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From Missouri Conservationist: Apr 2008

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: I’ve noticed a lot of different ways to clean fish. What is the best method?

A: There are a variety of ways to clean fish, and I suspect this is a subjective matter, with anglers having a variety of preferences. The type of fish and how it will be prepared can determine which cleaning method to use.

Deep-frying suckers might call for scaling and filleting and then scoring, but that’s not the only way I’ve seen. Some anglers prefer to cut off the heads and fins, gut and skin the fish and then score down to the backbone. Either will work. Seems most trout anglers simply gut and gill their catch, then grill or bake the fish with the head attached. I haven’t noticed too many folks eating the head, but I recall several recipes for fish chowder that include the head and backbone for stock.

Most anglers agree bones are the biggest drawback to a good fish meal (unless you’re dealing with canned fish, in which case pressure cooking makes the bones edible). When done correctly, filleting eliminates the bone problem. The following PDFs can be downloaded from the Web and might be helpful for those wanting to filet their catch. The second PDF provides details on how to butterfly filet, which is removing all the bones and leaving the fish whole. Remember to check for the fine bones about midway back on the centerline of a filet. They can be removed by simply notching the centerline. Regardless of the method used, practice is important.

Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at Ken.Drenon@mdc.mo.gov.


Agent Notes

Have a burning question? Contact your regional Conservation office.

One afternoon while patrolling a conservation area, I found a trash pile that recently had been dumped at the edge of a parking lot. After checking another portion of the area, I drove back to the parking lot. This time the trash pile was on fire, and a car was leaving the lot. I talked to the two people in the car and found that the driver lit the trash pile for no justifiable reason. I cited the person for Negligent Burning.

Any fire is the responsibility of the person who starts it. Negligent Burning is the act of causing damage to the property of another by fire or explosion through criminal negligence. You are guilty of this Class B Misdemeanor if you throw a burning cigarette from a car window and it starts a grass fire. You are also guilty if your burning brush pile, campfire or controlled burn escapes and damages property.

Be extremely alert to weather conditions before starting any fire and follow local burn bans. Learn about these and local ordinances pertaining to burning at your local Conservation Department or sheriff’s office. Advise your county dispatch center of any controlled burn you plan for your property to prevent an unnecessary response by the fire department. Notify them again when the burn is complete.

Kevin S. Dixon is the conservation agent for Henry County, which is in the Kansas City region. If you would like to contact the agent for your county, phone your regional Conservation office.

Time Capsule

April 1978

Edible Wild Plants by Wendell Jeffery highlights the parts of a cattail that can be eaten either cooked or raw. The common cattail was labeled “supermarket of the swamps” by the late Euell Gibbons. Its pollen can be used for pancake flour; its rootstock, a starchy potato substitute; its bloom spikes make a tasty cooked vegetable; and its peeled stalk, a treat “not unlike cucumber.” American Indians named this plant, “fruit for papoose’s bed” due to the fluffy masses of seeds that do not mat and are very soft. During WWII the seeds of the cattail were used for making pillows, mattresses, life jackets and baseballs. The seeds were also used for weaving materials, meal for livestock feeds, oils, insulation and wax.

—Contributed by the Circulation staff

Behind the Code

Spring opener preserves turkeys, helps hunters.
by Tom Cwynar

Following the Conservation Department’s successful restoration of wild turkeys in Missouri, we’ve enjoyed uninterrupted years of spring turkey hunting. Since the first “modern” spring turkey season in 1960, the number of counties open to spring turkey hunting has increased from 14 to all 114 counties, spring turkey seasons have become longer and bag limits have doubled.

The opening day of the spring turkey season has always generally coincided with when hen turkeys are incubating their first clutch of eggs. This ensures that most of the hens are bred before the hunting season begins. This time is also good for hunters because gobblers eager for hens, many of which are not available, call frequently and are more likely to respond to calls by hunters.

Only once, Sunday, April 22, 1962, has turkey season opened on a weekend. Weekday openings were preferred because fewer hunters afield meant that the chances of hunters interfering with one another were less.

From 1988 to 2006, spring turkey season opened on the Monday closest to April 21. Last year, in response to hunters requesting an earlier opening day, the Conservation Department officially changed the opener to the third Monday in April. The two-day youth season opens nine days earlier, unless that day falls on Easter weekend. In that case, the youth season would open 16 days earlier than the third Monday in April.

This Issue's Staff

Editor in Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Arleasha Mays
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Ruby
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler