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Home Story Fresh NWT Fish: From lake to plate

Fresh NWT Fish: From lake to plate

The waves of Great Slave Lake have been feeding Northerners for thousands of years. Today, it’s where local fishers still net the freshest catch for hungry locals and visitors.

In early spring, the ice remains thick on the lake, but underneath there are silvery inconnu, sprightly whitefish and a buffet of other delicious fish that are hungry for breakfast. 

There’s a lot of activity above the frozen surface, as well. Fishers head out at daybreak to set and check their nets. Some travel in the dark. Others wait for the first rays of sun to peek above the horizon, so the ride out is a bit warmer. Most have a helper with them to speed up the process, and offer an extra pair of hands in case of emergency. Plus, the company is nice. Not that there’s much downtime in this work.

“Fishing itself is relatively quick; an hour or so of active work depending on how many nets are set,” says Niki Mckenzie, local chef at Fishy People Butchery in Yellowknife. “Then there is the travel time to and from the net, unless you are fortunate enough to have a fish camp out in the commercial zone.” 

Like many other chefs and restaurants here in town, Mckenzie sources all her ingredients from local fishers. The catch-of-the-day on any Yellowknife menu could be whitefish, trout, burbot, inconnu, even the occasional pickerel, depending on the time of year. But all of those tasty fish started their morning in the cold, pristine waters of Great Slave Lake. 

Some fish are cleaned right there on the lake with the deft flash of a knife. Others take their first overland journey back to be processed on shore. Mckenzie has her own commercial kitchen where she cleans the fish and processes it all, from prime fillets right down to specialty products such as fish pies, fish sausages and fish burgers. Other catches will show up as tonight’s gourmet specials at the Woodyard brewpub, Bullock’s Bistro, or Aurora Village.

This morning’s inconnu is headed for a simpler, though no less tasty fate. A hot frying pan. A bath of butter and herbs. From lake to plate in less time than you spend at the office every day. Dinner is served. 

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