LAKE TROUT CHOWDER

 

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Our fishing lodge is in the spectacular Northwest Territories where the lake trout is king. This is on the very northern end of its range, and what, ecologically speaking, could be called the Barrenlands , with its vast lake trout lakes, and rivers this is where I draw my inspiration from here.
This chowder has bacon, corn, lots of herbs and a homemade lake trout stock. None of this would fly in mum’s clam chowder.
But here’s the thing: People come north to escape tradition, to be free to be whomever they wish to be. Why can’t their chowder follow suit?

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Lake Trout Chowder
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 50 mins

As I mentioned we use lake trout. What makes this chowder great is the broth you make from the heads and bones, and while you are perfectly OK making this with store-bought stock, it will not be as good. Serve with crusty sourdough bread and a beer or sharp white wine. Oh, and this chowder is actually better the next day; just heat it up very slowly on the stovetop. Don’t let it boil.

Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8 people
Author: Kevin McNeil

Ingredients
LAKE TROUT BROTH
• 3 to 4 pounds lake trout heads, fins and bones , gills removed
• Salt
• 2 tablespoons safflower or grapeseed oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 carrots, chopped
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 cup white wine
• 1 handful of dried mushrooms, preferably matsutake
• 2 bay leaves
CHOWDER
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1/4 pound thick bacon, chopped
• 1 cup chopped yellow or white onion
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
• 5 t0 6 cups lake trout broth, or 4 cups chicken broth plus 1 to 2 cups water
• 1 to 2 pounds skinless, boneless lake trout meat, cut into chunks
• 1 cup corn, fresh or thawed
• 2/3 cup heavy cream
• Black pepper to taste
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or chives, for garnish
Instructions
1) To make the broth, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Add the lake trout bones, heads, etc. When the water returns to a boil, let this cook 1 minute. Remove the lake trout bits (save them!) and discard the water. Blanching this way removes the scum from the stock and will give you a cleaner-tasting broth when you are done.
2) Wipe out the pot, add the oil, and turn the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot, saute the onion, carrot and celery, stirring often, until the onion is soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine, bay leaves and the dried mushrooms and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Let the wine boil for a minute or two, then add the blanched lake trout bones and enough cool water to cover everything by about 1/2 inch. Bring to a very gentle simmer (barely bubbling) and cook like this for 45 minutes.
3) Get a large bowl for the broth and set a strainer over it. Line the strainer with a plain paper towel or cheesecloth. Turn off the heat on the broth and ladle it through the strainer and into the bowl. Don’t bother trying to get the last little bit of broth out of the pot, as it will be full of debris. Discard the contents of the pot and reserve the broth.
4) To make the chowder, melt the butter in a Dutch over or other soup pot set over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry, stirring and turning often, until crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the onion and celery and saute until soft, about another 4 to 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and the lake trout broth and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
5) When the potatoes are tender, add the corn and the chunks of lake trout. Cook gently until the lake trout is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the dill, heavy cream and black pepper.

Planes of The Tundra

We spent over two months in the Northwest Territories flying staff, clients and supplies to Aylmer Lake Lodge with the best bush planes and companies: Cessna Baby Caravan, DeHavilland Twin Otter and the 185 Cessna aircraft all on floats.

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Bush flying refers to flying that is done in remote and rugged areas of the Northwest Territories Canada.  Oftentimes planes that fly in the bush are equipped with floats to take off and land on water.

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Our bush flying originates in the remote areas of the Canadian north Barrenlands where the lack of roads makes the transportation of necessities (such as clients, staff, fuel for generators and boats, food, medicine and building materials)only possible by float planes.

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Perhaps more than other types of flying, bush flying invokes romantic notions of people flying off to Aylmer Lake Lodge in the  north eastern regions of the Northwest Territories. The image of Caravan, Twin Otter or 185 taking off or landing on a remote pristine lake with the oldest rock in the world called the barrenlands as a backdrop has become the iconic picture portraying the float plane fly in fishing lifestyle of Aylmer Lake Lodge.

Flat Water Day

 

August 2, 2017
After a hearty breakfast we headed out to the Thanakoie River. What a boat ride water like glass, and the scenery magnificent. As my group said, Ah inspiring scenery.” We arrived dropped our lines and let the games begin. We were off to a great start got one line in and the bite was on. Perfect day! Flat water day and the bite is on. Fish after fish, biggest landed was 28 lbs but we lost many at the boat that were bigger. “Me, you have a bite, him, no I think I am snagged on a rock. Hello, your right it’s a fish and it’s a big one. The fight is on, gets it to the boat and then the fish hammers the line and cruises right on by. They do this weird thing of hammer hard past, stop, slack and spit the hook out. My guy says, what the hell, he had to be over 40, I am yup and they are willy, fighters.”

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Again a day of boating high teens to high twenties, biggest of the day a 28 pounder. A bonus of this day was a sighting of an Arctic Grizzly Bear. He was in the rapids and he was fishing! He saw us when we saw him, we both looked at each other and he decided to move on out. We got some long distance photos. Our client had fished 11 times in the Arctic and that was his first sighting of a Grizzly Bear. The very best fishing action happening and you get the added bonus of wildlife, that makes it memorable.

As we sat around the dinner table eating a great meal, we began to look back at our day on the water. The consensus was, most fish boated ever, day after day, opportunity provided for some really big guys, enough action to keep everyone hoping all day long. Great shore lunches and a real treat to arrive back at your cabin and have fresh baked chip chip cookies sitting on your table for a light snack before supper.

The daylight cannot get over the daylight, “ I was standing outside my cabin at midnight and it is daylight, up at 5:00 AM bright daylight.” We said, it’s getting darker now as we head into August it will get dark at night and you will be seeing the Northern Lights. Up here you look South to see the Northern Lights. We get spectacular Northern Lights because we have zero light pollution.

If you are wanting to experience the fishing and the Northern Lights, you need to book mid August to Mid Sept. it will be cooler days, no bugs, and it will be dark at night. If you want yo experience the 24 hour daylight then you need to book July 1 to mid August.

Lake Trout on the Fly

Lake Trout

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Lake Trout and caribou, oh my what a day! There are several claims of other Lakes in Northwest Territories being home to the legendary Gigantic Trout and though it may be true, to only a degree, this is the place where they were perfected. It was another perfect day on the water slamming fish in the high teens to high twenties. The boats each caught and released 30+ fish with the largest being in the high twenties at 27 lbs.

The action on steady, you were catching or watching a fellow boater catching. We travelled out as a group and there was some heavy betting, some teasing, and a lot of laughs. Shore lunch had everyone talking about the excitement of hammering fish. One fellow said, I feel like a kid in a candy store.

Aylmer Lake Trout

Few places on earth have Lake Trout this pretty. Thick green side with brown serpentine markings pour out of huge gill plates accenting their broad shouldered heavy bellied deep green bodies that are covered with brown lines that ooze into one another. But don’t let these good looks fool you. One look at the grocery hole of a mouth on these critters will clue you in to the fact that they love eating smaller Lake Trout, Arctic Grayling, rodent-eating, duck stealing, lake serpents. They are far removed from their wimpy midge sipping kin in the lower forty-eight.

We are very proud of our Lake Trout, as our native resident species. Out of this respect we have adopted a strict, catch and release policy in order to ensure the long-lasting protection of one of our greatest and most unique fishery resources.

We use a wide variety of techniques when targeting our Lake Trout, and we fish in a whole bunch of different types of water. Flesh flies, egg imitations, sculpin patterns and leeches all work well at certain times on the Lockhart river, Thonokie river and the Thanakoie river. Mousing for Lake Trout is one of our favorite ways of fishing for Lake Trout. We fish big-water, ledges and drop-offs, spawning beds in August and little tiny side channels.

Lots of our fishing for Lake Trout happens on foot for the rivers and in boats for the lakes. We sometimes fish from our boats in ‘drift boat’ mode.

Fly Tackle for Lake Trout

Rods

We recommend 8-10 weight high quality, fast action rods capable of casting mouse patterns and split shot, and dealing with the occasional rogue Grayling that will strike your trout fly. Drift fishing can be snag intensive so be prepared to use a little heavier leader for trout than most people are accustomed to. Lake Trout on the Thanakoie river can range from 7 lbs up to 48 lbs our biggest landed in the river!

Reels

To match rod with medium to strong drag.

Lines

Sinking tip lines with 120 yards of backing are most common.

Leaders

12 to 20 pound monofilament.

 

Fish Stories – That Fish

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We’re blessed here at Aylmer Lake Lodge to fish for what we think are some of the most beautiful lake trout in the world. Although, to set a goal to catch a fish more beautiful than most, on light tackle, with out down riggers may have been a little overambitious when looked back upon.. But we went for it anyway.

The day started off as any other. The plan was to fish lake trout in the morning, and then catch the early afternoon baby arctic perigean bird watching. But the lake trout was the goal. I had a few places in mind to fish and only half a day to hit them. So, needless to say, we needed to make the best of our time.

The morning progressed amazingly. When anglers make the decision to fish a surface light flutter spoon, you know you’re in for a good time!

And then I felt it… While trolling over a shallow rocky reef, my angler made a cast in front of the boat into the shallow water. Immediately, a lake trout came at full force to destroy the spoon, but all I saw was the unmistakeable large tail of a lake trout only a few feet behind, can’t believe this lake trout left this his home for such a offering.

The lake trout just seemed too shy to come entirely into view and leave the comfort of his dark crack in this 3.8 billion year old rock. “Ok, well he’s not going to get away that easily,” I said, “ we’re going to cast a T-60 to him out, and see if he will take it on the surface.” But, still nothing.

So finally, a little disheartened, I decided to keep trolling. “But first, let’s take that T-60 off and put the flutter spoon back on.”

As we stood there in the boat switching lures, it was like it was meant to be.. Lake Trout started surfacing out of the dark crack in the oldest rock in the world – A nose, then dorsal fin, and then the huge tail fin, I knew I had seen her earlier.. Then, with a quick double check of the business of the hook, it was time for flutter spoon to go in for one more swim.

The next few moments was perfect! The perfect cast, a few feet ahead of the fish, just past a dark hole in the rock, and she CRUSH it! With what seemed like an instantaneous explosion, the lake trout was peeling line out well into the backing, crushed the flutters spoon, she made some awesome strong runs, and settled into the net!

3 GREAT REASONS TO BOOK A LAST MINUTE FISHING TRIP WITH AYLMER LAKE LODGE

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Now’s the time to take advantage of the last spots of the season! Here’s three great reasons why you should book a last minute fishing trip with Aylmer Lake Lodge, Northwest Territories.

EXCELLENT FISHING – Historically August is the start of the Lake Trout spawn, some of the biggest lake trout of the season, with many reaching tyee (30 lb) size.

GREAT WEATHER – Northwest Territories typically experiences the warmest and brightest weather of the summer mid August, making this your best chance to hit the water under sunny skies!

FANTASTIC RATES – We often get short-notice rescheduling requests by guests this time of the year, so if you can join us last minute, you can take advantage of some of our discounts!

August 4-11, 2017 Regular Rice $11,600 US for 2 people

On Sale for $$10,000 US Plus 5% Tax

August 11-15, 2017 Regular Price $7,700 US for 2 people

On Sale for $7,000 US Plus 5% Tax

Sunny Ways

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July 30, 2017 dawned with blue skies and cloudy patches. The wind was out of the South West taking those clouds away from us. We headed out and the bite was on. The pressure system that had been plaguing us and the fish was done. We had been keeping fish for supper each day and the bellies were empty. When we headed in with our supper fish today the bellies were plum full. Which was a confirmation that they were hungry and ready to eat whatever we threw at them.

The morning fishing saw us nab a 38lb fish, a few in the 25-30 range, and those high teens were hammering the lines. We came back in at 2:30pm as it was time for this group to leave  the lodge.  Excited, sorry to be leaving, wishing they had another week at the lodge. That tells a clear story of the successful fishing trip this group had. Confirmation that they will be returning next year to once again enjoy the fishing that we have to offer.

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Our new group headed out in the boats for the evening fishing after getting their licenses, and there gear sorted into their cabins.

The group headed out for the afternoon fishing and it turned into a great afternoon for them.  The location picked, the lines down, the trolling began and a strike within 20 ft, let the games begin! The afternoon had bite after bite on the rods, biggest brought in was 25 pounds with the rest being in the high teens.

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The evening after supper a few of the anglers were in the dock fishing and caught and released 10-12 fish.  A beautiful sunset turning into fire red and brilliant pink against some dark clouds.

Windy Arctic Waters

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July 29, 2017 and the wind,  our fond friend just keeps coming back. We are continuing to mark mega fish with the big old boys and girls in there. Just as the weather across Canada is throwing a temper tantrum so it is here. The predictable flow of summer in the Arctic is sending up surprise weather.

Each boat out today boated about 30 plus fish in the high teens, low twenties, lost lots of big fish today. Tip up boys! The river fishing was hot today caught lots of fish in the Thonokied river. It was a blue sky day with calm water that had the wind pick up about 4:00pm today.

The boys had a blast, lots of action on the rods, and lots of chivying over losing the big boys at the boats. All in all it was a really great day on the water.

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Well Hello Mr. Musk Ox

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It’s July 28 and we are coming off of 2 days of cold winds and rain. We elected to come in for lunch to wring out our gear, put some homemade soup and homemade buns in our bellies and head back out. Just as we finished lunch the rain slowed down to a slight drip drip and off we went.

We headed out and got to our fishing spot dropped the lines and the sun poked through the clouds, the clouds started lifting and the bite was on. The clients said; “man it was constant, every minute you had a bite!”

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Big smiles, and a great fish fry at the lodge, hammer, hammer, hammer hitting the rods. The tug is the drug. Between 50 and 60 fish tasted the steel on the line this afternoon. We were hammering high teens and the boys lost some big ones, nothing more frustrating then bringing that baby to the boat and poof I am gone!

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In the evening a small group headed out for a walk to take in the scenery and spotted a lone bull muskox moving through a few hundred yards behind the lodge, circling around the bay to the far side for a drink.  Then to top it off as we shut the generator off for the evening we heard Loons out on the water calling. Were you aware that a Loon cannot walk on land? There feet are positioned too far back on their bodies. What a great ending to a day.

Fishing Lake Trout In the Arctic.

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It’s July 27 and morning arrives bright and cheerful and the group and Aylmer Lake guides are looking forward to another Trout slamming day on the water. Breakfast is done we are heading down to the boats with a nice breeze rippling across the water. We head out single file from the dock to secure our first spot to drop our lines and begin another great day on the water.  We are marking lots of fish and we are managing to bring a few up for a look and release.

Lunch time arrives and we come together for shore lunch and the banter begins what did you catch. The numbers start to roll in at least a dozen fish per boat all in the high teens and early twenties. Sitting on that great rock jut out we pause just before heading back into the boats for that group photo. Memories are greater than anything money can buy.  Business relationships strengthened, family memories, and bonding moments with like minded friends…”Remember when?”

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Back into the boats and out we go into the cloud bank that proceeded to turn on the water facet and let us know that Mother Nature was in a fine rainy afternoon mood. Great thing is the fish love water so back to more strong action for the afternoon. We again are marking lots of fish and the action picks up for the stories around the supper table.

The afternoon saw us again hitting high teens and low twenties, with a few ones hitting twenty five pounds. As we arrived back at camp cold, wet, tired the lights in the lodge were on and the smells from the kitchen were egging us into the dining room for a hot bowl of soup to warm us up and tide us over till supper.

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