Jul. 15, 2016
Just thinking about shorelunch makes a person hungry. You picture that pan-sized walleye, fresh out of the lake. There’s a thick fillet coated in beer batter, then that immediate sizzle when it hits hot oil above the fire. Your guide flips it over once last time to ensure the perfect golden-brown, then lunch is served.
When you take that first bite––crispy on the outside; flaky, firm and white on the inside––time slows down. Not that you were in the slightest rush leading up to this (setting the hook every so often was the only noticeable passage of time all morning), but there’s something incredibly relaxing about eating shorelunch on a picnic table under the trees, overlooking beautiful Aikens Lake.
After the feast, you find yourself staring out at the lake feeling perfectly content to relax in the shade for the rest of the day. Eventually you say quietly, to yourself as much as to anyone else, “Well, I suppose …”
This is Canada’s ultimate antidote for high blood pressure.
How can you not love a moment like this? Many of our guests, in fact, say shorelunch is the highlight of their entire “Aikens Experience.”
“To me, the shorelunch was the highlight of each day,” said Paul Capecchi, of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. “The shorelunch sites are set-up so well in scenic spots. In my family, if we’re eating fish I’m the one who prepares and cooks it. I don’t mind that, but I have to admit it felt pretty darn nice to just sit back and relax while the guide did all the work.”
Paul also mentioned he appreciated the fact that a guide would take the effort for his individual party of only two people, and was glad he and his son had the option to enjoy their shorelunch “alone in the wilderness” with only them and their guide.
At the other end of the group-size spectrum, Jim Deleeuw, leads a group of 30-plus from Wisconsin each year as part of the Wisconsin Young President Organization.
“The shorelunch facilities at Aikens can accommodate 30 people or so altogether, with a nice covered area for cooking, so that was perfect for us, too,” said Jim, who has the extra treat of enjoying the meal with his three grandkids, Taylor, Nick and Audrey.
Jim’s group gets exclusive use of Aikens and Great Gray Owl. In fact, any group of 24+ people has the chance to get Aikens all to themselves and experience exclusive use of all the cabins and amenities at both the main lodge and Great Grey Owl. That includes king-size shorelunches for the entire party together.
Denise Kozlowski, of Lake Oswego, Oregon, said she can describe the Aikens shorelunch experience in one word. “Phenomenal,” Denise declared. “They’re such experts with the shorelunches that they have it down to a science.”
When Denise returned to Aikens for a second trip with a larger group, she enjoyed venturing out each morning in her own direction to follow the fish, then reuniting with her extended group for a mid-day feast. Some days the menu varied from walleye to fresh pike. “A lot of people don’t eat pike because they’re so hard to fillet, but the guides cut the Y-bones out perfectly. They’re amazingly fast at it, and we never had a single bone,” she said. “The guides are also open to other ideas on how to cook the fish. One day my dad said, ‘You should try it this way.’ So the guides changed up the batter and it tasted even better.”
As our guests know, we prepare the fish differently from day to day so you can enjoy a variety of styles and flavors. Beer batter, Aikens Lake Cajun spice and lemon pepper are “The Big Three” in terms of our trademark approach. We also make baked or pan-seared walleye for those who want to avoid traditional fried fish.
A few other specialty recipes include baked walleye with shallot wine sauce, parmesan walleye and bacon-wrapped walleye bites.
“The past couple years several groups have started doing fish tacos,” said Julie, who gladly gathers and even flies in specific ingredients she knows a guest wants for a certain type of shorelunch. “Or they’ll get cheese and salsa and do a version of a Mexican wrap with walleye.”
The other hot trend at Aikens shorelunches? Well, it doesn’t even involve fish, but rather a side dish with some regional history dating back to the 1950’s.
“Poutines are a French Canadian dish. Basically they’re French fries with gravy and cheese curds,” Julie explained. “The guides were telling some guests about this snack they like eating, so the guests were curious and said they wanted to try some with shorelunch. So, we got the ingredients and made poutines for them.”
Please let us know in advance of your trip if there’s anything special you’d like to try for shorelunch, including if you have a special family recipe or unusual side dish you’d like us to prepare for you. We’ve seen walleye wraps and poutines take off. Who knows? Maybe a variation of that special dish your grandparents made will become a new favorite at Aikens.