3 Pennsylvania Trout Spots, and a Fish Tacos Recipe
It used to be that when I thought of fish tacos, my mind went instantly to a chill beach shack somewhere in Baja. Or a chill beach shack somewhere on the southwest side of Kauai. Or maybe a chill bar on Duval Street in Key West. Images of snapper and mahi and grouper danced in my head as I involuntarily started to walk toward the nearest bottle of hot sauce.
But that was before my buddy Matt introduced me to trout tacos. Matt had just come back from a trip to eastern Pennsylvania and had two beautiful trout in his creel—he had released an untold amount—“too many to count,” he said—and aimed to make a feast of the two he had kept. I was his lucky dining companion
I was expecting a meal of sautéed trout, maybe with a few almond slices for good measure. Or maybe my favorite way to enjoy trout—smoked. Instead, Matt whipped up a take on fish tacos that blew my mind and forever changed my expectations of what fish tacos can be. Rather than always looking for a tropical version of the dish, trout added a distinctly local flavor and flaky but firm texture to the meal. The real lesson learned was that while snapper and grouper may be the best fish for tacos—and chill beach bars the best place to eat them—just about any fish can work in tacos.
What follows is an adaptation of Matt’s recipe, and three sweet places in the Keystone State where you can catch yourself some good trout. All three destinations are part of the Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters Program (KSSTWP), which introduces about 4,500 large (between 14 and 20 inches) two- to three-year old trout into certain streams each spring, with a smaller fall top-off on some streams. As with all KSSTWP streams, only artificial lures are allowed.
First, the fishing spots:
Just to the northeast of Williamsport, home to the Little League World Series, sits Loyalsock Creek, which originates in the Loyalsock State Forest. The terrain here is rugged, but the access is great, with multiple access points. While you’re here, be sure to do a little scouting for your next hunting trip: there is much state game land along the Loyalsock’s banks.
You won’t have to worry about access, or even a long drive, when you fish McMichael Creek in Stroudsburg, the gateway to the Poconos for anglers driving in from New York City and Philadelphia. Just a stone’s throw from a multitude of hiking, rafting and skiing opportunities near the Delaware Water Gap, McMichael Creek features an extended season beginning just after Labor Day. But if you want to make tacos with your haul, you better hurry: after September 4, McMichael Creek is strictly catch and release only.
The mile or so of access along Pine Creek, northwest of Williamsport, offers some sweet spots to look for keepers. It’s just downstream from the Ansonia access point, and upstream from two nice camping spots: the Colton Point and Leonard Harrison campgrounds. Be sure to pack a cast iron pan if you’re planning to make the tacos.
(Via Matt Stewart and The Food Network)
Time to make: 25 minutes
Yield 6 tacos
- ¾ cup cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 pound trout, cut into one-inch strips
- 1 package of bacon, cooked until crispy and drained
- Olive oil
- 6 corn tortillas, crispy or soft
- Lime wedges, chopped cabbage and salsa to garnish
Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.
Mix the cornmeal, chili powder, pepper, salt, garlic powder in a large shallow bowl. Blend with a fork.
Pour the milk into another bowl.
Dip the fish in the milk, then in the cornmeal mix.
Add enough oil to the pan to coat the bottom. Cook the fish until golden brown, about 3 minutes, flipping half-way through. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.
Ladle fish, slaw and cabbage into a tortilla, garnish with lime juice.