Forage Ramps in the Woods of Western New York

Fishing, Foraging and Finding

The woods do something to your soul and it isn’t something tangible, although what you can get from the woods often times is. 

This is the best time of the year because it starts the season of the getting meals for free from the land. It’s not always easy and you have to do your fair share of studying before you head out and start picking and eating stuff. But it’s worth it. And not just for the meal, but for the part of you that fills up that you can’t say what it is.

April first marks the start of trout season. They are mostly stocked but that doesn’t bother me. It gets you outdoors doing something and while your there you can start looking at how the trees and landscaped changed over the winter. Usually I do a little fishing over the winter too, but this year I couldn’t so getting back to my favorite spots was exhilarating. Nabbed a few trout early in the season too.

Anthony Norman White - Freelance Writer - New York Trout Season
New York Trout Season Opens April 1st

The magnificent colors of this rainbow are the beginning of color returning to New York State. After a tough couple of hours of no bites I went back to one of my favorite spots and changed up my presentation. First cast this beauty hit like truck. My fishing buddy, my five year old son, was so happy he could barely talk. First trout of the season is always exciting, doesn’t matter the age.

Forage Ramps in the Woods of Western New York
Forage Ramps in the Woods of Western New York

Next to show up is ramps. Ramps are wild onions and there are some spots I know of around here that grow thousands. You could never dig them all even if you had to. The entire plant is edible, from it’s white bulb, through the red stem, and straight to the tip of it’s perfectly green leaves. They consequently go excellent with trout! I typically fry the whole trout in butter with the diced bulbs, then throw in the chopped leaves at the end for a perfect meal.

Foraged Spice Bush
Foraged Spice Bush

Next to start popping up is the tasty little flower buds of the spice bush. When these grow they end up with bright green leaves with a citrus flavor, eventually the plant producing red berries that can be dried and used as allspice. The bark tastes of allspice as well, and in the spring the little yellow flowers have a slight citrus flavor. It makes a fantastic tea or the base for a brine. I used it to make both, drinking a hot cup of tea while I made a brine for a duck that I’ll smoke. The duck came from Fisher Hill Farm.

What I have not seen yet are morel mushrooms. This morning there was a freeze alert so that certainly doesn’t help. Possibly the ground has not been warm enough and maybe I’m just getting antsy. These mushrooms can go for as much as $20 per pound. But they’re free if you know what your looking for and sauteed with ramps and butter they’re might not be a better meal.

I have also found fiddleheads this year, but none from the Bracken or Ostrich fern, only from the Christmas Tree Fern. They are edible, but don’t taste all that great. So I’ll keep my eye out for those as well.

Also edible are dandelion greens, which make for a great salad. It’s been a great year so far, even though it’s been a little chilly. I fully expect the warmer weather to bring out more.

 

Opening Day of Trout Season in New York

April 1st marks the beginning of my fishing season, although I fish year round.

This year fishing past Labor Day weekend was scarce, only making it out another dozen times during the fall and winter. But with all that’s happening right now I’m not sure I have been this excited for trout opening day in a long time.

There’s something ancient about fishing. It makes you feel like time stopped hundreds if not thousands of years ago and there you are, nestled into a bank of rocks that have been there forever, seen it all, in water that’s thousands of years old, doing something sacred. It’s a quiet mantra that gives you something to do with your hands, your mind focused on feeling a tug, always in the ready position to set the hook, listening to the babble of the body of water in front of you.

It’s exhilarating and relaxing at the same exact time and there are very few things in life that like that.

I’ve been fishing since I was a little kid. Both my grandfathers were into it, my father, my uncle, my cousins, my friends; we all fished growing up. I remember tying my rod to my bike to ride down to Lisk Bridge with Brian Erdner and the gang and hooking worms, corn, or blue gill eyes to our hooks and hoping to catch a trout. But we were happy snagging creek chubs.

April 1st isn’t just about trout, its about the start of another year of fishing. It’s about remembering all the fish you caught the year before and talking about it. It’s about remembering years past and the fish you caught with family members who might not be around anymore to talk about it.

It’s about memories. You probably won’t remember a lot of specifics about things in life but you will certainly remember fishing. The stories are deeper than just the fish. Time spent together, the gear, the weather, the beer, the meals, all of it ties into one day of fishing. I can think back and remember specific days so well, even if there isn’t a picture to prove the catch.

the biggest fish in the world!

Like that time my Uncle Scott caught this cat off the bank of the Chaumont River. Someone snapped this pic of me going in for the closer look. What a hog that thing was. And to this day I still set up the same way he did and try to get a bigger fish. Even though Uncle Scott passed away. This moment in time is frozen for me and I attempt to recreate it every year.

IMG_20181103_173137366

Same bank, same spot, same cat method. I’ve caught some, just not as big as the cow he brought in. But that to me is what it’s about. So when people tell me they couldn’t get in to fishing, it always surprises me at first, but then I sort of feel bad because maybe they just didn’t have someone to point out that it’s not about the fish but about the memory.

Plus, if you haven’t had the chance to search for, then locate a school of jack perch, then get them into a frenzy and pull about 100 out of the water, then filet them up and beer batter them, frying them in a skillet over the open fire; then dude, you haven’t lived.

For an updated guide on New York State Fresh Water Fishing Regulations click here.