Sweet and savory cisco (lake herring)

By Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant graphic designer

This summer, I caught word that our local market, Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor, had fish from Bay Port Fish Co. This local commercial fishery is located on Saginaw Bay and has been operating since 1895. The company also started the annual Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival in 1978!

Lake herring/cisco is related to salmon and trout.
Photo: Todd Marsee

When I opened the freezer at the market, I was happy to see some under-the-radar choices, including white perch, bass, and lake herring (cisco). 

Several years ago, I worked with Andrew Muir at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission on a monograph titled Ciscoes of the Laurentian Great Lakes and Lake Nipigon. Despite working on cisco-related materials, I’d never tasted the fish before – and hadn’t seen it in stores, either. So now it was time to give cisco a try.

Seeking a fresh recipe, I looked to our friends at Wisconsin Sea Grant. I modified a recipe that Titus Seilheimer, a fisheries outreach specialist, wrote for their “Eat Wisconsin Fish” website.

Note: Beer is for the chef, not the dish. Photo: Todd Marsee
The sweet and savory rub, ready to go.
Photo: Todd Marsee

His recipe uses rainbow trout, and I substituted the lake herring/cisco from Bay Port Fish Co. The recipe calls for a rub made with brown sugar. I typically avoid adding sugar to my main dish (I prefer to save it for dessert), but I decided to give it a try. In addition, Titus’s rub calls for onion powder (I substituted chopped onion), garlic powder, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Check out Titus’s post on Eat Wisconsin Fish for the full recipe.

I grilled the fillet, meat-side down, for around a minute. Then I flipped to the skin side and added the rub to the meat with a brush. Finally, I cooked until done, about 10 minutes per inch of meat.

Add the rub to the fillet after flipping to avoid a mess. Photo: Todd Marsee

My family and I enjoyed the fish with fresh fennel tops as a garnish. We also had coleslaw, roasted cauliflower, and potato/sweet potato wedges roasted with garlic.

It was so nice to try a new flavor combination other than my typical butter, garlic, salt, and oregano. It was sweet and savory! Give it a try and let us know how it turned out!

A bright, fresh summer dinner. Photo: Todd Marsee

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