Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and drink: Keeping your summer catch cool and fresh

When your fish doesn’t come in a stick



My absolute favourite picture of my granddad is one of him standing next to a wooden rowboat of no particular colour in the cool shallows of Amethyst Lake in the Rocky Mountains. He and my uncle had a nice ritual of packing in on horseback to the Tonquin Valley for a week every summer to fish.

Granddad went fishing until he was in his 80s, but this photo was taken much earlier than that. In it he's wearing rubbery brown hip waders held up by suspenders, three layers of shirts - two woolen plaid ones, brown-toned on top, red and green underneath, with a splash of his white wooly long johns showing at the neck.

He's relaxed but squinting into the sun while holding a gorgeous maybe three-pound rainbow trout he's just caught. No doubt they floured and salted and peppered it and fried it up for dinner in a ton of butter in the crusty, blackened old iron frying pan they'd pack in with all the other stuff.

Part of that included a couple of blocks of ice packed in sawdust they'd stick in the bottom of an old beat-up cooler. The ice might last and it might not, depending on the weather. For the fish they didn't eat they tried to save best they could to pack out and bring home to all the hungry little Albertans who loved their pan-fried trout, preferably cooked over a gently smoking campfire.

Of course, most of the fishing that goes on around this neck of the woods these days I'm happy to say is catch and release - or CPR, catch, photo and release. But I know there's more than one Whistler fisher out there who likes to take his or her catch - a rainbow, a cutthroat trout, a Dolly Varden - and slip it into a skillet.

If you catch within your limit, you can pack your precious little fishies home. By regulation, you need to leave on the head, tail and fins until you get there, but you should remove the gills and internal organs ASAP to keep the spoilage factor to a minimum. Also, by law, you cannot freeze your fish together in an unrecognizable block, at least until you get home, but why would you want to do that, anyway?

Unless you've got the facilities to flash freeze, and which of us do?, there are a number of ways to keep your fresh fish fresh once you're back near the plug-in appliances. Once you've gutted, cleaned and scaled your fish, my salty old fishmonger recommended freezing them in freezer-weight plastic bags of water, one piece per bag.