During a family trip to the Adirondacks earlier this month, I decided to continue my exploration of the great outdoors with a half-day of ice fishing and a day of hare hunting. While the hunting was, like last time, a failure that I will save for another post, the fishing was pretty successful.
Forget the comfort of heated fishing shacks, complete with TVs and mini-bars. Fisherman Gary made it clear that these, as well as any other forms of shelter, were good for ice drinking, not for ice fishing. And judging by the amount of fish I caught, he certainly knows what he’s talking about! We went to a quiet pond near Lake Placid:
As New York Game & Fish magazine so rightfully pointed out in a recent issue, “ice angling always begins with cutting a hole in the ice to fish through”. We had about 6″ of ice that day, 3″ being the minimum for safe fishing. Gary was a great guide, who knew exactly where to drill the holes and showed me how to do every step.
You clear the area around the hole with a shovel, and remove any leftover ice from the water using a skimmer. Then you’re ready to install your tip-up. Here’s an old wooden model that Gary got from his father:
Basically, the line is under the water, and any fish biting the bait will cause the red flag to pop up. When that happens, you just run to the hole, make sure the fish is still biting, and pull out the tip-up and the line together. You can have up to 5 tip-ups and 2 jigs per person, so things can get pretty hectic at times. Here’s my first fish of the day:
I ended up catching 2 splake (a hybrid resulting from the crossing of a male brook trout and a female lake trout), 2 brown trout and 4 yellow perch. I released 3 of the yellow perch as they were much smaller and not so interesting to eat in my opinion.
Back home, I wanted to come up with a recipe that lets the fish speak for itself, can be prepared with the limited tools and ingredients you have access to while on a fishing trip, and yet offers a special touch. I topped the fish with buckwheat greens and served it with multi-colored carrots, but feel free to replace them with whatever you have. The smoked salt and piment d’espelette do make a difference and are sold in containers small enough that you can take them anywhere.
Smoked trout rillettes
Yields 4 servings
4 oz of small trout fillets, skin on
1 oz butter, small dice
4 slices French baguette
- Saute the fish fillets skin side down with olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Press a couple times with a spatula, flip and remove from the heat.
- Discard the skin, and transfer the flesh to a bowl. Add the butter, season with smoked salt and piment d’espelette to taste, and mix with a fork.
- Toast the bread, and spread the rillettes on top.
The picture above shows a brown trout (top) and a splake (bottom) before filleting. I have a slight preference for the splake, though both taste very good, and both are way more flavorful than the rainbow trouts you typically find in stores. Just make sure you don’t overcook them!
Yields 4 servings
4 trout fillets, skin on
black pepper, ground
- Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Sauté skin side down with olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Press a couple of times with a spatula to crisp the skin, flip and remove from the heat. Serve immediately.