Two New Hampshire men are on an unusual quest… to catch and eat every kind of freshwater fish in the state.
Except for the endangered ones, of course. So far, they’ve caught 35 of the 48 species of fish living in the state’s rivers, lakes, and streams.
Lots of people try to catch fish… and no doubt some anglers have tried to catch many different kinds…
But catching them all…and then eating them all? That’s something I had to see.
So I set out in a kayak along the Merrimack River with fishing buddies Clay Groves and Dave Kellem.
“We are doing an obscure method of fishing in NH called bow fishing…"
That’s Dave Kellam, packing his fishing gear into a canoe..
“...And there’s only a few species you’re allowed to do that with…today it’s the common carp, which would be number 34 on our list of fish to catch in NH.”
Bow fishing…as in shooting a fish with an arrow.
As unconventional as that might sound, Clay Groves says there is a more striking difference between their fishing methods and that of typical anglers.
“Usually you fish and you target a fish and you spend all day catching that fish over and over again. We catch a fish we pack up and leave, we’ve got it we’re done”
They’re not quite done though…because they don’t throw that fish back into the water, they eat it.
Eating the fish is an experience in itself and suggested recipes are an integral part of their quest… but we’ll get back to that later.
Right now, the two are eager to check another fish off their list.
“I think we’re good… alright let’s go find fish”
That’s easier said than done, bow fishing a carp only works if you can see the fish.
They canoe up and down the Merrimack near the shoreline…bow in hand....but after a couple of trips…
“I’m sensing resignation…laughs…doesn’t take us long..we’re the least patient anglers ever”
Since bow fishing didn’t work out…they tried the old fashion way, with a reel and rod and…
“Are you just using pizza dough or you going to mix that with corn…?”
Dave Kellam says such bait is not that strange.
“Carp are interesting because they’re one of the more vegetarian kinds of fish and they love corn, sweet corn”
Apparently not today…but hey, if this were easy, it wouldn’t be much of a quest.
Kellam and Groves aim to reach their goal by February.
With the quest come several rules.
They have to catch all the fish legally.
And Groves says they have to eat the first fish they catch of a particular species, no matter how big or small.
“Which puts us a lot of times eating tiny fish, we ate a yellow perch that is probably four inches long and we caught it and we had to eat it.”
And Kellam says they served it up in a very creative way.
“We caught the yellow perch in Effingham and since it was a small fish the recipe for that was an Effing ham sandwich…Clay: and the ingredients for that are one effing small fish, on an effing Kaiser roll, with an effing piece of cheese, it was really good..and Effingham sandwich.”
The other quest rule is that the two can catch a fish individually, but they have to eat it as a team.
For better or worse, today I was part of that team.
Since we didn’t catch a carp, the two brought freezer bags full of a walleye that Groves caught earlier from the Connecticut River.
And this is where the quest turns into a cooking show.
Sharing all their fish recipes is a big part of the project.
“So this is walleye with cheese sauce..take cubes of Velveeta cheese, drop them into a mason jar with some chopped up broccoli salt pepper garlic milk put on double boiler until gooey, put on plate..serve it simple like that.”
And how does it taste? We dig in to find out
“It’s a very tender white fish, it’s quite good, don’t forget to eat the cheek, oh let me eat the cheek.”
Cheeks with cheese sauce, who knew?
But not every fish turns out so good, as these guys have so cruelly discovered.
“My least favorite still the one that just stays with me was the Pickled Pickerel, the initial taste wasn’t so bad but the aftertaste, it just doesn’t ever go away.”
These guys like a lot of alliteration with their fish recipes….recipes they’re sharing on their website.
Not only did they pickle a Pickerel, they smoked a Shiner, and today, Groves is making a Slimy Sculpin Scampi.
The Slimy Sculpin they caught is about three inches long and looks like a tadpole.
“We’re going to cook them whole, and usually these little fish are so delicate that the bones and brains and eyeballs all dissolve up nicely.”
Slimy Scuplin is an aptly named fish, and not for the faint of heart.
Groves cooks this delightful fish with a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.
“Here we go, bon appetite ..garlicky…wasn’t so bad, there’s a little fish in there though, oh yeah comes later, very slimy feeling, the head oozed out slime when I bit through it…I highly recommend everyone try slimy scuplin scampi.”
It is difficult to fathom a commitment to something which in many cases is so unappealing, but Clay Groves has thought about his rationale for this quest a lot.
“Some people climb off all 48 four-thousand footers in NH you might ask them why do you do that, and we have 48 species of fish..it’s no different…we like to fish..we’re not in the kind of shape where we’re hiking 48 mountains, you’ve seen us..but we can catch 48 fish, and we like to eat, so you get those things combined, who wouldn’t do this.”
Seriously? A rhetorical question best left unanswered.
By the way, if they succeed in their quest they will only have eaten 44 fish, because four are endangered.
You can keep up with their angling adventure and catch all their fish recipes on Kellam and Groves’s catch m all blog…which they hope to someday turn into a book.