A couple months ago now I went to Yellowknife and went fishing for pike. I caught a 12 pounder (estimated – it was big) and got to judge the World Shore Lunch Championships – an event where dozens of chefs and fishermen gather to cook whitefish like they would onshore – over an open fire.
It’s something we experienced before the competition, on the aforementioned fishing trip on Great Slave Lake. Our guide steered our boat toward a rocky island – they’re all rocky there, with so little in the way of soil that the spindly trees cling for dear life to the rocks they somehow sprung out from. He cleaned the three or four pike we kept right on the mossy ground cover, tossing the head, tail, spine and entrails over one shoulder for the gulls, the perfect filets directly onto the soil and moss. One of the group gathered them up into a stainless steel bowl and took them down to the water to swish them clean while he fired up a small camp stove.
Eating outdoors is great. Cooking – using only what we’ve hauled along with us in our boat – and then eating the fish that was swimming little more than an hour ago, along with thick slabs of sourdough bread sawed right on the rock, beans from a can and a batch of birch syrup squares someone brought along still in their baking tin, is a whole new thing.
I spent much of the time plotting my way back to Yellowknife with the boys. It was an easy flight up – under two hours – and although there are many places far further north, it was a suitably northern experience, and I need to go back in winter, when the sun peeks out for less than a handful of hours a day, and the northern lights are never far.
And now, out in Tofino, we’re heading out in the boat to fish – it will be more challenging in the ocean than in the shallow shores full of pike we could watch dart past in knee-high water (we must have caught a dozen in an hour), but the part where we do what we can with what we managed to catch, cleaning and eating it in the shade and sun on the shore, and knowing that people are doing the same by rivers and lakes and oceans across Canada this summer, makes it a real shore lunch.