FRANKFORT — Sandra Enness said it’s thrilling to wrangle a big fish on a charter boat tour, but many customers’ experiences fizzle when they return home with their catches.
“A lot of people really don’t know what to do with the fish,” said Enness, communications manager for Michigan Sea Grant Extension. “You take the catch home, then it goes to the freezer, then the bottom of the freezer and it doesn’t get enjoyed.”
Businesses can benefit from the fish’s path from lake to plate, and the state’s Catch and Cook program helps charter guides and restaurants make that connection.
Charter customers can take the fish they caught to a restaurant for cooks to prepare through the program. Eighty-three charter guides and 49 restaurants in Michigan participate in the program. Restaurants and charter guides have to be licensed, and guides have to mark fish with the date and time they’re cleaned so restaurants can monitor food safety.
Jessica McMahon, bar manager at the Villa Marine Bar & Grill in Frankfort, said the program attracts at least one group of charter fishing customers per-week.
“We’ve gotten pretty big groups,” she said. “Usually they’re families up charter fishing and don’t have a means to cook fish, or have never cooked fish before.”
The Villa Marine started participating in the two-year-old Catch and Cook program when they noticed the number of customers asking if the cooks would prepare fish caught on a tour.
It’s not much extra work for restaurants to prepare a customer’s fish, and McMahon said participating in Catch and Cook is a smart move.
“Charter guides cut up the fish for them, filet it and clean it and everything,” McMahon said. “I do think it brings people in and it definitely is a good business thing to do.”