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Tilapia fillets with Sportsman’s Gold Citrus Marinade

by Frank Richardson

This past April, several friends and family joined my son Frank and I for a hog hunt with Tracy and Crichton Allen’s at Tiger Island Outfitters.

During the weekend hunt, I talked quite a bit with guide Capt. Matt Northcutt and discovered that not only does he guide hog hunts, he also owns and operates West Shore Outfitters, where he shares his vast knowledge of fishing and provides clients with an outstanding bowfishing experience.

The more we talked about bow-fishing, the more I wanted to give it a try. By the time the weekend was over, Frank and I had booked an afternoon and night trip for the end of May. Matt could not tell me exactly where we would be bowfishing, as he wanted to wait until closer to our trip to be sure we were in the location with the best action.

I’ve bow hunted for over 10 years, and Frank has been at it for just a couple, but neither of us had ever been bowfishing. As the month slipped away, the anticipation and excitement kept building. About a week before our trip, Matt told us we would be going to a couple of different brackish locations in Central Florida to allow us to try for tilapia, catfish, mullet and gar.

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Recipes

Citrus Marinade Tilapia

Ingredients:

• Fish fillets

• Sportsman’s Gold Seafood Citrus marinade

• Fresh ground black pepper

• A lime

Cooking Instructions:

Place fish fillets in a skillet on low heat. As fillet begins to turn white, turn it and apply two teaspoons of Seafood Citrus marinade. Keep turning to prevent burning the fillet or the marinade. As fish turns completely white and flaky, apply a light finishing glaze of Seafood Citrus marinade, fresh ground black pepper and squeeze a lime slice over each fillet. Serve and enjoy!

As Frank and I waited for Matt to back the boat into the water at our first location, we watched a couple of guys bowfishing in front of the landing. I saw them doing a lot of shooting, but no fish when they retrieved their arrows.

I joked with Frank that we would have to shoot better than that. Boy, was I ever in for a surprise! After we got situated in the boat, Matt gave instructions on how to nock the arrow, depress the button on the reel, shoot and then retrieve the arrow.

We would be shooting low-poundage compound bows with no sights. He told us that we would have to aim under the fish we were shooting at – adding that the actual depth of the fish would dictate how far under them we would aim.

He also familiarized us with the boat – a 20-foot Alumacraft with a 4-stroke 115 Yamaha and powerful Minn Kota trolling motor – then showed us the Honda generator that would power the lights on the bow for night shooting.

Frank and I made our way to the bow, fumbling around getting our arrows nocked. We immediately spotted a school of mullet swimming by and started letting the arrows fly. As we missed shot after shot, I grew a little more sympathetic of the guys we watched while Matt was launching the boat.

Matt grabbed his bow to give us some pointers, and pretty soon he reeled in our first mullet of the night!

Frank and I kept shooting and missing, but on what seemed like my 100th shot, the mullet I was aiming at went sliding sideways through the water as my arrow finally connected! In disbelief, I quickly reeled in my first-ever bowfishing kill!

As the afternoon went on, Frank and I kept shooting and missing, but had a blast doing so. Matt also kept shooting to make sure we had enough fish for a meal at the end of the evening.

As the sun set, it became very difficult to see the fish, so Matt suggested we take a break to wait for darkness, when he would fire up the generator so the powerful lights on the front of the boat would make it easier to see the fish.

With our arms and backs aching, we gladly took a seat and enjoyed a break until darkness fell. Matt fired up the generator, and immediately we could see down into the water very clearly.

Gone was the glare from the sun and clouds. The fish seemed easier to spot, and before I knew it, I was reeling in my first tilapia.

Frank began to get a little frustrated now that I had two fish in the boat, and as we neared some cattails, a school of gar made their way toward the boat. Frank took aim at the first one to come by and immediately started whooping and hollering as he tried to reel in the big fish.

I quickly stepped to the bow and shot one of the gars, so we were doubled up reeling in fish at the same time! Before the evening was over, Frank and I both managed to connect a few more times, and we ended the evening with approximately 120 lbs. of fish (mostly due to Matt’s shooting skills).

After taking some photos of our catch at the boat ramp, Frank and I headed back home to North Florida. Worn out from the night’s fun, I slept in until almost noon before finally crawling out of bed to clean the fish.

After showering, we loaded up the truck and headed to Cedar Key to help out with the Wounded Warrior hog hunt at Tiger Island Outfitters. Frank and I had volunteered to help out (as the skinning crew) with the event thanking some of our wounded veterans with a hog hunt.

Among the many volunteers was my good friend Cole Berger, owner of Sportsman’s Gold Marinades. Cole volunteered to cook and provide the main course for lunch, when he served up some delicious pulled-pork sandwiches marinated in Sportsman’s Gold “Boar No More,” and let us sample some of his new barbecue sauces.

While enjoying our lunch, Frank and I told Cole about our bowfishing excursion and how much fun we’d had. We introduced him to Capt. Matt, and before we knew it, we had made plans for the three of us to meet Matt for a bowfishing trip the second weekend in June.

We met Cole and Matt at the landing and had barely launched before Cole had his first mullet in the boat. Frank and I shot much better the second time around, hitting several mullet in the first hour. All three of us arrowed big gar, which put up quite a fight.

By the time the evening was over, Frank and I had blisters on our fingers from shooting so much! It was non-stop action from the time we launched until we got back to the landing. I estimated each of us shot close to 300 times!

Once again, we had an incredible afternoon and evening of bowfishing, and left with big grins and an ice chest full of fish. If you have never tried bowfishing, I highly recommend giving it a try! To contact Capt. Matt Northcutt of West Shore Outfitters see his ad below.

I’d like to share a recipe we used on the tilapia we brought back from our trip. If you don’t have tilapia, you can find fillets at about any seafood counter, or substitute just about any white meat fish fillet (but that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as shooting them yourself!).

This is a quick and easy meal to prepare, with a total preparation and cooking time of less than 15 minutes.