Grill Your Catch


Sandy at the Lake of Bays

Sandy and trout at the Lake of Bays


It seems more and more of my friends are fishing this summer, and today’s post features a few pictures of them showing off the fruits of their labours. Some fish for sport, and follow the “Catch and release” directive, while a good many of us find that there are few things quite as rewarding-or delicious-as cooking your own catch.

Whether at the cottage, or camping, or grilling at home, grilling your fish (or someone else’s) is fun and easy if you follow a few simple tips. By the way, these tips work if your catch of the day comes from our fish department, or from your favourite fishmonger as well.


Tom and Ali released this guy back into Big Clear Lake

Tom and Ali released this large mouth bass back into Big Clear Lake


Few natural outdoor experiences can measure up to with angling in Ontario’s 250,000 lakes and the multitudes of pristine rivers and streams. Fishing is a much loved activity that the residents of Ontario and international visitors enjoy all year round. Ontario has over 2,000 lakes that contain various species of trout, more than 3,500 lakes with walleye (pickerel) and over 400 lakes and rivers that are inhabited by muskie. Despite the wealth of Ontario’s fisheries and angling resources, they are in demand by both residents and vistors alike.-

The first thing you will want to do is gut and scale your fish, even if you want to grill it whole, i.e., with the head and tail on. This will allow you to eat the skin of the fish, which is particularly delicious, and a good source of healthy fats. Now on the other side of the coin, some folks avow that the skin is full of toxins and you should probably not eat it.  It would seem that common sense should govern your choices; eat the skin occasionally, not daily. And if it really is a worry, avoid it altogether. In this short video, Darina Allen author of Forgotten Skills of Cooking demonstrates how to clean, scale, gut and fillet a fish, and how to remove the skin if that’s what you have decided. Note that even if you are not planning on eating the skin, your fish cooks a whole lot easier with the skin left on, as the skin will keep the fillet from falling apart; you can always remove the skin after cooking.




Once your fish has been prepared to your liking, you want to turn your attention to the grill. It should be scrupulously cleaned and well oiled/seasoned, so your fish doesn’t stick to it. Clean your grill with a wire grill brush before and after each use; get your grill good and hot, then scrape it with your wire brush, and once clean, rub it all over with a paper towel drenched in vegetable oil.

You can use a fish basket like the one pictured above, but this isn’t necessary if the grill is properly prepared and good and hot before the fish is gently placed on it. Furthermore, some fish baskets have a long handle that prevents you from closing the lid of the barbecue completely, or doesn’t allow the fish to lay flat on the grill. If this is the case, you might want to invest in a basket that has a removable handle, and If you do use a fish basket, make sure it is well oiled before you place your fish in it.

To make your life easier, you should have one of these fish spatulas, or a long handled spatula like the one pictured below. You are ready to cook when the coals and fire are medium hot. Lightly oil your fish, gently place it on the grill and leave it alone for a few minutes. You will notice the bottom of the fish turning from translucent to opaque. Slide your spatula parallel to the grill under the fish to see if it is ready to flip. The grill will tell you if it is ready; the grill will cling to the fish until it is ready to be turned, the same way it sticks to a steak, so if you can’t slide your spatula easily give it another couple of minutes. If you are using a basket, this is not really an issue, as you can turn the whole shebang over and visually check stress free.




Once you have turned over your fish, leave it again for a few minutes, then you can check for doneness. Again, the fish will look more opaque than translucent, and flake easily when a knife or fork is inserted at its thickest point. The knife should enter the fish without much resistance, otherwise the fish is not quite ready. Another good tip, quite literally, is to check the temperature of the knife tip after you insert it into the fish. It is warm, that is a good sign that your fish is ready. If it is hot, it is borderline overdone! Your fish may even be a little translucent, but it will totally finish cooking while it rests. If you use an instant read digital meat thermometer, the ideal temperature is between 130 and 135 F, reaching 140 F while it rests. Now you can sit back pop a few cold ones and regale your guests with tales about the one that got away.


Peter at Duxbury Bay, MA

Peter and striped bass at Duxbury Bay, MA


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