WILD HARVEST: Shore Lunch Wizardry

Picking the right fish

An excellent shore lunch begins with the selection of an excellent fish. Here, I can be as picky or critical as they come. I could go on into detail as to why, but there seems to be different varieties of lake trout inhabiting different niches or habitats within the expansive Great Slave Lake. Here we encounter two varieties of lake trout: greenbacks and redfins.

Greenbacks tend to cruise more open water, a bright silver and white fish with fainter patterning and an aqua-green back. Often caught trolling open areas, their diet consists of ciscoes, grayling or other trout, and it is these fish that eventually grow into those fabled monster trout. A diet of fish can lead to higher parasite loads and mercury concentrations, however.

Redfins, on the other hand, tend to be bottom oriented and in deeper water, often caught jigging, and are generally darker in colour with brightly coloured red and white pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Their diet is largely made up of invertebrates, and I suspect even smaller fish can be quite old. A diet of invertebrates suggests lower parasite loads and, despite age, mercury concentrations would also be lower. I’m convinced that if a redfin picked up off the bottom and began actively feeding on ciscoes, it would ‘become’ a greenback, but I’m no expert. Anyway, redfins from deeper, colder haunts, with firm, bright orange flesh, are my favourite for shore lunch. The perfect “luncher” is about six to eight pounds, with a small head in relation to a fat body, rather than the opposite, and no visible wounds or external parasites. Sometimes I’ll critically inspect over a dozen fish in that size range when picking the right fish.

 

Shore lunch, a-la-cart!

Fresh ingredients and an open fire instantly takes a shore lunch to new culinary heights. At this point, there are a number of dazzling methods to prepare your delicious catch. The trout, with their tangerine-orange flesh, are filleted – always boneless, unless you want your status as a guide questioned. Popular lunch items include English beer-battered fish and chips with tartar sauce and lemon, or a honey garlic glaze for something sweeter. Blackened Cajun or lemon pepper are also popular. You’ll also need a searing hot pan, a glob of butter and some dry rub, ranging from mild to suicide hot. I also like to use a fish cage and grill trout, as another option – skinless, boneless and a caramelized teriyaki glaze near the end. Baked trout, wrapped in an foil, is another quick and easy option, particularly on a rainy day since the fish is covered. Teriyaki and pineapple, black beans and veggies, roasted lemon pepper or even salsa bakers with cheese can all be whipped up effortlessly, for a sumptuous shoreline treat. If that’s not enough, an incredible trout chowder with corn, potato and clams will impress you, and there is nothing stopping us from having some smoked trout from yesterday to serve as an appetizer snack. Trust me, the smoked trout never lasts long.

 

For something special

Especially on hot days or when new culinary flare is called for, a good guide always has a trick up his sleeve. Don’t slave over a hot fire in the heat of the summer, instead prepare a delicious raw line up, including fresh, lake-side sashimi (cleaned boneless and frozen the night before) accompanied with soy and wasabi. Another option is to create incredible, fresh ceviche, a traditional South American dish. A dozen fresh limes, lemons and oranges are juiced, and thin slices of trout are added to this acidic bath to cook in the sun. Citrus zest, paper-thin shavings of sweet onion and pepper, a handful of cilantro and coarse black pepper rounds off the event. Other times I say forget fish altogether and just grill steaks!

 

Berries for dessert

I even have a few favourite lunch islands up my sleeve where grape-sized blueberries grow, as well as expansive patches of delicious cloud berries! These oversized, raspberry-looking, translucent gold northern treasures are firm and taste like kiwi and strawberry when under ripe, later becoming softer and tasting like peaches.

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