden or in my cool storage area. Fish cut into one inch cubes, potatoes, onions, garlic, and broccoli, along with salt, pepper, butter, milk, flour, and cheese as in scalloped potatoes were the players in this medley. The potatoes were partially cooked then mixed with the onions and scalloped potato ingredients. The frozen broccoli and cubed fish were added and the whole mess baked uncovered at 350 degrees for an hour. In these parts it’s referred to as a “hot dish,” oh yeah, you betcha!