Shore Lunch: The Ultimate Outdoor Meal in Manitoba

Posted May 13, 2024 | Author Shel Zolkewich

It takes but one match to start the fire, the tinder and kindling expertly arranged to look like the tiniest log cabin. Then comes a few boughs from a long-dead spruce and finally, freshly split tamarack deadfall collected from the bush. The fire is roaring and Manitoba’s ultimate outdoor meal—shore lunch—isn’t far behind. This midday staple of any respectable fishing trip includes freshly caught Manitoba walleye, canned beans and any preparation of potatoes, making up the mandatory trilogy on the plate, always cooked over a fire. It’s a welcomed break, a time to get out of the boat, stretch your legs on shore and maybe even tell a few fish tales.

Guides it done

It’s Manitoba’s fleet of expert fishing guides that make it all possible, starting with pointing anglers in the right direction to catch those walleyes. In the spirit of conservation that keeps the fishery so robust, only enough for lunch are ever kept, slipped into a live well to stay fresh. They’re usually plucked from the cool waters first thing in the morning, and knowing that lunch is taken care of, anglers can then cast for feisty northern pike or troll for trout.

As that fire burns down a little, guides find a flat rock or length of lumber and with flashing knives, prepare a heap of buttery fillets. Back at the fire, a ginormous skillet accepts a healthy sloshing of canola oil while the fish gets dressed with an almost always secret breading mix. A few cans of beans are cracked open and set at the edge of the fire to warm. In another skillet, hand-cut French fries slide into more hot oil. And lunch is underway!

Custom plates

Every lodge and fishing outfitter has a signature when it comes to shore lunch. At Gangler’s Sub-Arctic, baby potatoes are sliced into coins and dusted with spices before being pan-fried to golden deliciousness. At Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge, take your pick from mustard fried, Cajun or lemon pepper walleye fillets, all designed by guides with a culinary flair. The guides at Eagle Nest Landing have created the crunchiest coating using a favourite breakfast cereal! And at North Haven Resort, shore lunch might feature a sweet and sour stir fry, honey garlic fillets or a tumble of spicy buffalo wing style nuggets.

The lunchtime feast is truly an opportunity for guides and lodge chefs to stretch their culinary legs—you may be treated to onion rings, mushrooms and peppers added to your beans, thickly sliced homemade bread and even freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. There’ll be hot sauce and ketchup, tartar sauce and lemon and maybe even a cool glass of Chardonnay. Load up your plate, take a seat at a picnic table and savour the ultimate outdoor meal. Just when you think you can eat no more, that small piece of crispy fish will tempt you. One. Last. Piece.

Do It Yourself

Once you’ve had a taste of shore lunch, you’ll crave it again and again. And with a little know-how, your angling adventure can include a memorable lunchtime feast. You can even recreate the experience at your campsite or at home (always noting the open fire and fishing regulations, of course). Here’s how:

Shel Zolkewich

1. Get your fire going first. You’ll want it to burn down before you start cooking. Invest in a deep, heavy skillet. Cast iron is the tried-and-true favourite and a pan will last as long as you do. Get yourself a set of long tongs and good-quality oven mitts.

2. Catching your own fish is the most fun, but don’t rule out visiting the fish market to pick up some commercially caught walleye if you can’t be on the water.

3. A three-step process ensures that you get the best out of Manitoba’s delicious fish. Dip your fillets (or chunks if you prefer) into water or milk to moisten. Dredge in the coating of your choice. Equal parts cornmeal and flour deliver a nice crisp exterior. You can’t go wrong with commercially prepared mixes either. Without question, the most critical part of your shore lunch creation is the temperature of the oil. Use canola oil and keep it at 375F. Invest in a thermometer.

Classic Shore Lunch Recipe

4 walleye fillets

½ cup milk or water

Your favourite seasoning

1 litre canola oil

In your skillet, preheat canola oil to 375F. Dip fillets in milk or water, then in breading. Shake off excess. Slide into the skillet and deep fry for four minutes, turning once halfway through. Drain on paper towel. Serve with tartar sauce and lemon wedges. Save the leftovers for fish tacos.

Pro Tips

Recognized as Manitoba’s official provincial fish, the walleye is the most sought-after species in our waters, prized for its buttery fillets. But if you visit a fish market or sit down in a restaurant for a fish dinner, you’ll see pickerel on the menu. Not to worry, it’s the same thing, just a local name for the delicious fish.

Bakers Narrows Lodge near Flin Flon prides itself on culinary excellence, second only to the excellent fishing on Lake Athapapuskow. Their branded Crispy Seasoned Coating is always a big hit at shore lunch. Look for it at your local grocery store or order directly from the lodge.

About The Author

A journalist by trade and an adventurer at heart, my career has included stints as a reporter, magazine writer, editor, food stylist, television cook and digital marketer. I am always collecting stories about Manitoba, whether I’m on assignment or not.



Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge

35 Lakewood Blvd, 2 hours NE of Winnipeg (1.5 hour drive, 30 min flight)
Winnipeg, MB R2J 4A3