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Nothing beats an outdoors feeding frenzy

Since we had such good luck fishing the week before, we decided to try it again and have a fish fry on Sunday. Damon thawed a gallon of fillets just in case we had no luck. It is a sad thing when a person comes in from a hard day's fishing and has to eat hot dogs. We need not have worried. Fishing was almost as good as the previous week end.

Our arms were tired from reeling in fish so we called it a day and went to Damon's house. The ladies had made salads. All the guys had to do was clean the new batch of fish, cook the thawed ones with a few potatoes, and we were ready for a gourmet meal.

Over the years, I have found, the more food preparation that can be done outside, the better it is for everyone. The mess is not in the kitchen and food always seems to taste better when cooked outside. For frying, I like to use a heavy cast iron Dutch oven on the stand that came with my turkey fryer. It is easy to regulate the temperature of the grease on the open flame and the Dutch oven keeps the temperature constant during the cooking process. If things are done in a step-by-step method, food is ready in no time.

Step 1: Set the Dutch oven on the burner and fill half full of peanut oil. When you discover you have no oil, run over to Craig's house and borrow a couple quarts.

Step 2: Turn on the gas to medium high. When nothing comes out, run over to Scott's house and steal the gas tank off his grill. His house is closer than Craig's.

Step 3: Heat the oil until a drop of water causes oil to splatter back on the person dropping the water. I have found it best to ask some curious bystander, "I wonder if the oil is hot?" and hand them a glass with water in it.

Step 4: Throw two or three thinly sliced potatoes into the hot grease. These are usually prepared by some bored person while waiting for the cooks to return with cooking oil or a gas tank.

Step 5: Bread your crappie fillets in a mild-flavored batter or breading mix.

Crappie are a very delicate and mild flavored fish. Caution should taken not to overpower them with seasonings.

We like to drain our fried food on newsprint. Twenty feet folded several times will absorb the oil when fried food is deposited on it. End rolls of newsprint can usually be purchased from your local newspaper for a minimal charge and one roll will last all summer. A newspaper can be used, but I dislike ink stains on my food.

When the first batch of potatoes hits the picnic table and the crappies go in, the crowd gathers. It is a feeding frenzy of people starving after a hard day of fishing. The potatoes are gone by the time the fish is ready. While the fish cools enough we only receive minor burns from eating it, the next set of potatoes goes in. This routine is generally repeated three or four times before anyone remembers the table is set inside and we have a couple of salads to go with our meal.

The fact of the matter is, the feeding frenzy is not triggered by hunger, but by the wonderful taste of freshly-caught fish.

It is hard to beat an evening outdoors enjoying each others company and what we had so much fun catching.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.