Tennessee fish--hornyheads and redhorse [moved from South board]
"Back then, I myself championed good causes, such as the culinary superiority of the Tennessee hornyhead over ordinary fare like the New England brookie or the Northern California grunion. For flavor and crunch, nothing beats fresh, properly fried hornyheads, provided that fine-ground white cornmeal and peanut oil are used."
Complete Fish & Game Cookbook
Having fried both brookies (delicious) and grunion (just OK) I'm wondering if anyone has information/tips on the season for and where to catch hornyheads (large minnows also known as stonerollers). I understand that there is a rural tradition of catching, beheading, and frying these guys in Northeast Tennessee--no restaurant would have these, so any tips on locals who are willing to accomodate a wayward Californian would be appreciated. Also, I've read that redhorses and other suckers are also targeted during their spawning runs. I'm crazy enough to take a trip out there to chase minnows and suckers (and hopefully some barbecue and ramps, too).
Having eaten horneyheads before, I do find them a good eating fish. I honestly hate to catch them though! The little buggers stink like no tomorrow, they will make your hands stink for days after removing them from the hook.
I have eaten them a few times, every time they were cooked over campfire, so I cannot comment on Mr. Livingston's description. They are a little bony, but the flesh was white and I didn't think it was too strong (as you will read elsewhere). Watch out though, one of the horneyheads we cleaned to eat had some sort of parasitic worm inside it, so we didn't cook that one!
My family is from the Shenandoah Valley, VA and up in that area there are some fishermen that use dip nets to catch white suckers during their spawning runs. A tripod is built and a net is fastened to a long pole (25+ feet). The pole is placed in the tripod and the net is dropped to the bottom of the creek. Every now and again the net is raised to see if they have caught a sucker. They only do this during the spawning runs because any other time they have "too much mud" in them (from an oldtimer that showed me his craft).
As far as cooking a sucker, I have no idea! I live in SW Virginia, and I could put you on some spots to catch some horneyheads, if you were so inclined. Now the ramps, that is an altogether different thing!
I am not familiar with ramps, but will be on the lookout this year when collecting asparagus and morels! You could setup a trip to this area when the Whitetop Ramp Festival is going on! http://www.blueridgemusic.org/SearchR...
Drew, thanks for the local knowledge. It makes sense that SW Virginia and NE Tennessee would have similar food traditions. I think suckers are gigged, scored and deep-fried in the Ozarks, and I would imagine they would be in VA, too. What are the seasons for horneyheads and white suckers? I've heard March and April for the minnows. Not sure if we can make it for the run this year, but I would like to make plans for the future.
Here's a quick link to the Tennessee Fisheries and Wildlife Anglers guide website.
I did a search there for hornyheads- there seems to be a restoration project.
The guys who fish on our island in the Holston haven't been around since you posted. If they are here, and in season, you'd be welcom to check out the fishing hole off of our island.