Sunday, February 16, 2014

ODFW Trout Stocking Heats Up

Keyaira Hansell shows off a catch from her favorite secret fishing hole.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery stocking continues through the spring and into the summer providing a great introduction to fishing for younger or inexperienced anglers. A general Oregon Angling License is all that’s required to fish for trout. Youth 14-17 years old need a juvenile angling license and kids under 14 fish for free. ODFW also offers Oregon residents and visitors a weekend to fish, crab and clam without a license the first full weekend in June. This is a great opportunity to introduce new anglers to the water.
Bright dough baits, single eggs and worms fished just off the bottom or under a bobber are popular presentations, but there a number of spinners, spoons and other baits made for casting and retrieving that also work well. Most trout in shallow still-water ponds will be suspended within a foot or two off the bottom, so when you're casting lures, it's a good rule of thumb to allow them to sink for a few seconds before retrieving them. Try different depths to find the fish. The ODFW website has a great beginners guide to trout fishing:

The stockings will periodically place different quantities of approximated sizes based on age. The three different size classifications for ODFW stocked rainbow trout are:
Legals that range from 8"-10"
Larger Trout 12"
Pounders 14"
Trophy Trout = 16"

For more on Free Fishing Weekend events in Benton County, contact Matt Frank at 541-487-7240

For more information on local stocking schedules near Corvallis call the ODFW South Willamette District Office in Corvallis: (541) 757-4186 or visit the ODFW website to check stocking schedules for nearby areas:

This piece was published in the 5/22/14 issue of the Corvallis Advocate:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Beneath the turf - Hunting White Truffles in the Willamette Valley

Range of the Oregon White Truffle
Curtis Broberg poses with
his bountiful harvest.
A highly sought after wild edible prize, truffles are known as the "Diamonds of the Kitchen." The phrase is fitting as these nuggets come from the earth and with a little polishing and skilled cutting, they reveal themselves as true culinary gems.

Truffles are the fruiting body of a subterranean fungus, one of the many species of the genus Tuber. They are usually found within close proximity of the roots of certain trees, such as adolescent evergreens like Douglas Fir. Because of this, tree farms are common hot spots for finding the species of white truffle that are specific to the Pacific Northwest in areas west of the Cascade Range. Plantings that range from 20-30 years of age produce the best environment for finding these treats due to the thick layers of debris produced by the trees.

Truffles are normally found subsurface to moss or leaf matter, slightly embedded in the soil. Their environment produces a lot of complicated and controversial cultivation methods. "Raking" is the practice of physically removing the layer of debris and moss with a rake to expose the truffles embedded in the soil. Because it is conducted with little respect for maintaining a sustainable harvest, this will likely make it difficult to continue finding truffles in the same area again. Additionally, removing the layer of debris at the base of those trees is harmful to the trees themselves, exposing their roots to be susceptible to a number of issues. Farmers are well aware of the destructive nature of this cultivation technique and that poachers are willing to endure the risks to trespass and destroy property in order to find this pricey commodity food. Don't do it.

Using other animals is a much more acceptable practice to locate truffles. A domestic female pig is one way to target specific areas where truffles are below the forest floor. This is due to a compound within the truffle similar to androstenol, the sex pheromone of boar saliva. Dogs can also be trained to use their keen sense of smell to locate truffles, and are much less likely to consume them before their owners can pluck them from the earth. If you do not have a female pig or a trained subterranean mushroom-sniffing dog, there are other ways to locate truffles through using tracking skills and observing the behavior of wild animals. Spore dispersal of truffles are carried out through fungivores, animals that eat fungi. The fungus is an important component of the diet of Northern flying squirrels, and comprises the majority of their diet at certain times of the year. These animals are good indicators that don't require the necessary attention of canines or swine. They will often burrow into the top layers of debris, leaving behind a divot similar to what you might find at a teeing ground on a golf course. If you run your fingers between the soil and the debris or moss in the area around the edges of the divot, you should be able to make contact with truffles left behind by the animal and harvest them without disturbing the habitat. In areas where moss is prevalent, you can peel it back like carpet and reveal the individual truffles poking out from the soil, carefully replacing the removed layer of moss and debris. It should be noted that this practice is still somewhat damaging and in some cases the habitat can take a few years to fully recover from harvest.

Once you've managed to collect enough of them, preserving becomes necessary to keep truffles from carrying out their very short shelf life. There are several ways you can do this, but 4 in particular are the most common methods.:

1. Truffle Oil - Although it requires a little extra effort, this is perhaps the best way to preserve the flavor of truffles, and it takes only a small amount of truffles to infuse the flavor into the oil. First, wash your truffles individually to remove all the unwanted dirt. I recommend using a clean and sterile electric toothbrush to make this process more efficient. Once they are cleaned, slice the truffles paper thin, and place them in a mason jar. You can fill them near the top if you have a lot to go around, or put just a few in the jar to give flavor to the oil. Then pour olive oil over the sliced truffles until the jar is completely filled. The next step is perhaps the most important. As the truffles infuse the oil, they will emit a gas that needs to breathe. If you tighten the jars too much and leave them sitting too long, they will begin to bubble and boil over much like the head on a draft beer once you open the jar. This is extremely messy and you do not want this to happen because it could potentially spoil your harvest or blow out the metal lid to your jar and your kitchen cabinet will look like BP installed a deep-water Horizon drilling site in your pantry. To prevent this from happening, you can open the jars every day or so and let them breathe for a few minutes. You can also leave the lids loosened on the jars so the air can get out (you don't want air to get IN though). After about 45-90 days, the stiff sliced fungus will become floppy like a sauteed mushroom. Then you can enjoy them at their optimal flavor on bread, eggs, etc. After about 9 months the peak flavor of these delectable treats begin to decline and soon after they will spoil, so enjoy them while you have them.

2. Truffle Salt - This is one of the easiest and most versatile ways to preserve your truffles. After you've cleaned your harvest, dice the truffles with a rough chop that resembles the size of minced garlic. Then add 2 to 4 parts sea salt. It's ideal not to skimp on the salt you use for this as it cheapens the culinary value of your little diced dirt diamonds. Shake up the concoction so that the salt and diced truffles are evenly distributed. If you want to be conservative with the truffles, you can put them in a salt shaker that will allow the grains of salt to flow through the holes while keep the truffles intact. This way you can refill the salt and still have a delicious kitchen product, however the more times you do this, the less optimal the flavor will be, and eventually it will be completely lost. Keep your truffle salt in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling. You can also use a flip-top jar with a rubber gasket to hold in the wonderful odor and maximize the flavor. Truffle salt can be consumed more readily than truffle oil infusions, so if you are impatient and can't wait 2-3 months to eat your find, this may be the way to go for you.

3. Truffle butter - This is a good way to portion out your harvest for consumption. Clean and dice your harvest the same way you would for truffle salt. The amount of truffles you want to use is really up to your own discretion, but a little bit goes a long way. Most recipes recommend 2-4 ounces of chopped truffles for every pound of butter. You'll want to use unsalted butter to achieve the best flavor, and you can add sea salt during the mixing process to taste if necessary. Leave it out at room temperature overnight to soften the butter for the preservation process. Then, place the ingredients into a mixing bowl and blend evenly. Allow the butter to sit out at room temperature for another few hours so the flavors can mingle and infuse into the oils in your butter. You can portion out your truffle butter into ramekins or wax paper and freeze them to pull out for use as needed. Allow the portions to sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

4.Truffle Vodka - This process is a good way to efficiently and quickly preserve the flavor of your truffles without the use of oils, salt or butter that may be shunned by your strict dietary friends and family you may want to share your harvest with. Slice the cleaned truffles paper thin, and infuse roughly a quarter to half ounce of truffles to one liter of vodka in a sealed container. Don't skimp on the vodka, get the good stuff. Four Spirits Distillery makes a high grade vodka that endures a multiple filtration process. After a week or so, pour the infusion through a paper coffee filter to remove any impurities and you will have a martini grade truffle infused vodka. This can also be used in cooking risotto or other grains to add the flavor without the fattening additions of butter or oil.

This article was published as a cover feature in the 2/20/14 issue of the Corvallis Advocate:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Fly Fishing Film Tour at Whiteside Theater

Since 2007, the Fly Fishing Film Tour has reached over 50,000 anglers nationwide, growing in size to the point that new cities have been added as well upgraded venues to accommodate viewing audiences. The Corvallis screening sponsored by Nectar Creek Honeywine and Ninkasi Brewing will be a charity event for the local Bluebacks Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Last year's film screenings raised over $250,000 for fishing and habitat-related conservation efforts. The collection of short films features fly-fishermen co-starring with everything from brook trout to tarpon. 

Trout Unlimited Bluebacks Volunteers
survey the South Fork Siletz for
Native Steelhead Redds
More importantly, the proceeds from the Whiteside Theater's  Fly Fishing Film Tour (dubbed F3T for short) screening will fund an ongoing survey on the South Fork of the Siletz River conducted by the Bluebacks. Rewind to 1984, when the Valsetz Dam which blocked access to spawning grounds of Native Steelhead and Salmon populations was removed. Fast forward to present day when Polk County is considering rebuilding the dam to pull drinking water for residents. The purpose of the survey is to prove that the area of the South Fork above the old dam site is actively being used as a spawning ground for native anadromous fish, as well as surrounding tributaries that would also be affected by the rebuilding of the dam.

Ted Taylor's recent article in the Eugene Weeky about the Soda Springs Dam on the North Umpqua "River Be Dammed" addressed several common problems with dams that create major obstacles for spawning fish. Water flows and temperatures are altered, impacting sensitive species in the food chain. Migratory fish passage, even with the addition of fish ladders, is reduced or even completely eliminated, affecting the entire ecosystem and its nutrient cycle. Insects birds and mammals are also affected by the kinks in the food chain dams create. Dams not only block access to higher spawning grounds, but affect the spawning grounds downstream by diminishing fresh gravel, woody debris and nutrients. The constriction of spawning habitat hurt recreational and commercial fishing, both in rivers and the ocean.

The survey is a less accurate but very low-budget version of fish counting methods, based on volunteers organized by the Bluebacks and trained by the Oregon Deparment of Fish and Wildlife. While some major river systems are monitored using electronic sonar to track fish passage, these ten volunteers will meet every other weekend until May, spotting spawning redds of South Fork Siletz fish. In addition, the program will monitor the future progress of woody debris habitat restoration conducted by ODFW and funded by the Bluebacks.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased on the F3T website or from Cascadia Fly Shop at 900 NW Kings Blvd. Cash in your drink tickets for a frosty beverage from the event sponsors in a souvenir pint glass. Doors open at 7pm for pre-party socializing, gathering and friend-making. Film starts promptly at 8pm, please remember to turn off your electronic devices. Tight lines...

This blog was published in the 2/13/14 issue of the Corvallis Advocate:

For more information on F3T please contact Kyle Smith at 509-432-9302 or