Venison is a healthy choice

We are at the halfway point of the Maryland deer hunting season already. The second split of muzzleloader season opens Saturday and runs through Dec. 30.

The weather should be mighty fine for mid-December on Saturday and most of Sunday, which will be beneficial for hunters heading out to fill their freezers with healthy venison.

With consumers more interested in where exactly their food comes from, it’s nice to know we all have access to cage-free, antibiotic-free, and just about the most organic (although not certified) meat that’s available. You just have to hunt for it yourself or have a friend who hunts and is willing to share the bounty.

Several years ago, my dad set me up with a subscription to a magazine called Grit.

I’d never heard of the magazine before, but was pleasantly surprised when the first copy showed up in my mailbox. It has an old-timey feel to it, which is to be expected since the publication got its start back in 1882, but the content is as relevant today as it ever was.

Flipping through each magazine, I’d find articles dedicated to growing vegetables, reusing wood pallets around the farm, cast iron cooking tips, and the best heritage chicken breeds for homesteaders. I was quickly hooked on the magazine and just renewed both mine and my sister’s subscription as Christmas gifts to myself and her.

Lately I’ve begun noticing special Grit editions called the Barnyard Series on newsstands at stores I frequent. These special editions are devoted to hobbies like beekeeping or hunting and fishing. Last month, I picked up a copy of Grit’s Guide to Guns, Knives and More. In the very back of the magazine was a section on cooking with venison.

While I was interested in the articles on field dressing deer and turkey hunting tips, that back section with recipes for cooking fish and venison got my full attention. A recipe for venison-stuffed bell peppers made me wish I had some venison on hand for the cold winter months.

You can access the recipe at Take a look at the photo of those stuffed peppers and see if your mouth doesn’t start watering right away.

My mom used to make a family-favorite version of pigs-in-a-blanket (cabbage leaves stuffed with hamburger) that we kids called deer-in-a-blanket. That’s just another delicious way to serve venison at the dinner table.

Besides being one of the most natural meats you can serve your family, venison is chock full of good nutrition. It’s high in protein and B vitamins and contains very little saturated fat. It’s a healthy choice you can be proud to serve your family.

Rockfish season closing

I won’t be hunkering down in a tree stand this weekend. No, I’m going fishing instead.

There’s not much more time left for Maryland’s Rockfish season for it’s coming to a close on Dec. 20. So if you’re planning to catch a rockfish in 2017 and haven’t done so already, it’s now or never.

According to Ken Lamb at the Tackle Box in Lexington Park (301-863-8151), angler Tim Kinder caught a big rockfish on Monday off St. George Island in the lower Potomac River. The sea-run striper was 48 inches and went for a deep-trolled tandem rig. This is the first catch of one over 40 inches that Lamb has been able to verify so far this season.

Anglers have been consistently catching plenty of rockfish in the 20- to 30-inch range in the Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent and Potomac rivers through all sorts of weather, even in the rain, snow, sleet, and wind that has plagued Southern Maryland the past two weeks.

There are plenty of these homegrown rockfish in the upper regions of the bay, including some caught off the docks in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on bloodworms during the middle of last week’s snow storm. Jiggers and trollers are getting their fair share of these fish, too.

The bigger ocean-runners in the Atlantic Ocean are still up the coastline and have been centered around Atlantic City as of late. The cold is pushing them south and we should get them in our region soon. But, honestly, those behemoth stripers don’t taste as good as the medium-sized ones, so don’t turn your nose up at the chance to catch something this week to put on the table during the holidays.

Pickerel tournament under way

If you’re the kind of guy or gal who can’t be kept inside when there’s fishing to be done, no matter the weather, you might want to consider entering the Coastal Conservation Association of Maryland’s chain pickerel tournament.

Now that’s a species that doesn’t get a lot of attention, not like their huskier cousins the pike and musky. Tournaments galore are on the calendar each year: bass, marlin, rockfish, snakehead, catfish, lionfish, and even a one-of-a-kind tournament dedicated to the hardshell crab. But you don’t hear much about pickerel tournaments.

Pickerel are one of the several fish species that are plentiful at St. Mary’s Lake. Almost every time I pull into the parking lot during the colder months to check out how the anglers are doing, someone has landed a pickerel or two, although I’ve never heard of any coming close to the 7- or 8-pound mark.

Most weigh under two pounds, but 3- to 4-pounders are sometimes caught. There’s most certainly the possibility of something even bigger lurking in the water waiting to ambush your bait.

The Maryland non-tidal record for chain pickerel was set Jan. 2, 2015 by Lee Haile III. He’d been fishing for pickerel nearly 40 years by the time he reeled in his winning 8-pound fish from a pond near Salisbury, but you don’t need to be a seasoned pro to catch one. Beginner’s luck is a real thing.

And they are fun to catch, too, since they are active even during cold weather and put up an aggressive fight. Live shiners are the preferred bait.

The tournament runs through February and you don’t have to be a member of CCA to participate since the entry fee includes a one-year membership. For more information, go to

And, anytime you’re out on the water this winter, wear a life jacket.

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