Saturday, October 23, 2010


Get ready to call PETA because this blog will be about killing (and eating) trout!

We live in an “enlightened” age and keeping trout is not politically correct. Keeping, killing and eating trout is it is not only discouraged, some anglers consider killing a trout blasphemy, anathema or worse.

However, there are several instances where our state Division of Wildlife Resources has encouraged anglers to keep a few fish. The Provo River has abundant fish and would benefit from removal of some of these fish to help the remaining fish become larger and healthier. At Flaming Gorge, anglers are encouraged to keep Lake Trout for the same reason. At Bear Lake, where sterile rainbow trout were stocked, anglers were encouraged to keep rainbows because the fish probably would not survive the winter. This probably holds true for a number of stock and harvest community ponds as well.

So, there are good reasons to keep trout and sometimes other species as well. Note: please take only that portion of the daily limit you will actually use and consume. Trout and other fish are far too valuable to be wasted.
When you take a few trout home with you, you are assisting the fishery by fulfilling your role as a predator and “thinning” the herd. The remaining trout face less competition and can get larger. The habitat as well benefits from having less fish in it. Obviously, the capability of any given habitat to sustain a given number of fish is left to the experts but when they say “take home a few fish” I feel it is our obligation to do so provided we can put them to good use.

There is another issue at work here. There are many who would like to see fishing eliminated entirely based on the notion that it is cruelty to the fish. I do not for one moment believe these individuals are at all concerned about the fish, rather, I feel they are trying to impose their philosophical vision of the world on everyone else. Nonetheless, if anglers accept the idea that they should never kill a fish, to a great extent, they are supporting that argument. Conversely, by acknowledging that; sometimes, even in the best of circumstances, fish are killed, and when they are, we try our best to utilize the animal for food, we lessen the potential argument that since fishing is not for survival (You don’t eat the fish, do you?) it should be eliminated. So eat a trout every now and again to maintain your right to fish!
Incidentally, one of the most underutilized methods for controlling illegally introduced or unwanted species of fish in waters is the fishermen. A bounty placed on Squawfish in the Northwest improved the survival and recruitment of Salmon. A bounty placed on illegally stocked or unwanted fish such as Burbot , Lake Trout (illegally planted in waters they should not be in) or other species can certainly put a dent in the population if not possibly eradicate them completely. Our Nation’s history is replete with examples of overfishing taking out entire species from some waters. Why not harness that natural power of fishermen’s ability to decimate a fish population by rewarding those willing to target unwanted species. It’s a “win-win”.

Ok, you have your fish home – there are other tasks you should perform each time you clean your fish

First, assess the general health of the fish just in case you find something alarming which should be reported to your local Wildlife Resource Division. Be sure to record the water, date and time of your catch. I am sure they will appreciate the feedback if you find something that should not be there.

Next, do an autopsy on your fish to check the stomach contents. You will be amazed at how much you can learn from this examination. I would never have learned that trout feed on snails, crawdads, cigarette butts and even Daphnia had I not taken this extra step. You can do this on live fish, but since fish taken home are already destined for consumption, you don’t have to do risky “field surgery” also known as stomach pumping of fish if performed incorrectly or by an "untrained" angler. So if you do pump the stomach be sure to learn the correct technique so you donot inadvertanly harm a fish that you plan on safely releasing.

Now, eat your fish. If you do not eat them, give them to someone who will. Of course, be sure to obey all possession limits and laws relating to the giving of fish you have caught to someone else.

Trout are delicious and I suspect that those who do not like eating them have not had them properly prepared. Even if you bring home some “planters” (which you can just about count on if, like me, you fish with your grandkids) and you are unsure about their flavor, you can still make a delicious meal out of them. I marinate mine for about ½ hour in Italian Dressing prior to cooking in the method of your choice and you will be surprised how firm, good and unfishy they taste.

Finally, be thankful that you live in an area where you are free to fish. Even with the access issues we face here, we still have many opportunities to fish and many people do not have that same freedom. We have been given a great heritage and a wonderful place to follow the traditions of our predecessors.

When I was a kid, I remember neighbors coming home with gunny sacks full of trout. The ladies in the neighborhood dutifully canned these trout for winter use. It was an important part of preparing for winter and the trout helped people survive those harder times.

I remember having my very first “trout sandwich”. Mrs. Anderson, my neighbor had just “put up” a bunch of trout and had a little cooked trout left over. She asked me if I wanted a sandwich. She sliced up one of the last red, ripe tomatoes from her garden; put a little Mayo on toasted bread and topped it with a thick layer of beautiful pink trout. It was delicious. And, in the end, that is really what fishing was about.

Today, fishing for me has little to do with catching trout. It is far more about where I go, who I am with and being with and in nature. But fishing’s roots are far deeper and more primal. It is at its deepest about survival and today our survival is less about filling our hunger and more about filling our hearts.

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