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Being a good fisherman has always been about being smart enough, and humble enough to learn when given a chance.  -Anthony Bourdain

Actually, Bourdain never said that.  Well, he did, but it was about cooking, not fishing.  Some of the best fishermen I know like to cook.  I guess that’s because there are a lot of similarities.  I’ve recently had the opportunity to spend time with some very talented up-and-coming striper fishermen.  What impresses me most is their willingness to open their minds and learn.  As a result, they’re enjoying some of the best fishing experiences of their lives. That willingness to learn is a trait I’m including in a book I’m working on called, The Right Stuff.

According to the website, there are ten top qualities of a great culinary professional.  As I read through them, I found it interesting how each of those qualities apply just as easily to great fishing.  I hope they won’t mind if I parody their list a little by substituting fishing terms. Take a look to see if you have the recipe for a quality fishing experience.  The few words I substituted are in italics.

Creativity: A great angler must be very creative and always willing to try something new. Creativity inspires a lure’s presentation, which is very important to the overall fishing experience.

Passion: A great angler has a tremendous passion for fish and fishing. They enjoy the process of selecting gear, preparing for trips, and creating lures. Read More!

There aren’t many critters in Chesapeake country that are hated as much as cownose rays.  Mention them around Bay fishermen and you’re sure to hear a few four-letter words.  It’s probably because they steal a lot of lures. Some rays are so big and strong that many anglers simply cut their lines instead of trying to land them to get their equipment back.  Then, there’s the knowledge that one painful slap from a ray’s long spiny tail can put you in the hospital, or that some people believe they can devastate a shellfish bar overnight with their powerful crushing jaws.

Yeah, most people hate them. So, it might seem a little odd that some organizations have started promoting them as a food source.  In fact, the Virginia Marine Products Board is working hard to develop a commercial market for Chesapeake ray meat. From what I hear, it’s catching on. A grocery store in Hunt Valley, Maryland recently cooked some in the aisle and gave away free samples.  They sold all they had on hand. When it comes to culinary trends, I’m somewhat adventurous, and since I generally like seafood and didn’t grow up with prejudices against rays, I’ve been thinking about bringing one home to see what all the fuss is about.  My buddy Rich hooked a twenty-pounder just before dark last Wednesday evening, and fought it to the edge of the boat.  Here’s how things turned out.

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