BY CYMBRE FOSTER Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Before charter boat captain Scott Anderson has even docked his boat, his clients know that they’ll be dining on their fresh catch in a local restaurant later that evening.
In a program sometimes called “hook and cook,” certified charter boat captains take their client’s catch to a local restaurant, where it’s cooked and served the same day.
The practice has been going on for decades, but in 2012 the state of Michigan officially established the Catch and Cook program. Under it, charter fishing clients are approved to have their recreationally caught fish from Michigan waters prepared and served to them by licensed restaurants.
Anderson, who has docked at Leland’s historic Fishtown for three decades, has been setting up fresh fish dinners at The Cove and Riverside Inn in Leland for years.
“It’s a great experience where you’re going from the water to the plate,” Anderson said. “We put the fish on ice, take it to Carlson’s to be cleaned and filleted and then it goes to the restaurant of (the client’s) choice.”
Like other captains, Anderson typically calls ahead and makes a reservation at the restaurant so that the staff know what to expect, he said. This is the third year that he has also offered a Catch and Cook fishing experience through Northwestern Michigan College’s Extended Education. It’s perfect for a single person who doesn’t want to charter a boat just for himself, he said.
Knowing that their fish will be prepared the same day is especially appealing to out-of-towners, who often don’t have a way to cook it, said Martin Ball, manager of Apache Trout Grill in Traverse City. Apache chefs work with a variety of certified captains and will cook a catch three ways: grilled, fried or blackened.
“It’s really easy for us to do it and we really enjoy it,” said Ball, who adds two sides for $18.95 and serves it all up family-style.
Charter captain John VanDusen has been taking clients out on West Grand Traverse Bay for over 30 years. After they pull in their catch, he cleans it dockside, removes the skin and bones, and packs it on ice so it’s ready to be cooked in a local kitchen.
“We used to take the Red Wings out and then take their catch to Apache,” recalled VanDusen, who also takes his clients’ lake trout, whitefish or salmon to Scalawags in downtown Traverse City. The charge there? Fries and a drink.
The Glenwood Restaurant on M-22 in Onekama has offered a catch-and-cook option since it opened its doors 19 years ago, said owner Donna Ervin. Anglers who bring their catch there can choose from three preparations.
“We’ll do one third coated with artichoke and spinach dip, which is one of our specialties, one third with lemon, butter and capers, and one third with a lemon pepper seasoning,” said Ervin, adding that nearly all the fish brought to her chefs is salmon.
Ervin said she didn’t know what she was missing until she participated in a Hook and Cook in Florida.
“It was so fun to take the catch you fought for on the line and then see it on a plate. It was just awesome,” she said, adding that her Glenwood customers feel the same way.
“People just love it. They bring their catch in all cleaned in a zip-lock bag and they’re so proud of it,” she said. “It’s also usually way more than people can eat, so they wind up sharing it with guests around them. It winds up being a lot of fun.”
At The Cove on the banks of the Leland River in Leland, charter boat captains regularly bring in fresh fish, said owner Rick Wanroy.
“It’s been going on for decades,” he said. “The nice thing is they have this fresh fish and then it turns into a really special event.”
Preparation depends on the size and type of fish and the guests’ preferences.
“We can do country-fried trout, and salmon that’s black and blue or prepared ‘campfire’ style,” he said. The restaurant also will stuff whitefish with lump crab or coat it in a garlic Parmesan crust.
Partnering to promote the Catch and Cook program are The Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan Charter Boat Association, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Restaurant Association.
Charter services typically have partnerships with more than one restaurant and vice versa. To see a list of restaurants and charter services affiliated with the state’s Catch and Cook program. visit http://www.michigancatchandcook.com.
Salmon with Cracked Pepper and Brown Sugar
4-6 8 oz.salmon fillets
2 c. brown sugar
1 t. black cracked pepper
1 c. sour cream
1 T. horseradish
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
Pre-heat a gas, electric or barbeque grill. Mix sour cream, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce. Mix brown sugar and pepper and season both sides of the salmon fillets with the mixture. Grill the salmon until firm to the touch. Place fillets on a plate family style and serve horseradish cream on the side.
Salmon Fillet with Pesto, Feta Cheese and Tomato
4-6 8 oz. salmon fillets
½ c. pesto
½ c. feta cheese
½ c. chopped tomatoes
Pre-heat oven to 425°. Place salmon fillets in shallow baking dish. Spread pesto on salmon and then top with feta cheese and then tomatoes. Bake at 425° for 16 minutes, then broil for 2 minutes and plate salmon to serve family style.
Salmon with Artichoke Hearts, Mushrooms and Lemon
4-6 8 oz. salmon fillets
½ stick butter
½ c. mushrooms
½ c. quartered artichoke hearts
Juice from one lemon
Cut each salmon fillet into three portions. Slice mushrooms. Quarter or halve artichoke hearts. Dredge fillet portions in flour and sautée in butter until fillets are firm to the touch. Place artichoke hearts, mushrooms and lemon juice in pan with fillets. Lightly sautée. Serve fillet portions family style topped with artichoke and mushrooms.
— The Glenwood