By MIKE CORN
WEBSTER RESERVOIR -- With a half-filled bucket of crayfish by his side, Joe Bellerive agonized over the lack of activity at the end of his fishing line.
"They say a north wind, stay home," said Bellerive, a Stockton resident who took up short-term residency recently on a dock near the lake's boat-launching facilities. "Wind in the west, fishing is best. When the wind is in the east, they bite the least.
"The south, the bait goes right in their mouth."
He's not sure how much truth there is to the ditty, other than it rhymes.
It was a day with a north wind, and Bellerive figures he should have stayed home. But, he was out near Webster Reservoir, helping a son harvest corn, so he stopped in with his bucket of bait and sat down to try his hand at fishing.
"I raised these," he said of the crayfish that clawed about in the bucket.
He also had a few minnows.
It wasn't going well, however.
"I haven't been at it long," he said of his fishing venture.
And as for his crayfish? "They aren't even the big ones I've got."
Bellerive has farmed in the Webster area his entire life and keeps a few ponds just for raising crayfish. That means the ponds have to be devoid of fish, something he was able to arrange after the ponds went dry as a result of drought.
"I've got about four or five ponds stocked," said Bellerive, who turned 85 on Nov. 11.
Not all of it is for fishing, however. There's a tasty side to crayfish, and he's not about to miss out on it.
"I've got six traps and if I bait them real good, I'll get 12 to 15 gallons," he said of what his traps will collect. He figures there's about 24 pounds of crayfish in a 5-gallon bucket.
The traps are baited with carp, which, he said, will be stripped down to the bone when he pulls the trap out of the water.
He pulls his traps out of the water with the aid of a winch mounted on his pickup. Bellerive no longer tries to pick up the crayfish-laden traps.
He will have three to four crayfish boils a year, tossing salt into a 15-gallon pot.
Add in a little cayenne pepper, shrimp and crab boil, lemon juice and garlic, and allow it to boil for about 20 minutes before dumping in the crayfish.
"They go in alive and bring it back up to a rolling boil," he said of how to cook them.
But, he cautions, only cook what you can eat.
"We've found no way to freeze them," he said.