This summer CBC Edmonton visits local fishing spots to introduce you to accessible angling in and around the city. In this series, fishing expert Michael Sullivan tackles everything from bait & hook to catch & release.
With a razor sharp knife, fishing expert Michael Sullivan slices open a walleye from Lac St. Anne.
“Make the first cut down by the gills, slide it along the backbone,” Sullivan explains.
He recommends going to YouTube to watch the technical details, and to practise on fish from the grocery store.
Sullivan said he learned to fillet from a Cree woman while working as a fishing guide in northern Saskatchewan.
“She was a magician at filleting fish with that knife. Her fingers would just fly,” Sullivan says. “It was something I was able to pass down to my kids.”
When people ask Sullivan why they can’t keep walleye caught at Lac Ste. Anne, he explains only a certain number of fish can be sustainably harvested.
“In the 70s, 80s and 90s, heavy fishing caused the fish population to collapse, but good regulations have brought the fish back so we are here,” he says. “The fishing is phenomenal.”
Only 8,000 walleye can be harvested at Lac Ste Anne this season, permitted by tags distributed in the spring through a lottery system. Each tag specifies the specific size of fish which can be kept.
Catch limits vary from lake to lake across the province.
“Other lakes, like Wabamun, are still in the recovery phase, and at some point it will be a trophy fishery,” Sullivan says.
Sullivan recently won the American Fisheries Society Award of Excellence, primarily for his work on the recovery of walleye in Alberta. He is the first Alberta fisheries scientist to be awarded the honour.
The best place to cook fish is on the beach, right after you’ve caught it, he says. He demonstrates by firing up his Coleman stove on a wooden table on the shore at Lac Ste. Anne.
His favourite fish recipe is simple. Add some cornmeal, flour, Cajun seasoning (more or less depending on how spicy you want it), salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag with the walleye fillets.
Shake the bag to coat the filets and add them to a pan once the oil, enough to almost cover the fish, is hot. Sullivan says you’ll know when the oil is ready when it has a slight gleam on top.
The fish should be cooked for about five minutes, they’re done when they’re lightly browned.
Enjoy the tasty morsels warm right on the beach or save the fish and eat chilled at dinnertime. Yum!