Will Fish for Food

It appears we’ve come to a great divide between the “catch and release anglers” and those who keep and eat the fish. An unnecessary misunderstanding divides the two sides of the issue.

To eat or not to eat isn’t the right question; what really matters is what fish and from where?

In general, fish are a renewable resource. They reproduce prolifically.

Fish rates high for healthy food value (Note: There may be consumption advisories in your area).

That said however, some fish are worth more for recreation than for eating and trout in heavily fished streams being the prime example.

Years ago, many western fishermen considered perch a trash fish, much as they think of chubs today.

I recall a day long ago at a big reservoir when yellow perch were biting much faster than trout.

Some anglers along the shore were making the kind of loud comments you don’t want children and women to hear; because prickly fins and sharp gill plates made taking perch off the hook difficult, even painful.

yellow perch harvested to eat

Yellow Perch – Now that is some good eating

I offered to get hooks out and I soon filled a bucket with all the perch I wanted to clean. I thought then, and still do, that perch are among the finest eating fish on the planet, especially when fried and served with lemon. Of course nowadays the angling public appreciates perch and I have to catch my own.

There’s no debate on keeping perch to eat, but what about trout?

Trout that live in small brushy streams tend to over populate and benefit from thinning just as vegetables do in a garden.

The opposite holds for brown trout in the rivers that have heavy angling pressure; to maintain quality and numbers, this resource needs some regulatory protection on size and limits, possibly even “catch and release”.

So, you see the answer depends on many things: for instance, keeping little trout from a little creek may be a plus but killing trout from popular rivers may not.

pink rainbow trout fillet from lake

Fillet from 22 inch Rainbow Trout from Strawberry Reservoir, Utah

Lakes produce the best trout for eating and it’s almost impossible to over fish them in big reservoirs.

They may grow fast with abundant food and develop orange or pink flesh much like salmon but remember that trout from big reservoirs, especially those with weed beds in the shallows, taste better early in the season. By late summer they sometimes take on a mossy taste.

In contrast, trout in the clear waters of the high mountains always seem to taste good.

Fish spoil quickly, those you want to use for food need to kept as fresh as possible. Warm water fish like bass and perch can kept alive in a mesh bag or stringer in the lake but should be taken home on ice.

Trout for eating should be killed immediately and cleaned as soon as possible. Keep them cool and get them into plastic bags and on ice as soon as practical.

Note: Don’t keep dead fish in water to cool unless in a plastic bag. Dead fish (in fresh water) absorb water and the flesh will start to turn”mushy” – if only keeping a fish or two, maybe wait until later in the day to keep fish


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