Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Salt Crusted Whole Tulibee & Steamed Perch

There's more than one way to cook a fish and some processes outshine others depending on the species and season. Food is so much more than just sustenance to me, it's experiences shared, relationships built and doors opened. I've taken a lot from other cultures as far as my cooking life is concerned and that is often evident in my fish preparations. Battered and deep fried fish is always a favorite but cooking fish whole yields more meat and that is usually my preference. Winter can produce great quality fish and seems to be the time of year I will be more inclined to keep a few, I don't know if it's the cold water, but few things compare to fresh caught, cleaned and cooked fish from an iced over Canadian lake.
We ended up keeping a few tulibee for the smoker from our last trip out and I decided to try cooking one for a few friends. Why not salt crusted in the oven I had thought, I've seen it on cooking shows before and it seemed easy enough. It's a simple process with an awesome presentation, but really was trying something for the first time with company a good idea? You bet it was! I had a few perch to steam whole asian inspired as an appetizer (ginger, green onions, soy sauce, chinese cooking wine, chinese vinegar and black pepper, marinade for 30 minutes then steam with the juices for roughly 15 minutes). It's always a hit and they were eaten down to the bones before the main course came out of the oven. Reserving the fluids to add to some boiled chinese noodles made for a killer side dish!

The tulibee far exceeded my expectations! After 25 minutes in the oven and 10 minutes on the counter resting, we cracked the salt shell and steam poured out signalling a perfectly cooked fish. We peeled the skin off (which was quite tasty I might add) and got to picking meat off the bones like vultures. The taste was clean and subtle and the lemon and parsley added some brightness while the salt reminded everyone of salmon. (they are related loosely after all) The three fish fed seven adults along with roasted asparagus, a sesame cucumber salad and noodles. All that was left was bones and a lot of salt.

The recipe can be found above along with countless other ones with a simple search of the web.

Monday, 7 March 2016

An Adventure in the Whiteshell

The alarm went off and I leaped out of bed, waking up before the bars close to go fishing usually leads to an interesting day. With three hours of driving through the night to a lake we have never fished in winter, we had plenty of time to finalize our game plan. Once there, we located the access and loaded up our sleds to begin the hike to our chosen location. A packed snowmobile trail was followed however we eventually hit slush pockets and it was clear what we were up against. Some minor detours through 18 inches of snow and slush and we were back on track.

As the darkness slowly lifted around us, it became obvious we were heading towards a long line of nets, evident by the tamarack branches that marked them. Defeated after over an hour of hiking, we looked over the lake depth map and decided to head towards another island. Now with over two hours of hiking behind us, Jay drilled a ton of holes and we got to seeing what might bite. Our goal was tulibee, BIG tulibee and the lake held five other species as well, so we were game to target whatever we could at this point. The first fish up was a hammer handle pike and soon after a nice 17.5 inch white sucker. The action wasn't hot and heavy and we mainly caught 20 - 24 inch pike with a few white suckers shy of 18 inches. The wind was picking up as the forecast had called for and we new it would be in our best interests to seek out greener pasture.

Once we had regained some energy, we took down the shelter and moved to a new location in hopes of better numbers and more species. Within 30 minutes Frodo ended up getting on some nice jumbo perch and I was able to land an 18 inch tulibee, so we decided to pop the shelter and get out of the wind and inevitable snow. The shelter was invaluable as far as bite detection went and we ended up getting on some good numbers of suckers and perch with the occasional tulibee thrown in the mix. Our spirits were high as we had landed four of six species the lake had to offer and our dismal start to the day was a distant memory, although the daunting task of walking back to the vehicle at the end of the day lingered.

The bite eventually slowed down but I stuck with my trusted spoon as it had done me well. The flash of an occasional rip or drop of the spoon would catch a fishes eye and some subtlety would usually seal the deal when the fish would come in to investigate. Jay changed over to a small lip-less crank and his cadence and technique were too perfect for a predator to refuse. He was able to land the last two species the lake had to offer on it with a nice black crappie and beautiful gold and black shield walleye. A few more jumbos were landed between us with 13 inches being the biggest and then things slowed down again.

Snowmobiles and mobility are definitely an asset when it comes to ice fishing and we pushed ourselves further and harder than we realized to get on the fish. Hours were spent hiking that could have been accomplished on a snowmobile in a fraction of the time. With darkness on its way we agreed to give it 20 more minutes to fish and slowly pack up. I was jigging aggressively in the middle of the water column and from out of nowhere something slammed my spoon. The fight was on and after a few short runs it was at the bottom of the ice and we could see it was another tulibee. A good last fish and a great way to close off the day. The multi species action kindled a definite interest to return if at all possible this ice season.

Roughly 10+ kilometers hiked and 6 species landed, I'm not psychic but I think I see a snowmobile or two in our future.