FINGER LICKIN' GOOD LAKE TROUT
As I mentioned in one of last week's blogs, Doug Stange, Editor-in-Chief of In-Fisherman magazine and television was up for a visit recently. We snowmachined into the backwoods one day to ice fish for lake trout and shoot an adventure segment for next season's In-Fisherman Ice Guide television series. And we enjoyed some great success.
(Larger lake trout are a blast to catch but should always be quickly and carefully released)
I love ice fishing for lake trout for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I am lucky to live smack dab in the centre of the highest concentration of natural lake trout lakes found anywhere on earth. So, to not take advantage of the opportunities would be a mistake.
Some of the lakes grow huge trophy size fish, lakers in the 20-, 30-, even 40-pound plus class. When I was the OMNR Kenora District Manager, I remember one of our field crews capturing a particularly big lake trout in a fall trap net. It bottomed out a 50-pound scale and the biologists had only lifted about 3/4 of the fish off the floor of the boat. Who knows how much it actually weighed.
On the other hand, we have a lot of other lakes that produce numbers of fish, but rarely big ones. These pristine waters usually lack high quality forage, so the trout are restricted to eating small minnows, aquatic insects and invertebrates. In these lakes a "big" lake trout is often only five or six pounds.
But don't let the size fool you. These can be very old fish.
Indeed, one year I sent some scales and a dorsal spine from a 5 pound trout over to the OMNR Fish Aging lab in Dryden, Ontario and Susan Mann, the specialist in charge of the unit, stopped counting the age of the trout when she hit 35 years old!
Given the extremely slow growing nature of lake trout, and the fact that our very best lakes only produce, on a sustainable basis, 4-ounces of fish flesh per acre of water, we're careful always to release the bigger fish.
Still, every once in a while we'll keep a small three or four pound fish to savour for shore lunch. As Doug and I did last week.
(If you're going to keep a lake trout to eat, this size is the perfect candidate)
Stange, by the way, has a fantastically simple lake trout recipe which, with respect to Colonel Sanders, is finger lickin' good any time you prepare it. But it is doubly good when you cook it over an open wood fire on the shore of a wilderness lake and use a fresh lake trout you caught only minutes before.
All you need to have on hand are the following tools and ingredients to make a meal fit for a king, or for 2 or 3 hungry anglers:
* cast iron fry pan
* large (wooden) spoon
* one large can of diced tomatoes (and a can opener)
* 1/2 pound of Mexican Chorizo sausage
* two pounds of fresh lake trout cut into bite size chunks
* loaf of fresh crusty Italian or French bread
* salt and pepper
I like to place two large logs parallel to one another, with about a foot of space between them, so I can set the fry pan down. Then I build up a fire in the open area between the two logs. Don't be in a hurry while the fire burns down: you want a nice bed of red hot embers on which to cook.
When the fire is finally ready, lay the fry pan between the logs and put in the Mexican Chorizo sausage. Chorizo comes in a small log-like plastic package, has the consistency of hamburger and is spicy so it adds lots of flavour.
Cook the Chorizo, spreading and mixing it around in the pan until it starts to brown up nicely. When it's cooked, add in the can of diced tomatoes and stir them around with the sausage until the mixture is bubbling and hot and the liquid is reduced about 50-percent.
At that point, add in the lake trout chunks and let the mixture simmer over the fire for another 8 or 9 minutes, or until you break open one of the trout chunks and see that it is cooked through the center.
Now, simply ladle the fish stew into some cups, grab a hunk of fresh crusty bread and enjoy the finest meal this side of heaven. It so good, in fact, your tongue will spank a hole in the roof of your mouth!
(Does it get any better than this?)