Five ways to eat local fish

Throughout the open-water fishing season, I like to catch whatever fish wants to bite although but my focus is on bass fishing more than anything else.
I live for competing in tournaments and spend a lot of my time chasing bass around—looking for new spots and different ways to catch fish that might help me one day in a tournament.
On the ice, it’s all about catching fish to eat for many of us, with exceptions for trophy pike, lake trout, and walleye that always should be released.
I love to eat fish and actually eat more walleye, crappie, and lake trout during the ice season than during our open-water period.
Since we have more variety across Sunset Country than most places do for different species to catch, let’s take a look at some of my favourite ways to eat the most popular fish in our region.
Walleye always will remain at the top of the list for me. I enjoy the flaky meat and the ease of cleaning them, and they are fun to catch. While I’ve had walleye done dozens of ways, the simple flour, egg, and corn flake crumb batter, cooked in butter, is the best in my opinion.
Is it the healthiest option? Probably not, but it tastes so good.
My wife, August, has talked about her father’s fish balls, made with lake trout chunks, since we started dating many years ago. A bunch of flour mixed in a bowl with a beer and a few dashes of salt and you have a beer batter.
Batter up lake trout chunks that are an inch or two long, cook them in hot peanut oil, and you have some tasty fish to eat.
She says you then must dip the chunks in cocktail sauce, add a squirt of lemon, and you’re all set.
While many local anglers don’t target perch, if you’re looking for some good eats, you should change your way of thinking.
Larger perch, plentiful in many lakes around the region, especially bigger waters like Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake, are the most sought-after fish to eat by anglers across much of North America.
Poached perch is tough to beat and a healthier option than frying them. Simply lay a couple of fillets into a small tinfoil tent, add some olive oil, chopped garlic, and some dill, then cook in the oven for about 10 minutes.
One species of fish we don’t come across all that often during the open-water season are lake whitefish. Fortunately, they are very catchable through the ice and while they are great cooked any way, smoked whitefish is the best of any smoked fish I’ve ever had.
Whitefish have a y-bone, much like a lake trout and pike, so there is some inconvenience in cleaning them. But once you get around that set of bones north of their spine, the meat is as good as any in fresh water.
Finding the best recipe for smoking them takes some trial and error, which is why I have a couple of friends who I let do the smoking while I just enjoy eating them.
One thing I’ve learned with whitefish is if you can clean as soon as possible after catching, the meat will be more enjoyable. They get quite a slime on them if you pile them up in a bucket all day, so if you are able to clean them on the ice, I would recommend it.
Just remember to leave a piece a skin on the fillet so a conservation officer can identify it if they need to.
If you like battered fish, but feel the need or have been told to avoid the frying pan, then try baking some fresh crappies in the oven. You can use your favourite batter recipe or try a special blend made by Shorelunch designed for cooking fish in the oven.
Simply dip the fillets in egg, then coat them with batter, and lay them on a cookie sheet before putting them into an oven pre-heated to 425 F.
I like to cook them for about five minutes on one side, give them a flip, and cook them for another four or five minutes. When they start to brown, they’re finished up.
You miss a little flavour without the butter, but they still are pretty good and very healthy.
We have so many different species of fish to catch across our region and many of them are active beneath the ice. So take advantage of the nicer weather we have coming over the next couple of months and catch a few fish for dinner.