Mackinaw Trout


As many of you might know from past articles or from knowing me, I am an avid fisherman. This summer, the way my schedule and knee rehab worked out, I have not been fishing once. That’s OK, the knee is getting stronger and I needed to work, and fall fishing is always awesome. Working on the Lake, I do get to see and talk to a lot of fisherman coming in with their catch.

Often, its rainbow trout and even the occasional brown, but most of the time, people coming in from fishing Lake Tahoe are carrying a catch of Mackinaw trout. They are often called Lake trout, especially back East, which is where they came from. They were introduced into some of the higher lakes around Tahoe from the Great Lakes and eventually worked their way into Tahoe.

Mackinaws are different from the original Lahontan trout that Tahoe was noted for in a few ways, but one of them is that they do not have to swim up streams to spawn. They can spawn in the lake. One advantage to that is that on years like the past few, when the streams aren’t flowing enough for kokanee salmon and other trout to spawn, the Mackinaw population still grows. They also grow up to 30 lbs. making them formidable predators and one of the main reasons for them being a sought-after game fish.

When it comes to eating a Mac though, I’m not really that keen on them. Like an East Coast blue fish, the meat is an oilier, fishier, meat that doesn’t do much for me, so I usually let them go when I catch them. If I am going to eat one, it has to be wicked fresh, caught the same day. Since I do get asked a lot how to prepare a Mackinaw, I usually say that since it has such a strong flavor, I want a sauce that is just as strong.

There are three ways that would be my standards; if I kept enough of them to have standards. The first is to grill the filet and use a good barbecue sauce. You can’t get much easier and the sweetness and strength of the sauce hides a lot of that fishy taste I don’t go for, making it much easier on the palate. The second way is to smoke it and then I like a sour cream horseradish sauce. Again, this is an easy way to prepare your fish, I went over smoking a few articles ago (visit for tips on smoking), and the smoking process tends to neutralize the flavor some. You can simply stir some fresh, grated horseradish into sour cream, add a few drops of red wine vinegar if you want, and a little salt and black pepper to taste and that will make a great sauce for your stronger-flavored fish.

The third sauce is a Provencal sauce. This was my go-to sauce for blue fish and I have used it on Mackinaw also with some good comments. I’ll give this recipe below. The thing is, if you aren’t going to eat the fish you catch because you don’t like it, try to catch and release if possible. If you do like stronger-flavored fish, by all means try a Mackinaw and try it a few ways.


Provencal sauce

5 ripe Roma tomatoes, medium to large diced

3-4 large garlic cloves, rough chopped

1 shallot, diced

½ red onion medium, diced

¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1 lemon for juice

3 T olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the tomatoes, garlic, shallots and onion in the olive oil until soft.
Add the parsley and then the lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.


Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. To read archived copies of Stir it Up, visit or Contact him at or (530) 412-3598.