Shore Lunches

Lunctime on the water runs from PBJ to fresh oysters

Shore lunches come in many forms. Photo by author

The term “shore lunch” congers up visions of walleye fillets bubbling in a hot cast iron skillet, loons calling across the waters and a beautiful blue sky reflecting off a northwoods lake as a backdrop to the meal. Some say it’s the best lunch available anywhere.

Could be! But a PBJ sandwich in the same setting on a hungry stomach wouldn’t be a bad lunch, either. I’m kidding. You slice the potatoes, I’ll fillet the walleye. I’m going for the wood-fired shore lunch any time.

While it’s usually possible to eat lunch after a morning of fishing most days, it’s not always possible to do it in the Canadian shore lunch tradition. Mostly because there are plenty of other places to fish than in the north woods and waters.

I’ve fished from the arctic to the tropics and coast to coast. Most of the fishing trips I’ve taken were started in the morning and most featured a lunch midday. Often it’s a convenient pull-over at McDonald’s or other fast-food emporium on the way home. There’s no ambiance and certainly nothing memorable about a cheeseburger and fries other than the lump in the tummy designed mostly to tide you over until dinner.

Then there’s the other times when my fishing trip luncheon was just as memorable as any north woods walleye feast but far from traditional. Below are three of my most memorable fishing lunches.

BOSS OYSTER – Apalachicola, Florida
After a morning of fishing yielding amberjack, grouper and Spanish mackerel on a trip that started on St. George Island, my fishing friends and I retreated across the bridge, to the mainland, hungry and looking for a lunch spot. Nothing looked so authentic as Boss Oyster, located on the Apalachicola river just a stone’s throw from it’s mouth. Apalachicola Bay is famous for oysters so what could be a more fitting spot and name for the establishment?
I’m not a raw oyster fan but my fishing companions were. They pronounced their luncheon oysters the best ever and why not? Harvested fresh from the bay that morning, they made for happy eating. I opted for a combo platter of Parmesan Grilled Oysters and others, deep fried. Which was better? It was a tie.

CABANA SAM’S – Irving, New York
Most travel to this area along the southeastern shore of Lake Erie as a sort of a “tropics of the north” place to visit. Let your mind wander a thousand miles or more south and you’d swear you were in the Florida Keys or perhaps at a Caribbean Island bistro catering to beach goers by day and sunburned night life lovers after dark.

We were in Irving, New York for a fishier reason. Walleye, perch, white bass and other fish abound at the east end of Lake Erie, though a few less when our group walked off the deck of the Dream Catcher Sportfishing boat a few blocks from Cabana Sam’s.

I’d been to dinner at Cabana Sam’s on a previous visit, crammed into the crowds either finishing their day on the beach or starting their night at the adjacent Sunset Beach Club. It was ideal for those sorts of groups. On this midday visit our group found it an ideal Lake Erie shore lunch facility. It had a full staff, bright eyed at the beginning of their shift, uncrowded, open air dining overlooking Lake Erie and an eclectic menu, far removed from walleye and fried potatoes. I selected a Grouper Reuben sandwich. Others in the group went for local cuisine – salads, chips and wraps featuring chicken seasoned “Buffalo” style ala nearby Buffalo, New York.

POLARIS SUPREME – Pacific Ocean
Located somewhere off the coast of Mexico, the Polaris Supreme, home port San Diego, CA, serves up fishermen’s lunches daily. Exactly where is impossible to say because the boat follows tuna, yellow tail and other fish on multi-day excursions where fishermen literally fish dawn to dark, taking only time out for meals. There are no PBJs on the Polaris Supreme or others of San Diego’s unique long range sportfishing fleet. Each has a trained chef as a crewman, preparing memorable meals on a regular schedule. So memorable it’s hard to leave the table when the boat crosses paths with a hungry school of bluefins. Can I say, eat fast?

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