The bigger they come, the smokier they’re done: Brining and smoking brown trout

SHARE The bigger they come, the smokier they’re done: Brining and smoking brown trout
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Dale Bowman with a big brown trout, which would shortly be smoked, caught near Gary Light on southern Lake Michigan.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

I should pitch Linda Yu for a segment about food and the outdoors on ‘‘Food We Love With Linda Yu.’’

Food and the outdoors pair as naturally as food and fellowship.

And May is the greatest month for cooking and the outdoors. We’re in the middle of spring wild-turkey hunting, the crappie bite is building, morel mushrooms should pop this week and wild asparagus will spear out in the next month.

May is also the greatest month for catching big fish. On April 21, I got a jump on big fish and food.

I fished with Frank Lagodny and Bill Kommenich, two of the more experienced fishermen plying southern Lake Michigan. They’re also two of the more irascible rascals on the water. Decades of fishing together only has heightened their banter. Any day with them is an experience.

The ambiance of the Indiana shoreline of Lake Michigan.<br>Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

The ambiance of the Indiana shoreline of Lake Michigan.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

April 21 happened to be a day in which Lake Michigan lay down for a change and was nearly flat. We went 4-for-8, with two spring coho salmon and two good-sized brown trout.

The biggest brown — 12 pounds, the biggest I’ve landed in a while — was caught near Gary Light, just away from the flotilla off Gary Light and the flotilla off the point of Inland Steel.

I know what to do with the coho. I broil it with splashes of soy sauce and touches of garlic and smother it in lemon slices. With apologies to yellow perch in winter, catfish anytime or brook trout from a mountain stream, I rate spring coho the tastiest.

Big brown are another matter. Lagodny and Kommenich said, ‘‘You’re going to smoke those.’’

While I’ve honed my smoking skills in the last few years, the only big amount of fish I had smoked before was after Jeff Norris and I caught a mess of whitefish while ice-fishing on Green Bay a couple of winters back. I was brining and smoking whitefish for three days afterward.

I scaled and cleaned the browns, then steaked them with skin on and bone in.

I made a variation of the ‘‘Simple Brine Recipe for Smoked Fish’’ on charbroil.com, centered on sea salt, soy sauce, garlic and brown sugar. While I was deep into food, I made a dip afterward, tweaking ‘‘The Best Smoked Salmon Spread’’ on allrecipes.com. Think dill, heavy cream and cream cheese. Yes, it is decadent.

Even steaked nicely, the 12- and 8-pound browns took two shifts of smoking to finish. It was worth it, extending the fishing trip with Lagodny and Kommenich for days. And smoked trout are in the freezer.

Smoked version, gussied up with fresh sprigs of home-grown parsley, of the big brown trout caught off Gary Light on April 21.<br>Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Smoked version, gussied up with fresh sprigs of home-grown parsley, of the big brown trout caught off Gary Light on April 21.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Wild things

Karl Schererwas the first reader to drop a note about finding a morel (albeit a small one) in his garden in Jefferson Park. . . . I photographed my first goslings last week (about a week late), then saw my first mayapples poking up Sunday (seems about two weeks late). . . . Former Illinois fisheries chief Mike Conlin spotted his first hummingbird of the year, a male, at a feeder in central Illinois. They’re on the way, eventually.

Stray cast

‘‘Avengers: Infinity War’’ is to cinematic experience what a 40-pound muskie is to Illinois fishing.


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