Nothing whets an appetite like a morning of fishing. Most anglers pack a cooler full of sandwiches and drinks when heading out for a full day on the water, but once in a while you should celebrate a successful morning with the ultimate noon-hour ritual—a delicious feast of fresh fish cooked over an open fire. Keep the following kit at the ready, and you’ll always have everything you need to pull off a proper shorelunch.
When you’re planning a serious day of fishing, assembling all the gear for a shorelunch can seem like an unnecessary vexation. But if you keep a cooler permanently stocked with the following hardware, assembling the perishables for a lunch that serves three or four anglers only takes a few minutes. Copy this list and tape it to the inside lid of your dedicated cooler:
Sharp filleting knife (also handy for cutting potatoes)
Unbreakable plates and cups
Long-handled spatula (that grease is hot!)
10 feet of paper towel
10 feet of aluminum foil
2 extra-large, long-handled frying pans (in a cloth sack)
2 large, heavy-duty garbage bags (for carrying out trash and storing dirty plates)
2 medium-sized plastic bowls (for dipping fish in milk and eggs, if using batter mix)
2 medium-sized bags (I prefer brown paper bags for coating fish with batter mix, as the mix doesn’t stick to the sides when damp; just place the fish and batter mix in the bags and shake)
Leather gloves (for handling hot pans)
When selecting fishing spots and picnic areas, rookies gravitate to quiet shorelines in the lee of the wind. But breezy shorelines have better fishing and better places for lunch. Cooking on an open fire is a hot, smoky business; a gentle wind keeps you cool, blows away smoke and discourages bugs. Build your fire on bare rock with a nearby source of dry wood; avoid beaches at all costs, unless you prefer your fish dusted with sand.
Clean the fish while someone gathers wood and starts a fire. If you’re dressing up your shorelunch with canned beans or corn, this is a good time to get them simmering next to the fire. You can leave them in the can, but don’t forget to partially open the lids! If you want some fried potatoes, cook them beforehand, too (then wrap them in paper towel and aluminum foil until the fish are ready).
Burn the oil, and use your frying pans to haul water and douse the coals until they’re dead (then douse again). Stow your dirty plates in a garbage bag for later cleaning; also collect any trash. Afternoon fishing can be tough, so before you get back at it, find a soft bed of moss, lie back, close your eyes and cogitate on the subject. Now that’s a shorelunch.