Fishing for me is about a peaceful time on the water trying to figure out the species of the day.
I’d say 95% of the time I practice catch and release, but 5% of the time all that practice sure comes in handy when it is time to feed the family. Not surprisingly that feed time usually coincides with the walleye opener here in The Kawarthas.
There’s a good reason walleye are the number one sought-after fish species in The Kawarthas. They are fun to catch, there are lots of them in the Kawartha Lakes and most importantly they are great eating. Rice Lake is one of my favourite places to catch a limit of “eaters” as is Lower Buckhorn, Stoney Lake and Sturgeon Lake (just outside our region).
Walleye are such good eating because the fillets have a nice firm texture that doesn’t taste “fishy”. In fact, I find walleye to be almost tasteless which allows them to readily take on flavours from your favourite spices or seasonings. As for cleaning them, they are also one of the easiest. If you want to learn do an online search for “cleaning walleye” and literally thousands of video’s will come up. And lastly, you only need about one walleye per adult for a healthy meal, which is not too onerous a task for the angler.
Surprisingly my kids really enjoy the cleaning part almost as much as the eating part. They are not old enough to help with the knife work but they do help by gathering supplies, bags, sharpeners and cleaning instruments. Once they get over the initial sight of blood, their inquisitive minds take over. I have many fond memories of my kids standing by watching as I clean the fish and as they bombard me with a thousand questions. I feel strongly that this entire process helps them get a better understanding of how our food gets on the table and teaches them respect for our natural resources.
Here’s my not so secret family recipe. About a half hour before cooking I lay the cleaned fillets on a paper towel, drying them from any excess moisture due to the cleaning process. With a hot pan ready, I give each filet a quick bath of beer before coating the fillets liberally in Fish Crisp Original (in this case I used and recommend Peterborough’s own Smithavens Brewing Company’s British Pale Ale. Dunkelweizen would also be a good option). Cook the fillets until the flesh is flaky about 2-3 minutes per side depending on the thickness of each piece. Serve on its own or with tartar sauce. Lately, I have been pairing them with Costco’s Lime Aioli sauce on the side for dipping. Delicious!
If the catching, cleaning and cooking all seem like too much work for you, you can always go visit Chemong Lodge in Bridgenorth. Overlooking Chemong Lake is this great restaurant if you are in the mood for an authentic Canadian cottage meal of walleye (aka Pickerel to most Canadians). They have pan-fried pickerel on the menu every night, but be sure to drop in on Tuesdays when pickerel is on special at the lodge. Bon appetite!