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Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Sometimes baked, sometimes fried: The Tazin Lake shore lunch experience

Dena Big Fish Copy
The Tazin Lake experience is more than fishing. It’s the people you meet, the food you eat, the breathtaking scenery, sunsets that last for hours, the fish you catch, like this lake trout Dena Vick caught, and the giants that might get away. (Photo courtesy of Dena Vick)

Tazin Lake Lodge sits tucked back in a sandy-shored bay on Tazin Lake. Located in northern Saskatchewan, the reservoir and lodge aren’t an easy destination to reach.

Accessible only by float plane, it is definitely not an accidental destination. Why do people make the journey? The primary reason is world record-class fish. Massive lake trout and northern pike are caught in the lake every year. But the lodge also packs visitors’ itineraries with unique experiences, including epic shore lunches.

Once a natural glacial lake, Tazin was converted into an impoundment when a hydroelectric dam was constructed. This water is used to generate electricity at hydroelectric stations on the Garry/Charlot River system on the north side of Lake Athabaskan. The lake is protected against commercial fishing and gill netting. That, combined with its remote location, provides protection against heavy fishing pressure.

The lake and its landmass consist of granite boulders and ledges, islands covered with a canopy of birch, jack pine, white spruce, and beautiful evergreens. Underfoot is a carpet of lichen ordained with tiny wildflowers and wild roses. Shorelines vary between rocky drops and sandy beaches. Each island and peninsula offer unique rock features and locations for scenic outdoor dining.

Tazin Lake Lodge, owned and operated by Barry Prall and Trevor Montgomery, is the only lodging facility located on the lake. Every day, guides ask their guests if they’d like a sandwich or shore lunch. The sandwiches are made by Chef Steve Driver and are a treat, but the shore lunch can’t be beat. Luckily, this angler always selected the shore lunch.

Always?

One might ask if that would get old. The answer is never. Each experience is uniquely wonderful. The staff has found some of the most beautiful places on the lake to host shore lunches. They select a different location each day based on where the best fishing is happening.

Some of the sites have rock structures that serve as chairs, others are located on a gravel or sandy beach, another offers a view of a five-foot waterfall located across the lake, and even another is on the site of an old trappers’ cabin. One afternoon, a chilly shower turned into an all-out rainstorm. It was this day that we headed to that location to escape the rain.

An old trappers’ cabin is located on a bluff overlooking the lake. (Photo by Dena Vick)

The rain was just letting up when we arrived. The cabin is located on a bluff overlooking the lake. Of course, the first thing I did after jumping off the boat was to go straight to the cabin.

As I peered into it, I felt as if time simply stopped. It included two bunkbeds minus their mattresses (bed springs were found behind the cabin), a wood-burning stove minus the chimney—the stove pipe lay in pieces inside and outside the cabin, broken chairs, pots and pans littered the floor.

A walk around the site uncovered a dump site of old cans and mason jars. Traveling further behind the cabin lay an esker left by the glacier that carved the lake and surrounding terrain. Like the other shore lunch sites, it was beautiful.

One might think it was riddled with junk, but I viewed it as a history lesson, and it was fascinating. Without the worry of snakes or ticks, I explored while others gathered wood for the fire. Losing myself in the tiny wildflowers and rock formations, I almost forgot why we were there in the first place. We even found an old, petrified caribou jaw.

A shout echoed down the hill for me to stay close, and I returned to reality. It was time to prepare lunch.

Sometimes fried: the traditional Tazin Lake shore lunch

For starters, we kept a couple of nice pike measuring less than 30 inches. We split up duties between cutting potatoes, cleaning the fish, gathering wood, and building the fire.

We built a fire using a fire starter and wood found on the island. (Photos by Dena Vick)

Some of the sites have makeshift tables from wood found on the island. If one isn’t there or can’t be made, the guide will use a cutting board they’ve brought along. The lunch shore tub placed on the boat each morning includes red potatoes, cooking oil, seasoned salt, a bag of seasoned flour, foil, utensils, paper plates, a couple of cans of beans (or whatever Chef Steve has added to the tub) and matches or a striker and a large frying pan with a two-foot long handle.

A fire is built using wood found on the island. Usually, there is a metal grill or something similar to place over the fire. Kindling is cut, and a striker or lighter ignites the fire.

First, they placed the sliced potatoes in the hot oil of the frying pan. The opened cans of beans or vegetables are put next to the fire until they boil. The potatoes are fried, removed from the pan, and sprinkled with seasoned salt. Foil is used to make bags or boats to keep the potatoes warm, although we all started sampling them immediately when they were cool enough to pick up.

The fish is cut up and added to the ziplock bags of seasoned flour. The well-coated fish is then added to the pan until it is golden brown. Variations of this are dredging the fish in hot sauce and then coating them with seasoned flour. Each guide puts their own spin on the meal, making it a unique experience each time.

Potatoes are sliced to make fries. (Photo by Dena Vick)

On this day, the sun emerged just as we finished eating, so we quickly cleaned up, drenched the fire, and set out to catch a trophy lake trout. After launching the boat, we made a quick pass into the inlet next to the boat. After a couple of casts, we looked up on the bluff and saw two bears.

The sow, a very large black bear, was right by the cabin and her cub, a cinnamon-colored phase, was further down the shoreline. Mesmerized by the beauty of them and the happiness of finally spotting a bear had me lost in awe. It was a couple of seconds before my heart fell into my stomach and the fearful reality set in: They probably smelled our lunch and either had just arrived or were watching and waiting on us to leave so they could eat our leftovers. Mental note: Even though there aren’t snakes and ticks in this region, there’s still something I need to keep my eye out for on the islands.

Sometimes baked: more than one way to bake a trout
A cinnamon phase black bear. (Photo by Dena Vick)

Tazin Lake Lodge has several guides on staff. One of these guides is Kent Kulrich. He not only loves to guide clients and put them on trophy-sized fish, he also enjoys cooking. “I like to mix things up and try new recipes,” he said. “Each evening, I ask my guests if they want me to pack sandwiches or if they want a shore lunch. If it’s a shore lunch, I ask them if they want a traditional shore lunch or if they want one of my baked recipes.”

Luckily, his guests, Ed and Fred, opted for a “Kent Special,” and I convinced him to give me the recipe.

This baked trout recipe is simple and delicious. It requires one 20- to 25-inch trout, cleaned and sliced every one-inch on the body. This helps the trout cook evenly and allows for the flavor to permeate the meat. Sprinkle lemon pepper and salt in each of the cuts on both sides. Coat the fish is sweet chili sauce and lime juice and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Wrap the fish in parchment paper and then tin foil. The parchment keeps the fish from sticking and deeps the juices inside. Cook over the fire for 10 to 15 minutes.

Kulrich adds a bit of flare to the fried potatoes. He fries them the same way they are prepared in the traditional shore lunch, then coats them in a maple glaze. The glaze is made by mixing maple syrup, smoked paprika, and seasoned salt. Maple syrup on potatoes? Why not? When in Canada…

He topped off the meal by simmering corn and mushrooms in a pan with garlic and herbs. It smelled and tasted wonderful. Luckily, on the day he prepared this meal, our boat stopped on the peninsula to avoid the wind during a squall. They were just finishing their meal and had enough left for us to sample his recipe.

Tazin Lake Lodge shore lunch. (Photo by Dena Vick)

Throughout our trip we had several variations to each Tazin shore lunch. One day we fried trout instead of pike and on another, we realized we didn’t have our frying pan in the boat, and we had to improvise by baking a trout. On that day, Chef had given us corn, mushrooms, and potatoes, so Barry baked a vegetable medley in foil and later added the trout with the spices we had in our tub. It was to die for!

The Tazin Lake experience is more than fishing. It’s the people you meet, the food you eat, the breathtaking scenery you can’t take your eyes off, the sunsets that last for hours, the fish you catch, and the giants that might (or might not) get away.

A Tazin Lake sunset. (Photo by Dena Vick)

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