Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Lakers aren’t supposed to taste like salmon

A family-sized fish boil is easy to do – even indoors on a gas range. (Photo by Mike Schoonveld)

By Mike Schoonveld
Contributing Writer


Lake trout have become “the catch of the day” for many Great Lakes fish chasers. I’ve heard many complaints about this, because lake trout don’t taste much like salmon. I’ve got news for you: They aren’t supposed to taste like salmon. Once you get past that, they can be excellent eating. 


Crappies don’t taste much like salmon either, but few fish eaters will turn away a platter of beer-battered crappie fillets.


Ducks don’t taste like geese. Pheasant doesn’t taste like grouse. Savor the differences. I like both geese and ducks for their different flavors and the variety of recipes to which those flavor differences lend themselves.


So, yes, lake trout are edible. And in my mind (or on my taste buds), they are quite good – and quite good most any way I’ve had them, and I’ve used them in many recipes. I like them better than beer-battered crappies.


So why not try them beer battered and deep fried? What? You can’t do that to salmon or trout? Don’t tell that to my kids, who still come home at Christmas and ask for some fried cohos – one of their childhood favorite meals.


It doesn’t have to be beer batter. In fact, I normally just use a store-bought seasoned coating mix. Cut the trout into fingers or chunky cubes, shake them with the mix, and drop them in 375-degree vegetable oil for three or four minutes. With trout, I go for deep golden brown. 


My favorite lake trout recipe (better than salmon) is grilled. It’s probably the easiest way to cook it as well. I have a gas grill with a thermostat in the lid. Fire up the grill, wait for the grill’s thermostat to get past 400 degrees. While waiting, I sprinkle some seasoned salt on a fish fillet. That’s all I need for the piece of fish for my wife. I apply fresh cracked black pepper to my portion. 


The skin is left on the fish when it’s cleaned. Lay the fish fillets on the hot grill, skin side down, shut the lid, and let it go for approximately 10 minutes.


The “approximate” comes from the thickness of the fish. A little more time on thicker portions is required, a bit less on thinner, a little more in the winter, a little less on a hot summer day. If I want to “fancy” it up, I marinate the portions in orange juice for a half hour or so. I sometimes substitute lime juice when I’m craving a bit of a Caribbean tang in my dinner.


When the time is up, turn off the heat and use a metal spatula to lift the meat from the skin. When the grill cools, the skin will easily peel off the grilling grate.


For a totally different and fun way to make a great meal from lake trout try the “fish boil.” Google “Wisconsin fish boil” and you’ll get over a million hits. Traditionally, it’s done on an open fire. I’ve done it in a propane outdoor fish fryer and indoors on a stove. 


The wood-fired method is fun when guests are over and we want the show as much as the meal. The “boil-over” is the fun part. 


In the winter, on a cold, snowy night, eliminating the boil over and just doing enough for my wife and me is pure comfort food right off the gas range.


The ingredients are simple: heavily salted water, then equal amounts of small potatoes (or cut them to golf ball size), small onions, and chunks of skinless trout – plus some butter. Get the large pot with salted water boiling nicely, add the potatoes. After 10 minutes, add the onions to the potatoes. After another 10 minutes, add the fish to the onions and potatoes. After another 10 minutes, it’s time for the boil over – or just dump the water down the drain. 


Serve equal portions of each ingredient on a platter and drizzle with melted butter.


Try that with a salmon, salmon lovers! Actually, it’s probably pretty good, but it won’t taste like lake trout. And who would want all fish to taste alike, anyway?

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