Lazy Gourmand’s Guide to Great Fishing

In Minnesota Monthly‘s August issue (on newsstands), I rounded up the best local picnics, featuring the top only-in-the-summertime outdoor treats you should avail yourself of before the snow flies. Like the best lazy gourmet’s fishing, ever.

It’s at a place called Star Prairie Trout Farm, and it’s in Star Prairie, Wisconsin, right across the St. Croix, just north of Hudson. If you go to restaurants or frequent locavore fish shops, you’re probably familiar with the name Star Prairie, where they raise rainbow trout in a natural spring—and they’ve been so doing since 1856. That’s a hundred and fifty years of tasty trout! And the trout is delicious, fresh and delicate. When you see it on restaurant menus, get it! But you can also get it at the source, as fresh as fish gets.

Here’s how it works: Drive to Star Prairie, bring some wine or beer if you like, maybe a loaf of bread, and a little butter for your fish? Don’t bring a fishing license–you don’t need one. Don’t bring bait–they have it. Don’t bring poles, tackle, hooks, tools–they have it! Don’t bring a knife–they will fillet and clean the fish for you! Bring a fork, maybe. So, to recap, bring a drink, some bread, your fork, yourself, and someone you want to picnic with. Hop out of your car, and contemplate: A swift moving stream that zig-zags back and forth through a well tended green lawn betwixt Adirondack chairs and picnic tables. Go to the fish shed and ask the nice people for a fishing pole, and buy a couple dollars worth of worms. Now, approach the pond. Do you want a huge trophy-fish from the trophy pond, or a small little guy from the regular stream? Throw in your hook, and catch a fish. You will catch a fish. You will catch as many as you want. You pull it out, put it in your bucket, and if you can’t get it off the hook yourself, take it to the nice people in the shed, they will do it for you. Repeat as often as you like; at the end of your fishing, you’ll pay $6 a pound for ordinary fish, $8 a pound for trophy fish, and $2 per fish to have them cleaned. Now, ask the nice people in the fish shed for a fully stocked charcoal grill; for $6.95 they’ll give you one. Now you light your grill, and settle back to a picnic of fish as fresh as fish gets.

If you’ve got kids, it’s even better: They have dozens and dozens of Sponge Bob Square Pants fishing rods, and if your darling child snarls it, you just trade it in for a new one. They’re open every day except Monday for the rest of the month, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; in September they go down to weekends only. But, so much fun. It’s enough to keep a lazy fisher-person very happily lazy indeed.

Star Prairie Fish Farm, 400 Hill Ave., Star Prairie, Wisconsin; 715-248-3633