Boil your lake trout
With Lake Michigan serving up fewer salmon and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service upping their lake trout stockings, it’s only rational that more anglers are heading home with lake trout in their coolers. I’d be a liar to say a Great Lakes trout is the equal of a Great Lakes salmon when it comes to flavor. Or perhaps it’s just a matter of how you cook the fish. Some fish are better fried, others come back to life on the grill.
If you have a load of lakers, think about a fish boil. It’s a staple on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan, but the meal has Michigan roots as well. Beloved by loggers and logging camp cooks for flavor and ease of preparation, it’s as good today as it was 150 years ago.
A recent trip to Lake Michigan had us heading home with more trout than salmon in the cooler. So we decided a “real-deal” fish boil was the appropriate end for our day. No stove-top boils, no whimpy flames for us. It was to be outdoors, in a big pot, over a big fire. We stopped by the grocery store for some red potatoes and some potato-sized onions and we were set – almost.
I built a good sized fire out of dried oak and mulberry wood. Once it was blazing, I set a raised grill over the flames and positioned a backyard fish-cooker fry-pot on the grill, filled about three-quarters with water. When the water started to boil, we were a half-hour from dinner.
A pound of salt (just a guess) went into the pot with a dozen red potatoes and the timer set for 10 minutes. When the timer rang, eight onions were added and the timer reset to 10 minutes. When the timer beeped, the lake trout chunks were added for the final 10 minutes. The lakers were fileted, skin removed, fat and lateral line trimmed and pin-bones removed.
Traditionally, liquified bacon grease is added to the fire to make it flare at the end of the cooking time. I had no bacon grease or kerosene, so I improvised. Three-quarters cup of vegetable oil went into a container along with a quarter cup of lawnmower gas. This isn’t something I advise anyone to duplicate–but it worked!
From a distance I doused the fire with my concoction, the fire flared up, the water went from a medium boil to a raging boil in a few seconds, cascading over the rim of the pot spilling ash and lake trout oils into the fire.
Served with melted butter over everything, it was terrific! Much better than the whitefish boils I’d eaten previously and much more fun than a traditional backyard fish fry!
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