In only the first month of its very first year of operations, the Pêche Blanche Ice Fishing Village offers an icy slice of Quebec winter angling authenticity mere minutes from downtown Montreal, and it would appear that fisher-folk are already hooked…
“Oh, definitely,” enthuses Natalie Émond, vice-president of marketing for Pêche Blanche Ice Fishing Village. “Weekends are quite busy, and we recommend that people make reservations in advance. On a busy weekend day we might have as many as 400 people here.”
It’s a simple matter of location, location, location. Which in this case is the Clock Tower Basin in the historic Old Port, a ten-minute walk from Old Montreal’s Champ de Mars metro station. The proximity is not lost on Pêche Blanche’s rapidly expanding patronage.
“We see real fishermen, the ones who come at 7:30 a.m. and stay all day, but they’re not the norm,” says Émond. “It’s mostly families and tourists, people who would normally take their car and drive an hour and a half in order to go ice fishing.”
“People are mostly fishing perch and walleye, and we had a pike come out last Saturday, which was the first of the season. And a lot of burbot as well.” Er, burbot? “It’s not a very nice looking fish, but apparently it’s very good.”
But can you eat ’em? The answer is yes. And no. While there are several species of fish that are only catch and release – sturgeon, muskellunge and catfish primarily – there are numerous others, including perch, walleye, pike and the aforementioned inglorious burbot, that are yours for the keeping. And to answer the bigger question, yes, they are safe to eat.
“The fish are definitely edible,” says Émond. “[Journalists from] La Presse came and caught a few fish and brought them back to the Université de Montréal to have them analyzed and the mercury in the fish was way, way under the government norms for edibility.”