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December 29. 2012 10:12PM

Dick Pinney's Guidelines: Big changes afoot at Meredith ice fishing derby

A lot will go on in 2013 in the Granite State.

One of the big deals, which draws more ice anglers than any other event, is the Greater Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby, to be held Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9-10. This derby brings anglers to New Hampshire from all over the country.

For the 2013 derby, the Meredith Rotary Club will provide cash prizes instead of products such as boats, motors, pickup trucks, etc. A grand prize winning fish - white perch, yellow perch, cusk, lake trout, pickerel, black crappie or rainbow trout - can be caught in any freshwater open to the public.

So what's the big change? In the past, the grand prize and much of the prize structure for the derby was for catching pre-stocked rainbow trout that bore a special tag. These fish were tagged and stocked by Fish & Game especially for the derby. Although other species listed above were in the prize picture for the larger of their species, the big money was in the tagged rainbow trout. This evidently drew too much fishing pressure on those bodies of water where tagged fish were stocked, and opened up the chance that a tagged rainbow trout caught prior to the derby could be sneaked into the prize pool.

Fish and Game biologists Don Miller and John Viar will collect valuable data at the derby weigh-in. Also, Fish and Game's Let's Go Fishing program will present free hands-on sessions for children and their parents on the basics of ice fishing. For tickets and information, go to http://www.meredithrotary.com.

Here's a warning: Mercury levels in some of the New Hampshire freshwater fish can be substantial and have harmful effects when eaten. So we need to warn people that fish in the waters that are downwind (prevailing winds from west and northwest) from the Bow power plant.

Since scrubbers were installed in the smoke releases, the plant's mercury discharge has been reduced substantially, and for that Public Service of New Hampshire, the plant's owner, deserves some credit.

But the problem is that mercury has a lifetime that is fundamentally forever. It doesn't break down. So the huge amounts of mercury spread over these downwind waters in the past have created some of the highest concentration of mercury of of any waters not just here but in much of the country.

A fish that is the Rodney Dangerfield of many of our freshwater fish, the common chain pickerel, is often caught and discarded - not for contamination but for its bony structure that conventional filleting methods won't work on.

Although not as tasty as crappie, the common chain pickerel has wonderful mild flesh that isn't that hard to cook. For pickerel under a couple of pounds, scale and fillet in a conventional way and leave the skin on. Then slice down to the skin both both length and width, creating small cubes still attached to the skin. Fry in hot oil skin side up after dredging in flour.

For larger pickerel, you can fillet off the loins by making a cut behind the head and working your knife down the top of the fish's back and stopping at the tail. There's a line of tiny bones running down the middle of the two loins that can be easily removed. For your next fillets, make a cut across the width of each side of the fish, starting just behind the dorsal fin and filleting to the tail. We skin these fillets and they are boneless.

When you get good at doing this, you'll be both proud of your ability to use these once worthless fish and enjoy some wonderful eating.

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.


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