Shore lunch in Sunset Country a real treat

During the years that I was in high school and then university, I spent my summers working at tourist resorts around the region as a fishing guide.
It’s been around 20 years since I did my first trip out at Ash Rapids Lodge on Lake of the Woods and since that time, I’ve cooked hundreds of shore lunches–the highlight of the trip for many visitors to our region.
In addition to knowing your way around the lake and where to catch fish, fishing guides in Northwestern Ontario also need to know how to cook a shore lunch. It was the first thing I learned how to do before I was able to take guests out on my own.
I still can remember having to drive out on the lake to meet some of the veteran guides where they were doing up a lunch for their guests and watching how they did everything from cutting the potatoes to cooking the fish.
Eating fresh walleye, crappie, lake trout, or pike within hours of catching them, on the shore of the lake, is tough to beat. Of all of the shore lunches that I’ve ever been a part of, I don’t think I have ever left without over-eating. I can’t help myself.
Not only are the fish so good, all of the other stuff that goes with the fish is great in this setting, as well.
The fish definitely is the main ingredient in the shore lunch. I like to batter mine with flour, egg, and corn flake crumbs. Simple but tasty. I also like to season the fish with some lemon pepper as it comes out of the oil.
It’s widely agreed upon by people who cook a lot of fish that peanut oil is the best because it does not burn easily but almost any cooking oil will do. I like to take bricks of lard when I cook on the lake because there is less opportunity for spillage and it does a fine job, too.
Potatoes are the second-most important thing to pack for a good shore lunch. I like to cut them into French fries or silver dollars and cook them in the oil prior to the fish because they take a little bit longer to cook.
When the potatoes get close to being fully cooked, I like to add an onion to the pot to add some flavour–everybody loves it!
You don’t want to complicate things too much when you’re cooking on the lake but in addition to the potatoes and fish, I like to warm up a can of beans and a can of creamed corn. Creamed corn is one of the hot tips I learned from the older guides back in the day.
A lot of people have a negative perception of it but when combined with fresh fish, it’s sweet, saucy texture is amazing (trust me)!
Fresh fruit and veggies, bread, and some condiments round out a pretty easy shore lunch. Tartar sauce, salt and pepper, and cut lemon are all that I usually pack. Obviously, you can get more creative but at the end of the day, it’s the great-tasting fish that really makes the shore lunch.
Here are a few of the tips I learned from the veteran guides when I went to guide school back in the day. When you make a fire to cook on, you should use straight pieces of wood (we used to steal them from beaver huts) and lay them parallel to each other so that the fire is flat.
When you open the cans of beans or corn, open the lids about 95 percent of the way so you can leave the lid covering the contents while you cook them to keep ashes from the fire out.
Finally, to keep the temperature of the oil consistent, when you take a piece of cooked fish out of the pot, add a new piece to replace it.
If you have never tried a shore lunch before or it’s been a long time, I encourage you to give it a try on your next outing. It’s a nice way to break up a day in the boat and I have yet to run into anyone who does not love a good fish fry on the lake.