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Ontario Fishing Network

Volume 7,  Issue 8 - August  2007  #80

By: Ben Beattie

No fishing trip is complete without a shorelunch while out on the lake. Done right, it can be the best meal you will eat all year. Done wrong, however, and you'll leave feeling hungry and frustrated with the time you've wasted. As a full time fishing guide, I've prepared my share of shorelunches and have perfected the art of a well-executed and tasty meal for my guests. Use these tips to ensure that your next shorelunch is cooked to perfection and a memorable experience for everyone.

Pack a shorelunch kit ahead of time that contains everything you will need to cook your catch. The essentials include: cooking oil, batter for your fish, onions, pre-cut potatoes, canned beans, utensils, plates, paper towel, spices, lemons, ketchup, garbage bag and drinks. I also pack large pans, a foldable table and cooking grates in my boat.

A sandy beach that is out of the wind is the ideal shorelunch spot. If your lake doesn't have any suitable beaches, an island with a flat rock surface or clearing will also work. If crown land isn't available be sure to ask permission before using private property.

Getting everything set up right is an important step that will ensure you are back out on the lake catching fish in as little time as possible. While you cut the fish, have others collect dry wood ranging in size from tinder to pieces as big around as your arm. For a fire pit, use two logs or rocks to support your grates and make sure they are level. Leave enough room under the grates for the firewood. To do this you can build up the rocks or dig a pit between your logs in the sand using your feet.

Cooking perfect golden brown fillets and taters takes practice and oil temperature is the most important thing. If the oil is too hot, you will burn your food. If it is too cool the fish and taters will soak up the oil and feel mushy and taste greasy. To judge when the oil is ready, toss a piece of potato into the oil while it's heating up. When the potato floats and is bubbling, your oil is ready to go. For the fish, add the fillets skin side down to prevent them from curling up. Add butter as they cook for extra flavour and to help brown the fillets. If the oil gets too hot your fish will burn. To combat this, you can add more oil or more fillets to help lower the oil temperature, or remove the pan from the fire entirely. The fish will float when it's done but you can leave it in longer if you like a crispier fillet.

Your potatoes should be cut into the same sized pieces so they will cook uniformly. Depending how many fish you are frying, the potatoes will generally take longer to cook so start them first. Add cut up onions five minutes before the taters are done for added flavour. Spice them as desired; I like seasoning salt and Montreal steak spice on mine.

Remember to pack out all your garbage and pick up what others have left behind too. Be sure your fire is completely out. Douse it with water and bury the remaining coals in the sand. Verify with someone else that they also believe it is out.

If you've mastered fried fish and potatoes or just want to experiment with something different, try these variations. Use a sealed tinfoil pouch to cook your fish over the fire. Add butter, lemon juice, seasonings, onions, mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes in with the fish. Cook over coals until the foil pops up to a dome. For a side dish, try fried rice with sautéed mushrooms, onions and celery.

Shorelunch is always a memorable experience for everyone involved, especially those who have never had one before. It is a time honoured tradition that should be passed on to the younger generation of fishermen as well. There is nothing wrong with keeping a few fish for the pan - it's one of the joys of fishing - but remember to limit your catch, not catch your limit. Bon appetite!

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