Friday, April 11, 2014

The Mystique of the Goldeye

The Mystique of the Goldeye

By Wendy Marvell
The Daily Magi
September 18, 2068

The goldeye, Hiodon alosoides, is a species of fish in the mooneye family (Hiodontidae). It occurs from as far down the Mackenzie River as Aklavik in the north to Mississippi in the south, and from Alberta in the west to Ohio south of the Great Lakes, with an isolated population south of James Bay. It is notable for a conspicuous golden iris in the eyes. It prefers turbid slower-moving waters of lakes and rivers, where it feeds on insects, crustaceans, fish, frogs, shrews, and mice. The fish averages less than 1 lb (450 g) or 12 in (30 cm) in length, but can be found up to 2 lbs (900 g) or 16 in (41 cm) in some lakes. It has been reported up to 52 cm in length.

The scientific name means shad-like (alosoides) toothed hyoid (Hiodon, or mooneye family). It is also called Winnipeg goldeye, western goldeye, yellow herring, toothed herring, shad mooneye, la Queche, weepicheesis, or laquaiche aux yeux d’or in French.

The goldeye is considered a good fly-fishing fish, but not popular with most anglers because of its small size.

It is one of 122 new species of animals, birds, fish documented by the Corps of Discovery. Commercial fishing of this species was reported as early as 1876. Its fresh flesh is soft and unappealing, so it was only taken randomly in gillnets and (in the past) sold for dogfood. They are now sought after by many consumers as a smoked fish. Many commercial fishermen sell them smoked after being processed (marinated) in a brine made of spices, salt, brown sugar, and other secret ingredients. They are smoked in oak wood, apple wood, or other woods. Each producer has their own ways of smoking. Despite its soft flesh the goldeye may be soaked in a salt brine for 24 hours and then poached, firming up the flesh.

Its commercial viability was realized by Robert Firth, who immigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba from Hull, England in 1886. Firth was carrying on a mediocre trade in cold-smoked goldeye, when he miscalculated the heat of his smoker and accidentally developed the now-standard method of hot-smoking it whole. The bright red or orange colour of the smoked fish resulted from using only willow smoke, but today is achieved through aniline dye. It became a fashionable gourmet dish after 1911, with Woodrow Wilson and the Prince of Wales counted amongst its fans. In 1926–29 the annual catch exceeded a million pounds, but stocks declined from 1931 and little was fished from Lake Winnipeg after 1938. A small amount of the commercial harvest is shipped to the United States, but most is consumed in Canada. Although Lake Winnipeg was once the main commercial source, it now comes from elsewhere, especially in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and the culinary name Winnipeg goldeye has come to be associated with the city where it is processed.

The fish is the namesake of Winnipeg's minor league baseball team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes. The Winnipeg Goldeyes are a professional baseball team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Canada. The Goldeyes play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. From 1994 to 2010, the team was a member of the Northern League. The Goldeyes have played their home games at Shaw Park (formerly Canwest Park) since 1999. 

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