Dreaming Of A Canadian Shore Lunch.
The majority of visitors to Northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country come up to enjoy the great fishing the area offers. There are literally tens of thousands of lakes and hundreds of resorts and lodges visitors can choose from. Whether you are fishing a larger lake or a small remote fly-in lake you’ll want to enjoy a traditional Canadian shore lunch. After a successful morning of fishing, take a break for one of the tastiest delicacies found anywhere, fresh walleye for shore lunch. Ask anyone who’s been to Canada fishing, nothing can beat heading out on one of our beautiful lakes, catching some nice fresh walleyes and eating on the shores of a clear, Canadian lake.
A few years ago I was invited to a shore lunch with a couple of groups of fishermen during a fly-in fishing trip to Guardian Eagle Resort north of Sioux Lookout. We pulled up to a rocky shoreline where the other parties had already started to prep the lunch. It was a spot that the guides frequented a lot and there was everything there that we needed from the grates to cut wood to picnic tables. Three guides whipped up a delicious meal on the shores of De Lesseps Lake. The guides made the traditional deep fried walleye, but one of the guests added his own recipe to one batch of walleye. I’m sad to admit that I can’t remember the guest’s recipe. It was so good, and healthy too! I’m pretty sure he broiled the fish in tinfoil with butter, onions and spices (maybe seasoning salt?). It was a fantastic addition to our meal.
When the fish goes straight from the lake into the deep fryer or frying pan, there is almost an exhilaration among the lucky anglers who are about to sit down for the feast. In Northwestern Ontario, guided fishing packages often include a walleye shore lunch. Your guide will fillet the fish into nice sized portions and immerse it in a secret batter. Then it goes straight into the hot oil or into a pan above an open fire on the rocky shoreline. Shore lunch is a true part of the Canadian fishing experience and in addition to fresh walleye, pike, lake trout and black crappies can also be cooked up and eaten. Any of these fish, fresh out of the water are DELICIOUS!! When you take that first bite it will be like you died and went to heaven.
If you are headed out on the lake without a guide, don’t worry, it’s not difficult to do it yourself. Just remember to bring everything with you that you think you’ll need like oil or lard, frying pan, utensils and all the trimmings. (A good idea is to make a list that you can add to daily in the case something is forgotten.) You’ll often find the traditional shore lunch includes fried potatoes and a can of beans. If you’re staying at an American Plan resort, a shore lunch kit is often included. Many lodges will have also placed a fish cleaning table where guests often stop for a shore lunch. (Inside Tip: Remember to try and cook on rock rather than a beach or you’ll end up with sand on everything!)
Here’s one of my favorite recipes:
I crush up some Rice Crispies cereal and add parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Then I drag the filets through an egg, flip it in the breading and fry for a few minutes on each side. Delicious!
Catch and Release the Large Fish
You’ll enjoy catching the fish that you will eat, but we encourage you to do it with this in mind: The best eating fish regardless of species are the smaller ones, generally walleye between 14 and 17 inches in length. For larger fish like the one pictured above on the English River System at Halley’s Camps, it is important that you release them back into the lake. These bigger fish are the prime breeders and instead of eating them, release them so they can produce the ones you’ll eat a few years down the road. Dan Baughman from Bow Narrows Camp has a great article on his blog called the Stunning Reality of Keeping Big Fish. In the article, Dan breaks it down mathematically and in more detail, but basically if you take two anglers with one taking two 17-inchers and the other taking one 17” walleye and one 26” walleye the loss of eggs and potential fish are about 1,037,270 less over a 10 year period! So, please take a picture and put them back. It is a conservation principle that has worked for years to ensure a quality shore lunch experience.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve had a shore lunch or if you’ve never had one before, head up to Ontario’s Sunset Country and experience one for yourself. Order a free Vacation Guide and Map to start to plan which lakes you should have a Canadian shore lunch this year. Bon appetit!