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Steelhead with Tangerine Butter Sauce

That should’ve been my fish.
I had just gotten my line back in the water after landing a nice hatchery steelhead, when the guy just down from me made that comment.
I looked away for a second, and when I turned back around my bobber was under.  I tried to set the hook, but I was too late.
He sounded kind of gruff about it, but I don’t know the guy and I choose to think he was being self-effacing, rather than being bitter at me for catching “his” fish.

There’s an important lesson there, in this style of fishing you need to keep your eye on your float or you’re going to miss fish.
That’s part of the beauty of float fishing or “bobber dogging”.  There’s a quiet but sharp focus you are keeping on your line, on the water, and on that little piece of plastic that’s floating down the river.


Those of you who have been following my antics, likely know that during the warmer months I spend a good deal of time trolling for salmon out in the salt water.  That type of fishing is peaceful in it’s own way.  After setting the rods we usually have time to gaze around at the scenery, engage in conversation, listen music, and (far too often) check our phones for messages.  Of course we’re keeping an eye on our rods, but it’s pretty obvious when a line gets hit.  So we’re free to divert our attention now and again.

The river has been good to me this winter. I’ve been having a pretty good steelhead season.

Bobber dogging for steelhead is a different beast.  That float can dip under for a split second.  And if you miss that instant, you’re ordering take-out for dinner that night.  There is no checking FaceBook on your phone, there’s fiddling with the radio dial.  You’re focussed on the river.  You’re reading the water, watching your float, adjusting your line, and timing your casts with the other fishermen near you.  As an extension of all that, you’re soaking in the sound of the wind in the trees, and the scene of the mountains looming above you.  All the other those other things that clutter our lives are shut out.
It’s perfect.  It’s beautiful.

A little taste of the scenery from the Skykomish river.

What both those styles of fishing have in common; hell, what most types of fishing have in common, is that they are made up of serene settings that get punctuated with moments of excitement and adrenaline when a fish hits your line.
Take a look at what I mean.  I had some lucky timing recently with strapping the GoPro to my forehead.  The fisheye lens it has makes is hard to see the float, but I think the video still gives you nice glimpse of the experience.

I went over the bobber and jig set-up that I (and a lot of other folks) have been using in THIS POST.   Check it out for a diagram of the gear.

As you may notice from the photos, I’ve been having a decent steelhead season so far.  That’s giving me opportunity to try a number of different preparations of this remarkable fish.  One of them has definitely stood out as a favorite.  This time of year, the produce sections are all stocked with tangerines, clementines, and/or satsuma oranges.  I used some of those to make a tangerine butter sauce that I served over some sautéed steelhead.  It’s an awesome recipe.  You’ve got to try it.

Steelhead with Tangerine Butter Sauce

The Sauce

  • 1 cup  dry white wine
    1/2 shallot, finely chopped
    juice & zest of 2 tangerines …clementines, satsumas, or mandarins also work
    2 tsp fresh lemon juice
    1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 cup heavy cream
    separated wedges of 2 tangerines, white “strings” removed
    4 oz (1 stick) of cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    kosher salt, to taste

Put the wine, shallot, juices, zest, and pepper in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring it to a simmer, and cook until it reduced to 1/3 of a cup.

Add the cream, and continue simmering until it’s back down to 1/3 cup of liquid.

Toss in the tangerine wedges, and reduce the heat to very low.

Add the butter, one piece at a time, shaking the pan continuously, adding more butter as the previous one melts. Continue adding butter into the reduction until all of it is blended in.

Add salt to taste, and set the sauce aside where it will stay warm.  If it gets cold or too hot, it with separate


The Fish & the Finish

  • 2 – 4 cleaned steelhead filet portions
    kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, as needed
    2 Tbs butter
    2 Tbs olive oil

Season the filets on both sides with salt & pepper.

Sauté the fish in the butter & olive oil over high heat.  Cook it to your preference, but I like seared lightly brown on the outside, but still about medium in the middle.  Hence the high heat.

Serve it topped with the tangerine sauce, and whatever side dishes suit your fancy.

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