By Jamie Carlson
My first experience with lake trout came about 10 years ago, in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota. I wrapped a whole fish in tinfoil with some lemon and bay leaves stuffed inside and seasoned it simply with salt and pepper. I placed the whole thing on the fire and let it cook for about 10 minutes on each side. The meat flaked off the bones beautifully and was one of my most memorable backcountry meals.
I have heard a lot of mixed reviews about eating lake trout. Some people really enjoy them, but just as many seem to think they’re too oily or too fishy tasting. I fall into the category of people who enjoy eating lake trout. One of the best ways to eat it is by smoking it. The oils in the fish that many complain about make it a perfect vessel for holding smoke.
I’ve worked out a great recipe for a dry brine and cook time for smoking the fish.
Lake trout served with some pickled onions and whole grain mustard is one of my favorite snacks.
Two whole trout fillets
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup maple sugar
2 tsp. dried sumac
2 tsp. ground juniper
Combine the salt, sugar, sumac, and juniper and rub it onto the fillets. Let the fillets sit in the fridge for 4 to 5 hours, depending on their thickness. After the fillets have cured, rinse them clean and pat dry with a paper towel. Let the fillets sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to form what is called a pellicle. The fillets should be dry and slightly tacky. Fire up your smoker and set the temperature to 180 degrees. If you’re using a pellet grill, the “smoke” setting should be good. Smoke over alder for 3 to 4 hours. If you prefer your smoked fish a bit drier, you can smoke them longer.