Friday, February 29, 2008

Strange fish of Red Lake, Ontario

Ontario whitefish
When anglers come fishing at Red Lake, Ontario, looking for walleyes, northern pike and lake trout, they're sometimes surprised to also catch some of this great fishery's lesser known species: whitefish, tulibee, ling, white sucker, redhorse sucker, perch and rock bass.

Whitefish, tulibee and ling are all deepwater fishes but will be in shallow water in the spring before it warms up.

Whitefish are known throughout North America as the major commercially caught fish. It's a great fighter on rod and reel. We've caught them up to 8 pounds. They have a small, soft, mouth and usually the best lure for them is a small, white jig. In the summer they will be on the bottom in 50-60 feet of water.

The same outfit will catch the whitefish's cousin, the tulibee or lake herring. These don't get as big, a three-pounder is a big one. Tulibee have an interesting habit that makes them easy to spot on fish finders. They form schools that are easy to see and are always half-way to the bottom, regardless of the depth. So in 20 feet of water they're at 10 feet and in 100 feet of water they're at 50 feet. It would seem they all come to the surface at night where they love to eat insects. Use the same small white jig that you use for whitefish. If you aren't careful at keeping the jig on the bottom when whitefish fishing, chances are you'll come up with a tulibee.

The ling, also known as eelpout and burbot and in Manitoba, mariah, is a very unusual fish. It seems to be part catfish and part eel. We've caught them up to 12 pounds. They are by far the best-eating of all these unusual fish. Many people call them "poor man's lobster." They produce two boneless "tubes' of meat that do indeed have the texture and taste of lobster. They're best when prepared as such too, boiled and served with drawn butter or seafood cocktail sauce, etc. rather than battered or floured and deep-fried like you would a pike or walleye. Brenda has a wonderful method of cooking ling where she prepares them like she would scallops. She cuts the fillets into quarter-sized chunks, lightly sautees them with onions and peppers and serves them covered with her secret sauce. (Actually it's not a secret, I just don't know what it is but she will tell you if you ask her.) At our indoor shore lunches that we have twice a week for American Plan guests in the dining room, everyone raves about the ling. Who knew fish this ugly tasted so good?
Bow Narrows Camp
Red Lake, Ont.

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