IMPORTANT: Consult the state’s Freshwater Fish Safe Eating Guidelines on before you eat any Maine freshwater fish. Because of pollutants in Maine waters, the state advises against eating more than one to two fish a month, and for some people, none at all.


Lifelong fisherman Rich Bonchuk first came to Maine to fish 15 years ago. He liked it so much he quickly bought a camp near the West Branch of the Penobscot River, some of Maine’s most hallowed fishing grounds. Bonchuk, who lives in Connecticut when he isn’t fishing all over the Pine Tree state, enjoys eating his catch. He shared this fish recipe – which he calls the best fresh fish sandwich of all time – as he was tending his ice traps at the Sebago Ice Fishing Derby.

Makes 1 sandwich

Fresh fish with firm white meat (such as perch, bass, pike or cusk)

Ritz crackers



Egg, beaten

½ stick of butter (4 tablespoons)

Sourdough bun, sliced in half

Lemon, to taste

Provolone cheese


Fillet the fish, slicing through the meat on the sides and taking care to get all the bones out of the fillets.

Mash 5-6 Ritz crackers into a fine dust. Add pepper to taste to the cracker dust, more if you prefer a spicy fish sandwich.

Dip the fillets in the beaten egg. Then roll them through the crackers to coat completely.

Set a frying pan on high and melt the butter. Just as it pools, place the fillets in and fry them, a total of 3-4 minutes for thicker white meat (such as pike or cusk) and less, only about 2 minutes total cooking time for leaner meat (such as perch). When the fish turns golden on 1 side, flip it to cook the other. When it’s golden on the second side, take it out of the pan and set it aside on a plate.

Put the sliced bun in the hot pan, cut side down.

Squeeze fresh lemon on the fish as the bun toasts.


Remove the bun halves from the pan when they’re toasted, and immediately place 2 slices of provolone cheese between the halves and close the bun. Wrap aluminum foil around the bun to let the cheese melt slightly. Then put the fish into the bun. Enjoy it warm.


David Lemieux, a Biddeford native, has fished his entire life, “all 53 years.” He loves Maine freshwater fish just as it is – either pan fried, smoked, or baked. Lemieux says his best recipes are simple to let the taste of the fish itself shine. You can use other fish here, too, but he likes bass because you can leave the skin on.

Largemouth bass

Salt and pepper



1. Cut off the head off the bass. Cut a line up the base of the fish to open it and remove the guts. No need to fillet it, you can bake it with the scales on.

2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Heat the oven to 360 degrees F, and for an 18-to-20-inch bass, bake it about 40 minutes. Reduce the time for a smaller fish.

4. Squeeze lemon over the fish and enjoy.

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