Fran’s Favorites: Fish Ohio — Lake Erie


Fish Ohio Day promotes the wonderful jewel that is Lake Erie. The lake is not only such a great resource, but also is so important for commerce and tourism in our state.

Fishing is always more fun with kids so some of our grandkids joined us Thursday. Fish Ohio Day was a great time and we caught lots of walleye! Though many of them were too small to keep, 7-year-old Grady caught a walleye that measured 23 inches and granddaughter Josie caught a 25 ½ inch walleye — the biggest one of the day!

For me, it was a day of learning. I usually keep an eye on the smaller children, so I don’t fish myself. But everyone was old enough on my boat so I decided to fish. Captain Dean was a great teacher so he taught me the right way to fish in Lake Erie, which was different than fishing in the smaller lakes and streams where I grew up. Even though I didn’t catch a lot of fish that were big enough to keep, I did catch a 24 ½ inch walleye — certainly the biggest one I’ve ever caught!

After our day of fishing, we attended a great program put on by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) at the tourism center in Port Clinton. Mike and I stopped by the Wild Ohio Harvest Mobile Kitchen trailer where they cooked some of the walleye that were caught. We enjoyed their samples so much that I asked if we could share the recipes. Their Blackened Walleye with Cheddar Grits topped with Creole Sauce was incredible! Ken Fry, the outdoor skills specialist at ODNR Division of Wildlife, shared it with me. You can check out more recipes at

We brought back a lot of fish so I can’t wait to try this recipe!

Blackened Walleye with White Cheddar Grits

This recipe may sound simple, but it sure is delicious! If you don’t like the “fishy” taste, try “zippering” your walleye. Simply make two small incisions at the end of the fillet along the pink bone line that runs through the center of the fish. Then, gently pull the fillet apart, and discard the bone line. This will make the walleye taste less fishy and get rid of tiny bones!

*This recipe calls for “walleye backs.” A walleye fillet has two main cuts- the back and flank. Located closer to the dorsal fin, the back is thicker and resembles a beef backstrap. The flank meat is thinner and is located on the sides of the walleye. Separate the back and flank meat, and use only the back meat for this recipe.

Makes about 4 servings.

White Cheddar Grits

4 cups water

1 1/2 cups stone-ground corn grits

2 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 ounces fresh white cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup heavy cream

1. Place 4 cups water, 1 1/2 cups grits, 2 dried bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a large pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately remove from the heat, cover, and set aside for 15 minutes.

2. While grits cool, cut butter into squares.

3. After 15 minutes, uncover and return the grits to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring regularly with a whisk and scraping the bottom to prevent clumping or burning. Continue this for 20 to 25 minutes. The grits are ready when most of the water is absorbed and the grits are al dente (tender with a toothsome bite).

4. Remove from the heat. Remove bay leaves and discard. Stir in butter, cheese, and heavy cream just before serving.

Blackened Walleye

4 large walleye backs*

3 tablespoons ghee (or butter), melted

2 tablespoons blackened seasoning

1. Heat cast iron skillet on high.

2. Pat walleye fillets dry with paper towel. Cut the fillet in half and brush with ghee. Sprinkle blackened seasoning generously over fillet. Flip the fillet over and repeat. There may be leftover seasoning.

3. Make sure range/stove hood fan is on or cook outdoors. Pour a little of the left-over ghee into a cast iron skillet, just enough to lightly coat the bottom.

4. Place the fish into the skillet, frying a few minutes on each side. Time may vary depending on the thickness of the fillet. Use a metal spatula to flip the fish. This will allow you to scrap the charred seasoning from the bottom of the skillet, leaving more char on the fish.

Creole Sauce

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers

1/2 cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes in tomato puree

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon oregano

2 teaspoons thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 teaspoons creole seasoning (flavor and saltiness vary greatly on brands, start with 2 teaspoons, and add more if needed)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

3 cups chicken stock

Heat oil in a pot. Sauté the onions, celery, and bell peppers. After a few minutes, add the minced garlic. Cook for another five minutes. Next, add the remainder of the ingredients and let simmer with the lid off. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

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Fran DeWine

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.

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