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BoatBQ: 5 Easy Recipes for Canadian Boaters Looking to Grill the Day’s Catch

By: Scott Way

Lobster tail grilling on BBQ
Grilled Lobster Tails

Cooking and boating go together like fish and chips, which is pretty handy because fish is definitely on the menu. If you’re a fisherman the day’s catch usually ends up on your grill at the end of the day, but even if you’re a recreational boater looking to expand your palette there are some great Canadian-style BBQ dishes you can put together on your bowrider, trawler, cruiser, or catamaran.

We’re going to go coast to coast and showcase some BBQ specialties across Canada. Each recipe includes a meat you can catch (or purchase) in Canadian waters, from British Columbia salmon to Nova Scotia scallops, with freshwater specialties in between. The premise is that you can prepare, cook, and serve each recipe right on your boat, regardless of your boat’s size or capability. The only assumptions are that you have a) a BBQ (or a similar cooking source), b) some degree of refrigeration (even just a cooler), and c) enough space to put it together. Even if you don’t have a BBQ on board, these 5 recipes are quick, simple, and make for a great addition to any dock party. Simplicity is key here, the less ingredients the better, and depending on the dish only a little prep work is necessary.

This is the art of BoatBQ; 5 great grilling recipes that you can put together with minimal preparation for maximum flavour. Let’s go coast to coast and highlight a specialty meat from each region so you can taste what Canada has to offer.


Grilled salmon filet with rice and vegetables

You can’t think about hosting a BBQ in British Columbia without grilling up some salmon. It’s a nutrient rich fish with a tonne of flavour, and it pairs well with lots of nutritious side dishes like steamed rice, asparagus, and salad. This ultra-quick 6 ingredient recipe will remind you of British Columbia’s rich inter-coastal waterways and makes for an easy addition to a social gathering on the stern lounge:


· 1/3 cup olive oil

· 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

· 1/4 cup lemon juice

· 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill

· 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

· 4 skin-on salmon fillets (about 500g each)


1) Whisk together oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper; pour into shallow dish.

2) Add salmon, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for up to 30 minutes.

3) Remove salmon from marinade, reserving excess. Place salmon, skin side down, on greased grill over medium-high heat

4) Close lid on grill, turning once and basting frequently with reserved marinade until opaque throughout and fish flakes easily when tested (about 10 minutes per 1 inch of thickness).

5) Pairs well steamed rice, steamed asparagus, or a leafy green salad if prepped separately

6) Serve and enjoy!


Grilled perch fillets with vegetables
Grilled Perch Fillets With Lemon Pepper Butter

Catching enough perch for dinner can be a tall task; they’re generally a small fish so you’ll likely need 4-6 to make dinner. But if you time the season right and know a honey hole where they gather, you can typically catch your limit and put together an exquisite meal. Most people don’t think of perch when they think of grilling, but that’s because of their relative small size and localized geography. They’re not as common as bass or pike, but if you find a lake that stocks them you’re in for a treat. They’re a delicious freshwater fish with filets that are light and flaky when cooked properly. They’re easy to clean (if you don’t purchase them from a store), so that means less hassle during prep time. Perch pairs well with vegetables or side salad, and makes a nice compliment to a larger meal if you’re looking to keep your meat protein to a minimum. This recipe calls for two people, so double it up if you’re putting together dinner for four.


· 6 Perch fillets

· 1/4 stick butter

· 1/2 tomato, sliced

· 1/2 lemon, sliced

· 1/4 tsp dill weed

· 1/4 tsp garlic pepper

· 1/4 orange pepper, sliced


1) Slice 3 quarter-inch pieces from a stick of butter and place on a sheet of foil

2) Lay the perch fillets on top of the butter. This will keep the fish from sticking to the foil and add flavour during cooking.

3) Place tomatoes and lemons on top of the fillets and sprinkle the spices.

4) Place peppers on top.

5) Wrap the fillets in foil and seal tightly.

6) Grill over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes until the fish is fully cooked and flakes easily.

Grilled pickerel with citrus butter
Grilled Pickerel With Citrus Butter

In Canada we call them pickerel but Americans generally refer to them as walleye, but regardless of the name they’re one of the best fish to eat in the world. Pickerel fillets have fine white flakes, a rich pink flesh, and a mild flavor with few bones, which makes them extremely versatile and broadly popular since they can win over the most ardent non-fish eater. It’s a popular freshwater fish in central Canada and the U.S, in fact it’s the state fish of Minnesota, South Dakota, and Vermont (and Saskatchewan in the north is home to the best national hotspots). Finding commercial pickerel in grocery stores is relatively rare, so if you come across it you should definitely bring some home. If you’re lucky enough to reel one in, here’s a great recipe to win over any skeptical crew member:


· 2 tablespoons soft butter (not melted, but room temperature)

· 1 teaspoon fresh chives (chopped)

· 2 teaspoons orange juice

· 1/4 cup pecans (chopped, toasted, divided)

· 12 ounces walleye fillets

· 1/2 teaspoon salt

· 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


1. Combine butter, chives, juice, and half the pecans in a small bowl. Mix well. Save remaining half of chopped pecans for garnish.

2. Preheat the grill to medium heat.

3. Take a 12-inch square piece of aluminum foil and cut 2-inch slits every two inches. Spray with a nonstick spray or brush with oil. Place onto grill.

4. Put walleye fillets on foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Grill 8 to 12 minutes. Fillets are done when fish flakes easily with a fork and reaches an internal temperature of 140 F.

6. Two to three minutes before the fish is done, top the fillets with the pecan butter. Remove the fillets the heat once fish has finished cooking.

7. Sprinkle fillets with the remaining pecan pieces.

8. Serve and enjoy!


BBQ scallops
BBQ Scallops On The Coals

Welcome to eastern Canada, where saltwater seafood surpasses freshwater fish and the options are nearly limitless. Saltwater cities each have a unique brand of local cuisine that incorporates what comes into the harbour, so it’s no surprise eastern Canada knows what to do with a scallop. Scallops are tricky since they’re easy to overcook and turn into hockey pucks, but even though we’re focusing on Canadian cuisine let’s save the hockey pucks for the ice enjoy some midsummer scallops. Short and sweet is the key to a good scallop, and since you’re cooking from your boat they can be an ideal choice for seafarers enjoying a sunset over the bay. Here’s how to barbeque some spicy scallops:


· 12 scallops , trimmed with the shells

· 100 ml dry white wine

· 1/2 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley , leaves picked

· 2 tablespoons olive oil

· 100 g salted butter

· 3 cloves of garlic , peeled

· 1 fresh red chilli

· 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


*Directions involve use of charcoal grill, but this recipe can also be followed with a propane grill. Oil the grill heavily before use and run on med-high to simulate charcoal

1) Spread hot coals over the base of your barbecue in a flat and even layer – the scallops are going to be cooked directly on the coals.

2) Start by making the chilli garlic butter, which you can do on the barbecue or over a medium heat on the hob (if you have one). Place the oil and butter in a pan to melt. Finely chop the garlic and chilli (keep the seeds in if you like the heat), then add to the pan with black pepper. Give it a good stir, let all the ingredients party, then set aside.

3) Place the shells with the scallops inside them on a platter, then add a dash of white wine to each one.

4) Using tongs, place each shell directly on the grey coals, carefully positioning them so they can’t tip over. Cover with the lid like an outdoor oven and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until cooked through, turning the scallops halfway with tongs.

5) Carefully remove the shells to a serving platter and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the melted chilli garlic butter over each scallop.

6) Roughly chop and scatter over the parsley leaves and serve right away.

7) Enjoy!

Grilled lobster tails

If we’re talking about eastern Canadian seafood, of course lobster is on the menu. Not only is it a signature of eastern Canadian culture, it’s also an ideal choice for dockside gatherings because it’s relatively ease to cook. However, like a good scallop, while it’s quick to prepare it’s also easy to overcook. Keep an eye on the details and you can enjoy some buttery lobster tails while listening to yacht rock on the back of your cruiser. This recipe is simple and straightforward, so you should be free to enjoy a docktail and some Hall & Oates shortly:


· 6 lobster tails

· 1/4 cup olive oil (or melted butter)

· 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

· 1 tablespoon fresh dill

· 1 teaspoon salt


1) To split the lobster tails in half, place them on a cutting board, backside down. Use a large, sharp knife to cut down through the center to the shell the whole length.

2) Fold the shell back (like you are opening a book), breaking through the shell. If the shell doesn't break, you can use kitchen shears to cut through it. The flesh should now be exposed.

3) Pat the lobster tails dry with paper towels.

4) Preheat the grill for medium-high heat.

5) Combine olive oil (or butter), lemon juice, dill, and salt in small mixing bowl until salt has dissolved.

6) Brush the mixture onto the flesh side of lobster tails.

7) Place lobster tails onto the grill and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, turning them once during the cooking process. Depending on size, they may need to cook longer to plan accordingly. Brush them with sauce as desired, making sure to cover both sides as you flip.

8) Lobster tails will be done once meat reaches an internal temperature 140 F. The shells should turn a bright pink and the flesh should be opaque all the way through the center.

9) Remove from heat, serve and enjoy!

NOTE: Lobster tails are traditionally served with drawn butter. Or, double up the sauce listed above with the butter, lemon juice, dill, and salt baste, and it will do nicely as a dipping sauce.

One of the many perks of Canadian boating is not only the diversity on the water in terms of lakes, river, and oceans, but also the diversity below the waterline as well. There are delicious options in both saltwater and freshwater that are readily available, both in-store and on-water, and they’re easy to master if you’re looking to improve your BBQ skills. So hang a line into the water next time you’re on the lake, or let that downrigger sink into the deep if you’re on the ocean. With a little luck you’ll have dinner on board in no time and a chance to impress your crew with your prowess on the BoatBQ.

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