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Fish to Table: Canadian Walleye Recipes

Lightly battered walleye over lettuce, sour cream, avocado, and tomato topped with cilantro on a tortilla. • Credit: Bridget Taylor
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Fish to Table: Canadian Walleye Recipes

Check out these 6 mouthwatering ideas

Up here in Sunset Country, pristine Canadian freshwater is our farmland.

Many visitors come to Sunset Country for the fishing experience—but preparing, cooking, and enjoying freshly caught fish is an essential part of t, but this can be expanded to include the additional opportunities that exist after catching that eater-size fish as well.

Perrault Falls flows into Wabaskang Lake.

Many enjoy going to a restaurant where all the food is locally grown/produced. Knowing that those tomatoes didn’t get shipped from another country and that burger you’re eating came from a grass-fed cow from a farmer down the road is pleasing to the mind as well as the palette. 

Well, up here in Sunset Country, the Canadian waters have become our farm fields. With this incredible natural resource, one can catch some fish, go back to camp and fillet it, and then share their efforts at the table. To us, it’s a gratifying way of providing for the family.

Filleting the fish right off the docks with a nice cold beer- making this part of the farm-to-table experience enjoyable rather than a chore.

The desire to know where your food comes from is nothing new—local farmers' markets thrive today, the locavore movement is gaining momentum, and more diners are interested in options that are organic, all-natural, GMO-free, and locally sourced. This concept can transfer to our fisheries as well. Fish from Canadian waters are high in omega-3 heart-healthy fats and protein and free from the toxins and dyes that other fish may have. Commercial fishing and even “fish farms” are all about selling huge quantities of fish to the common person. Never mind, many of the fish have been flown in from overseas or on a ship for days, handled by countless people and equipment, and the respect and appreciation for the fish is lost.

Inviting others to share in the rewards of our fishing adventures.

With the “farm to table” approach, one can truly know the source of their catch, take pride in catching it, and only keep what they need (some visitors bring their daily limit based on the conservation or sportsman’s license they chose and some only bring back enough for that meal). There’s no waste, no mass handling, and it provides the freshest fish available. There is little to no time between carrying your catch off the boat, spending some quality time filleting it in the fish house, preparing it, and then sitting down to that fine meal. Not only is it about the mouth-watering taste that can’t be replicated elsewhere; but it's also about taking pride in your involvement in every step of the process (from catching to preparing to cooking to eating). And if you’re not comfortable filleting fish, don’t worry because many Sunset Country lodges provide fillet services.

Filleted fish blotted for moisture and seasoned, ready to grill.

You have probably heard many people over the years say they don’t like fish. If you go on to inquire what their prior experience of eating fish has been, it's no wonder. Fish sticks, overcooked salmon, a fish fry that consists of all breading, and store-bought frozen fish are just some of the common answers one might get. However, once someone takes a bite of walleye or pike that was just caught from one of our glorious and pristine Canadian waters, it's over. No persuading is needed, as the quality difference speaks for itself. A simple blackened walleye over the cast iron (stovetop, grill, or open fire) dipped in a bit of melted butter can bring one to his knees.

Used a vacuum sealer to bring these Blackened Perch fillets back home in the states during the off-season.

Northern pike is not to be dismissed. If it's filleted correctly (a simple youtube search will provide easy how-to videos or check out this video), pike can taste every bit as good as the coveted walleye. Whether you do a shore lunch right on the spot, bake some in your cabin that night, or vacuum seal and bring home to share with your family (leave that skin flap on of course), nothing beats eating Canadian fish.

Shorelunch on Wabaskang Lake. 

Long after you’ve returned home and are reminiscing about your week in Canada, you can dig around in that freezer and thaw out some of the catch you brought back.  Prepare that fish using your go-to method, or explore the countless recipes out there to expand your playbook of dishes. Experiment and add your own twist. Once while camping, we wanted to make pike cakes (like crab cakes but with northern pike replacing the crabmeat). We had forgotten the eggs, and the binding got a bit messed up, so our cakes turned into ball shapes. They tasted amazing though! So since then we always make them that way and they’ve been a huge hit at our annual fish fry party back in the states. Fish tacos, fish and eggs breakfast, grilled fish, baked fish, pike balls, ceviche, fried fish, smoked fish over cream cheese with a drop of hot sauce on a cracker, you get the idea. The possibilities are endless and unbeatable.

One can agree it is hard to buy fish from the grocer after you’ve had Canadian walleye and pike. And it can be quite difficult to agree on who to invite over when you’re home in the states and have to ration your take-home fish. Sometimes you may feel generous and are glad to share in this experience with a small backyard fish fry. And sometimes you just want to savor it for yourself and stretch it so you can get a few more meals. We don’t take it for granted, that’s for sure, as we treat it as a delicacy.

Fish fry using a propane cooker at camp.

Regardless of what your ultimate creation looks and tastes like, that first bite of your fish will take you back to the vast waters of Sunset Country. You’ll remember that epic fishing day when you landed your day’s limit, and it will take you right back to eating at camp over the sunset or on some island’s shore, the Prrrrrr sound of the motor of your boat, the eagles flying above you and the soft waves crashing against the shore.

The clean air, the stillness in the endless skyline of trees, the simplicity of the good life- that bite of walleye brings it all back. And sharing an impression of that with your loved ones back home goes a long way. They won’t ever truly get it unless they’ve been a part of those fishing trips, but it does provide a glimpse of your happy place, is a generous way to share, be proud of your time up North, and extend that farm-to-table experience.

Here are a few pics of some amazing "fish to table" dining options

1. skillet-fried walleye

Made at the cabin with a cast iron over the stovetop.

2. grilled fish with mushrooms and roast potatoes

Fresh fish is delicious any way you make it!

3. blackened walleye over mashed potatoes

Bridget's personal favorite: blackened/grilled walleye over a bed of mashed potatoes with sauteed onions, bacon, and mushroom topped with gravy.

4. pike tacos with homemade salsa

At the cabin, Pike tacos with homemade salsa.

5. baked parmesan pike 

Baked Parmesan pike with fresh tomato slices and onion.

Being an angler is special—it is a hobby, a passion, and a way of life. But being an angler on Canadian waters is like no other. We respect the fish and release what we don’t need to sustain the fisheries for generations to come. And in bringing our catch to the table and sharing with others what God has provided, we are all blessed. There is a feeling of peace, pride, and gratitude toward the bounties of nature. It is satisfying to the appetite but also to the soul.

To read more of Bridget's adventures at Tall Pines Camp, read her blog on the Tall Pines website.

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