One of the greatest rewards of an early morning fishing trip is the opportunity to enjoy the smell and taste of a fresh fish fry right on shore. If you have never experienced a shore lunch you are missing out on one of fishing’s special treats. It is the cornerstone of a Canadian fishing experience.
There is no way to describe on paper how good a shore lunch is when fresh walleye, trout or northern are pulled from the live well that were caught only a few hours earlier.
As bargain hunting consumers we are always looking for the best and freshest deal we can get, so I reckon that a day out on walleye waters is your best bet to having the freshest meal you ever will in a setting that no restaurant can provide. The window seat from an island is no match for any window seat in the finest of dining establishments.
There are many variations of shore lunches, all consisting of some type of fish and side dishes, depending what you favour. The usual is pan fried strips or fillets of walleye, northern or trout, a couple cans of brown beans and some kind of potato. This trio has set the standard for years and for obvious reasons still remains today. It’s simple and tasty.
Although I have had my fair share of shore lunches over the years, it doesn’t seem to matter whether I am the guest being served or I’m doing the preparation and cooking myself, they just seem to get better and better.
There are several rules of thumb when wanting to prepare a shore lunch, one of which is the open fire regulations at the time. If you are going to have a shore lunch over an open fire, you want to make sure that the Ministry of Natural Resources is allowing such otherwise you will have to use a Coleman stove with a propane heat source.
Either will suffice and I have used both methods many times. If you call the MNR or go online in advance, this information will be available. Fires may be restricted to designated campsites. Either way this heat source will suffice.
Second rule of thumb is to leave your shore lunch site cleaner than when you arrived. I have been to sites used by other anglers simply because the view was great, and the boat landing was smooth and safe. Sites like this that have multiple users, must be kept clean and free from any residue and trash. There’s no option here.
Natural beaches on inland lakes seem to be magnets for shore lunch and I am pulled towards these locales just as much as the next guy. Sand beaches provide an easy approach for bigger boats and in some cases an after lunch swim might even be in the cards. Sand beaches are enjoyed much more by kids and family pets and make for an easy clean up of the dishes afterwards.
Some of my favourite places to have shore lunch are on river systems, which makes it a little tougher to find a natural beach to feast on, however, on most river systems there are usually flat rock points and small cove inlets to park the vessel and get out of the current.
Preparation is the key especially when you are guiding and have several famished clients standing around waiting to fill their bellies, or even your own buddies or family that can’t wait to dive in.
I usually carry a large canvas pack on board that contains everything I need to do the shore lunch start to finish. Two cast iron frying pans, spatula and other utensils, oil, fish coating, salt and pepper, herbs, paper plates, cups, two cans of brown beans and some potatoes. (either pre-boiled or canned)
In a separate plastic container is my fillet knife, a couple of eggs, resealable plastic bags and some wet wipes.
I use my paddles to fillet the fish on, which means I do not have to carry a cutting board and eliminates unnecessary gear.
When you arrive to shore, start assigning duties, such as collecting wood and preparing the fire (if allowed), another person who has the skill can start to fillet fish and someone else can ready the rest of the sides, cutlery and cookware.
If all lend a hand, it doesn’t take long to get things going in anticipation of one of the best meals you will ever eat.
All garbage gets bagged and comes out with you and put into the appropriate bins. Do not try and burn your garbage in your fire. Take it with you.
Paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils are great for shore lunches as once used they can be put in the garbage bag thus eliminating dishes to be washed and carried out.
One thing to remember is in Ontario the fish you consume is considered a part of your daily limit, so if you ate two of your limit of four walleyes, you are only allowed to take home the remaining two fish. A big misconception by anglers is that they can still take home four walleyes after they have eaten a lunch of the fish.
After you have experienced shore lunch, it will definitely become a part of your day out on the water and once you have mastered this culinary art form, you will never look back.
Dried up bologna sandwiches will become a thing of the past.
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