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Follow That Fish

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Follow That Fish


The day for the crew on a commercial fishing boat can be quite long – for example, with gill nets, in the wintertime, the boat may leave for the fishing grounds as early as 3 a.m., while in the summer months the trap net boat crews may get to sleep in until 6 or 7a.m.  Crews may be out on the water for as many as 15 hours at a time.  When they return home late in the afternoon, they are indeed “skunked”. 

The crew locates fish using a variety of different techniques including, temperature readings, state-of-the-art GPS and sonar fish finders but even at the commercial level fishing requires a certain amount of timing and good old-fashioned luck.

Today much of Ontario’s freshwater fish is farmed, but on the Great Lakes many commercial fisheries are fishing for wild varieties of yellow perch, whitefish, pickerel and lake trout.

While the flavour between wild and farmed fish can be similar, wild-caught fish are often considered healthier, with less contamination from man-made toxins because they feed on a natural diet of smaller fish and algae and come into contact with less bacteria.

Local commercial crews are required to have a license to fish on the Great Lakes and this license determines the area each commercial fishery must operate within and limits the size of catch permitted.   

Different areas of the lake are fished at different times of the year, trap nets are set closer to shore and gill nets are typically found farther out in the lake.  Fishing crews work year-round and in all kinds of weather conditions enduring the unrelenting heat of the summer sun to the cold burn of November’s winds.

Some varieties of fish are cleaned on the boats as the crew returns to the harbour creating a picturesque scene with gulls cawing as they forage for scraps behind the boats.  The catch of the day is packed on ice in large shipping containers and sent away for processing before making its way back to the shore to be sold at local fish markets and to Huron’s culinary masters.

Lake Huron’s freshwater fish is popular with many of the county’s local chefs.  You will find it on the menus of many county eateries from fine dining establishments to lakeside fish and chip shacks. Fish tacos are a local favourite. Often served on corn tortillas with fresh local salsa and cilantro, it is nearly impossible to stop after just one!


The Fisherman

The crew of the Noska-J don their rubber boots and coveralls and board the boat long before the sun rises in the Bayfield harbour.  As they leave the harbour they prepare the boat and nets for the long day ahead. Expecting a good catch, they likely won’t return until late in the afternoon exhausted from a hot day on the lake.

The Chef

James Eddington, the owner and chef at Eddington’s restaurant in Exeter, heads down to the local docks to pick up his selection of fish for the day.  The catch of the day is yellow perch, one of James’ favourites!  He decides to add a lunch special of pan fried wild perch with a side of sweet potato fries to the day’s menu.

The Catch

Hailed by many as “the ultimate pan fish,” yellow perch has a moist, translucent, deep-pink flesh with no fishy odour.  When cooked, yellow perch offers a sweet and mild flavour with a slightly firm, flaky texture. Yellow perch are typically 6 to 10 inches long and weigh 1/2 to 1 pound each and are available year round.

The Dish

Prepared simply, Eddington’s wild yellow perch is dredged in a gluten free flour, lightly seasoned and pan fried until crispy.  Served with locally grown sweet potato french fries and garnished with fresh greens and lemon, it is a local favourite!

The Boat

Built in 1990, the Noskca-J (Jackson spelled backward) is a Commercial Fish Tug.  Depending on where the catch of the day was found you can see the Noskca-J in either of the Bayfield or Goderich harbours.

The Restaurant

Eddington’s of Exeter occupies the original Carling homestead (built in the 1870s).  The restaurant has a reputation for serving fresh seasonal dishes using fresh, locally sourced products. On Thursday evenings Eddington’s hosts their popular gourmet pizza night!


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