For many fishing enthusiasts in North America October is synonymous with walleye. This big predator uses the last days of the fall to feed before the winter half-slumber and takes the lure readily. And whether you’re trolling one of the continent’s mighty rivers or great lakes, or spinning from the shore, walleye fishing is great even if the fish won’t bite.
Just the magnificent scenery of deep blue skies, reflecting in no less blue water, and edged by a carped of woods oscillating from green to various shades of red and yellow to black as the leaves loose their colors and drop. One feels oneself immeasurably small, and yet as big as the surrounding world – until a strike on the lure chases the philosophical mood away.
Walleye On the Table
Walleye is excellent eating – perhaps the second-best freshwater fish after trout, for many anglers even the first. It is high in protein, low in saturated fat, and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as B-vitamins, especially niacin, and selenium. The flesh is white to off-white, firm, and has a flaky texture when cooked. It’s not very oily, which contributes to its mild, sweet flavor with no “fishy” aftertaste.
In this blog you’ll find three ideas on how to cook your catch. One is as simple as can be, another involves cooking the whole fish (which I personally prefer), and the third is an exotic with an oriental twist. We have had some criticism from our readers, that we give only the general ideas for culinary improvisations, and not “full recipes” with detailed instructions and precise amounts of ingredients. That’s not a problem, if you need them – you got them.
The Simple: Pan-Fried Walleye.
The best things in life are usually the simplest. Just dump the filets in flour, slap them over a hot frying pan, turn over, and there you go! Here’s a detailed recipe:
- 2 walleye fillets
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (for dredging)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (optional for added crunch)
- 1 teaspoon paprika (optional for color and flavor)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons milk or water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or cooking oil
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional for garnish)
1. Preparation of Fillets
– Rinse the walleye fillets under cold water and pat them dry using paper towels.
– Check for any remaining bones and remove them if found.
2. Dredging Station Setup
– In a shallow dish, mix the flour, breadcrumbs (if using), paprika, salt, and pepper. This mixture will give your walleye a flavorful and crispy coating.
– In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and mix them with milk or water. This will act as a binding agent for the flour mixture.
– For an added twist, you can mix in grated Parmesan or herbs with the flour mixture
3. Coating the Fillets
– Dip each walleye fillet into the egg mixture, ensuring it’s fully coated.
– Let the excess liquid drip off, then dredge the fillet in the flour mixture. Make sure the fillet is thoroughly coated on both sides. If you prefer a thicker crust, you can dip and dredge a second time.
– In a large skillet, melt the butter or heat the oil over medium-high heat. Wait until the butter starts to foam or the oil shimmers.
– Carefully place the coated walleye fillets into the skillet. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until the coating is golden brown and the fish flakes easily with a fork. Adjust the heat if necessary to prevent burning.
– Remove the cooked fillets from the skillet and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to remove any excess butter or oil.
– Transfer to serving plates, garnish with fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
The Whole: Grilled Whole Walleye with Citrus Herb Butter
Cooking a whole walleye can be a delightful experience, as it preserves the fish’s flavors and juices, and offers a more authentic taste. Here’s an idea for the grill, although, if grilling is for any reason not an option for you at the moment, you can also bake it in a pre-heated oven.
- 1 whole walleye, cleaned and scaled
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- A few sprigs of fresh herbs (like dill, parsley, or rosemary)
For the Citrus Herb Butter:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (like dill, parsley, or chives), finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Prepare the Citrus Herb Butter
– In a mixing bowl, combine softened butter, lemon zest, orange zest, lemon juice, and chopped herbs. Mix until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until use (if refrigerating, allow it to soften before use).
2. Prepare the Walleye
– Rinse the whole walleye under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
– Make a few diagonal slashes on both sides of the fish to help it cook evenly and absorb flavors.
– Rub the outside and the cavity of the fish with olive oil. Season both the exterior and interior with salt and pepper.
– Stuff the cavity with lemon slices and herb sprigs.
3. Grill the Fish
– Preheat the grill to medium heat. If using a charcoal grill, make sure the coals are white and ashy.
– Place the fish on the grill and cook for about 8-10 minutes on each side or until the skin is charred and the flesh is opaque and flaky. The exact time can vary based on the size of the fish and the grill’s temperature.
– Use two spatulas to help flip the fish, being careful not to break the skin.
– Transfer the grilled fish to a serving platter.
– Generously spread the citrus herb butter over the top of the fish, allowing it to melt from the fish’s residual heat.
– Garnish with additional fresh herbs or lemon wedges, if desired.
– Serve immediately.
The Exotic: Walleye Curry
If you’ve caught another limit of walleye, but your family are kind of tired of tried-and-true recipes, you can add an exotic touch to your catch. How about an oriental twist with this walleye curry?
- 2 large walleye fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil or ghee
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch piece of ginger, minced or grated
- 2-3 green chilies (adjust based on heat preference), slit
- 1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes or 2 fresh tomatoes, pureed
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- Salt to taste
- 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
- Fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves for garnish
1. Marinate the Walleye
– In a bowl, combine the walleye cubes with turmeric powder, red chili powder, and a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside for about 15 minutes.
2. Prepare the Curry Base
– In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the cooking oil or ghee over medium heat.
– Add the finely chopped onion and sauté until translucent.
– Add the minced garlic, ginger, and green chilies. Sauté for another 2 minutes until aromatic.
– Add the tomato puree and cook until the oil starts to separate from the mixture, which usually takes about 7-10 minutes.
3. Add Spices
– Mix in the coriander powder, cumin powder, and remaining turmeric and red chili powder (if desired for more heat). Cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Cook the Walleye
– Add the marinated walleye cubes to the skillet or saucepan, ensuring they are well coated with the curry base. Allow them to cook for about 3-4 minutes.
5. Add Coconut Milk
– Pour in the coconut milk and mix gently. Adjust salt to taste. Allow the curry to simmer on low heat for about 10-12 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the walleye, as it can become tough.
6. Finishing Touches
– Sprinkle garam masala over the curry and give it a gentle stir.
– Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves.
– Serve the walleye curry hot with steamed rice, naan, or any Indian bread of your choice.
– Adjust the spices according to your preference. If you like a tangy flavor, consider adding a splash of tamarind paste or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice towards the end of cooking.
– Fresh curry leaves can be added along with the onions for an added layer of flavor if available.
– For a creamier texture, you can use thick yogurt or cream in place of coconut milk, though this will change the flavor profile.
A Few Words of Caution:
– Like all freshwater fish, walleye may contain parasites. Avoid recipes such as sushi that include raw flesh, and make sure the fish receives sufficient heat treatment.
– Walleye can accumulate contaminants such as mercury and PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls). Although water pollution in the USA and Canada is radically better than it used to be, it may still be a good idea to check the website of the relevant environmental protection authorities for the status of the waters you’ve caught your fish in.
– Mind the bones! Walleye is way less bony than some other freshwater fish such as carp, but you can still find some Y-bones in the top parts of the filets.
Go and Catch Your Walleye!
It goes without saying, that before you can eat the fish, someone has to catch it – and it better be you! Don’t miss the excitement and fun of walleye fishing. And if you’re not sure yet how to catch a walleye – book a fishing trip directly from one of the trusted captains or guides on BaitYourHook.com. This is really the best place to start.