Gourmet fish soon to be on tap for Southern California anglers


Mar 11, 2001
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Gourment fish soon to be on tap for Southern California anglers

Jim Mattews, Outdoor News Service


Anglers can thank the economic downturn for this one.

The short version of the story is that Santa Ana River Lakes and Corona Lake will begin planting catchable-sized sturgeon starting next week, just in time for Father's Day weekend. And unlike with past plants of huge sturgeon, anglers will be able to keep these three to 15-pound gourmet fish.

The initial plant will consist of 5,000 pounds of mainly three to five-plus pounders, but subsequent regular plants in both lakes will have fish mostly in the five to 15 pound class.

"These are gourmet fish," said Craig Elliott with The Lakes. We've been able to work out an exclusive deal and get quite a few of them and we plan to plant them for anglers -- maybe forever."

The white sturgeon are from a Caviar-producing operation near Sacramento, and the meat from surplus fish and those harvested for the eggs are generally sold around the world to gourmet restaurants. Chefs love their firm, dense, white meat that is always tender and moist. The economic downturn, however, has led to declines in the sales of the fish into the restaurant trade, and Elliott said they were able to lock up a deal on these fish.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they quickly become our most popular fish," said Elliott, touting their jumping and fighting abilities along with their table fare. "We've been planting "Nebraska Tailwalkers" during trout season, and these fish might end up being called 'California Tailwalkers' once anglers start hooking them. And after they've had them on the barbecue, there's no doubt in my mind the word will spread quickly."

Sturgeon have been planted in waters throughout Southern California, most notably in Hesperia Lake. But they have also been planted in Santa Ana River, Corona Lake, Irvine Lake, and Lake Cuyamaca, and perhaps others. But most stockings at all of these waters have been small numbers of big fish from 25 to 100 pounds or more, and most -- except for Hesperia Lake -- have a strict catch-and-release policy on the big sturgeon.

Elliott said that anglers will be disappointed in the table qualities of sturgeon if they don't follow some simple steps in cleaning and aging the fish. The most important steps are bleeding, cleaning, and then chilling and aging the fish for 48 hours. The last one is critical, said Elliott. Sturgeon meat takes that long to 'relax' from rigor mortise. If the meat is cooked before it is relaxed, it is likely to be rubbery and tough. Complete step-by-step photo instructions of the sturgeon filleting technique and recipes are on The Lakes' website at www.fishinglakes.com.

Sturgeon are bottom-feeding fish, like catfish, and at Hesperia Lake, they are caught on the same baits used for catfish, and even trout anglers hook them on popular trout baits.

Let me know if they jump and taste as good as advertised.

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