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> > To eat or not to eat... that is the question.

HighFlyerAugust 29th, 2008, 8:36 am

Posts: 24
OK, so I'm a new fly fisherman and I fully intend on eating some of the fish I catch... at least a few in the beginning.

I too am in it just for the sport and love going out fishing even on days that I don't catch a thing. I'm sure there are some here that will tell me it's wrong to eat even one. But you're going to have to move past that, because I'm going to... no if's, and's, or but's about it.

So my question comes down to this; since it's a fact that I am going to keep and eat some of the fish I catch, which fish should I keep? In other words... which fish are best for the population in that particular stream? Should I release all fish over a certain length because they will produce more eggs? Should I leave the medium sized fish, because they have a longer remaining life span, thus producing more eggs?

I want to do the best thing for the local trout population while also periodically enjoying the fruits of my labor. You know... tasting sweet success ;) So please, rather than anyone who is an avid "catch and release" guy telling me how wrong it is to keep them, just aid me in being smarter about the ones I keep.

"Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job."
~by Paul Schullery~

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."
~by Henry David Thoreau~
TaxonAugust 29th, 2008, 12:58 pm
Site Editor
Royse City, TX

Posts: 1348

First, let me say, I believe a majority of flyfishers, who now practice C&R trout fishing, likely started out killing and eating, just as you describe your intent. Frankly, I find it admirable that you already seem to be somewhat sensitive to what may be "best for the population of a particular stream."

My suggestion would be that, feeling as you currently do, you might want to consider attempting to avoid fishing for naturally reproducing populations of trout, and attempt to target stocked fish. Of course, this assumes a trout stocking program actually exists in Minnesota.

Hope this helps.
Best regards,
Roger Rohrbeck
CaseyPAugust 29th, 2008, 2:18 pm
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
when i asked him once, years ago, my father-in-law, bless him, had this very sage advice about which fish to keep to eat:

make sure they fit in the frypan.
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
RleePAugust 29th, 2008, 3:59 pm
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
It would be helpful to know what part of MN (if indeed it will be MN) you'll be fishing. If it is on the SE Spring Creeks, I don't really think you need worry much at all about taking a few fish, regardless of size, so long as they are all legal under the specific regulations for the water in question. That is, at least, if the population profiles and densities are anything like the streams in SW Wisconsin and the better wild trout streams in NE Iowa, which I imagine they are.

A lot of these creeks are high-yield trout factories with upwards of 200-400 lb. of wild fish per acre. That's a lot of trout and in many cases, some angler harvest almost certainly would do them good rather than harm.

If your intended waters are elsewhere in MN, I have no idea.

By and large, IMO at any rate, the best trout to eat are big enough to bother with, but not so big that they start to get the stronger flavor common to most larger fish. In the driftless spring creeks, if I were taking fish out to eat, I'd key on trout between say, 8 and 11 inches.

Ironically, in my view at least, this fishing thing is a circle. Many of us start out killing fish, we go through a protracted C&R period and then, later, we go back to killing a few now and then. Funny, that...

On Edit: I really liked what Roger had to say above about targeting stocked fish. I find this particularly applicable if you are in some other portion of MN than the SE.
SofthackleSeptember 1st, 2008, 8:12 pm
Site Editor
Wellsville, NY

Posts: 540
I've caught, kept, and cooked a few in my time, but it has been a long time. I heartily endorse C&R.

With that said, first, stocked fish are not that tasty. Trout stocked at 8-9 inches would be better left in the water till they reach 10-12 inches. Older, larger trout DO get a fishy flavor, and if you like that, it's fine. Clean them out, removing the entrails and the dark line along the backbone. Trout should be cooked with their heads on as you can lift them carefully by the tail and with a butter knife,gently peel the fillet from one side, then the other AFTER THEY ARE COOKED.

Trout are best cooked fresh, fried in bacon fat, till they are tender-white inside. Salt and pepper, perhaps some lemon juice, and you've got a decent meal.

Most fly fishermen would be outraged at the thought of killing, cooking and eating any trout, however, taking one or two for the table would not be so terrible, IMHO, however do not kill fish you do not have any intentions of eating. That would be a waste. Take only what you know you WILL eat.

I know many trout fishermen that catch and catch and kill all they catch and they can not possibly eat them all. They go to waste in the freezer. That is something I can not endorse.


PS-If you like eating fish, Freshwater Perch are much better than stocked Trout, again-IMHO. You need to know how to fillet them, but covered milk, flour, egg, then with breadcrumbs and fried, they are superb-better than trout any day.

"I have the highest respect for the skilled wet-fly fisherman, as he has mastered an art of very great difficulty." Edward R. Hewitt

Flymphs, Soft-hackles and Spiders:
TroutnutSeptember 2nd, 2008, 12:35 am
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
I largely fish C&R now but I still keep a few trout from time to time. When I want dinner, I go to:

1. Streams where most of the trout are stocked on a year-to-year basis, "put and take" fisheries designed to fill frying pans rather than sustain natural populations. Often these are in marginal streams with poor over-winter or late-summer survival and few, if any, wild fish.

2. Streams with lots of small trout and not much fishing pressure. It's really hard to beat the taste of an 8-inch brookie, and some small streams are loaded with small fish that may not see another angler all year.

When I catch an especially nice trout on a stream with lots of fishing pressure, I always release it, because it's likely to make someone else's day again soon... maybe many times. Maybe you'll even catch it again (I've certainly done that).

The most important thing about keeping fish is that you don't hammer one stream relentlessly. Spread your harvest around... a few here, a few there. Only keep the trout you'll eat in the immediate future. If you want to fill the freezer for the winter, chase panfish or salmon for that purpose instead.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
HighFlyerSeptember 2nd, 2008, 11:49 am

Posts: 24
Yeah, so far, I'm only fishing SE Minnesota where there seems to be a very good supply of stocked fish. Next year, I will also be going up to do some fishing for Lake Trout up in, and near, the Boundary Waters (can't wait for that!).

So what I'm understanding here is that as long as they are stocked streams, there's not much worry. But the wild population, such as the wild Browns in Trout Run Creek where I plan on going on Saturday morning, should be C&R only.

Great advice, as I do want to enjoy the fruits of my labor, but also be as responsible as possible. The only fish I will take from the streams, are the fish that I will eat at the campsite that night. I won't even take extra to bring home. I can eat Walleye there :)

Thanks everyone.
"Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job."
~by Paul Schullery~

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."
~by Henry David Thoreau~
DryflySeptember 2nd, 2008, 2:10 pm
rochester mn

Posts: 133
Actually Trout Run could use some harvest of smaller fish, 8 to 11 inches. It has phenomenal fish per mile stats so a little harvest will not hurt it. Leave the bigger fish as they have the best genes and are the fish that spawn and replenish the stream with more trout. Take all the rainbows you want, they are all stocked. Generally leave the brookies alone. 85% of the trout streams in se mn are self sustaining wild populations of trout. Many streams can handle harvest.
TrtklrSeptember 3rd, 2008, 7:41 am

Posts: 115
my dad always told me everything in moderation. which is what i'm reading mostly here. I only keep a fish if I am hungry for fish that day. and if I happen to have fish in the freezer, as I do now from the one steelhead I kept this year, I will not keep a fish. trout should never make it to the freezer. I'd like to reinforce what softhackle said, stocked fish aren't going to taste as good because they grew up on pellet food. the best tasting fish as someone else said are the small ones. brook trout in my opinion are the best, I just don't come across them so much so when I do catch when I let it go. I have read a trout can grow up to 6 inches in a year, I also read that half the fish in a stream won't be there the next year at the same time, so I wonder how much impact keeping a couple trout a year really has. I have been to a stream that gets fished out by years end and it is so depressing to see a beautiful stream in that shape.
I have seen nothing more beautiful than the sunrise on a cold stream.
HighFlyerSeptember 3rd, 2008, 7:50 am

Posts: 24
Dryfly, your feedback "Leave the bigger fish as they have the best genes and are the fish that spawn and replenish the stream with more trout." was exactly what I was looking for. So keeping the fish in the 8"-11" range is best for the stream, while leaving the larger fish to reproduce.

Perfect. Not that I'm good enough to catch the larger fish yet, but should that happen, I will now consider them C&R only.

Thanks again. And if you happen to be around that morning, I'm staying at the Whitewater State Park and plan on going to Trout Run about 5:30/6am. There's a pretty deep pool towards the beginning of the stream where I think I'll start at, then in the evening go back over to explore more of Whitewater. If you're around, swing by and say hi.

"Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job."
~by Paul Schullery~

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."
~by Henry David Thoreau~
HighFlyerSeptember 3rd, 2008, 7:53 am

Posts: 24
Trtklr, I hear ya and have some of the same questions. These streams in SE Minnesota are beautiful and appear to have a lot of fish, but the problem that I also see is that there are so many people who come down and just sit off the bridges with the spinners and bobbers taking most of the fish. I wish there was a way that these streams could be "Fly fishing only" streams, but that's just me being selfish.
"Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job."
~by Paul Schullery~

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."
~by Henry David Thoreau~
DryflySeptember 3rd, 2008, 2:04 pm
rochester mn

Posts: 133
Highflyer we are talking about the the Big Trout Run not the one in whitewater right? I fished there (big TR) a couple days ago fish were rising to a light hatch of bwo's. It was a lot of fun as I have not fished dries that much this summer. Have fun fishing the rest of the season. shane
TrtklrSeptember 4th, 2008, 5:22 pm

Posts: 115
highfly, we have fly only sections in the rivers here in michigan. some where you cannot harvest fish from. south branch of the au sauble is like this and I was there in the spring when there was a caddis hatch and it was incredible fish were rising everywhere. all you had to do was get in and fish you didn't need to walk anywhere.
I have seen nothing more beautiful than the sunrise on a cold stream.
HighFlyerSeptember 9th, 2008, 6:20 am

Posts: 24, DryFly, I was referring to Trout Run Creek off of the Whitewater. It's a pretty small creek and only a very small portion of it really holds much fish (as far as it looks), but that small portion holds a lot.

I went there again this weekend and had a fish on, but didn't land it. It's all wild Browns there, but they're a little too smart for me yet. There's a pool there where you can literally see over 20 fish just sitting there. Unfortunately, they can see you too and get spooked pretty easily.

Just past the pool I hooked a smaller Brown (I think), but it got off before I could land it.

This past weekend I only did one morning of fishing, because the people that I was with weren't there for the fishing.

Going up to Northern MN the last weekend of the month. We were going to go back down to Whitewater, but it's only C&R season at that time. Plus we are hearing that the northern MN near the North Shore has some great fishing this time of the year. A lot of nice cold streams feeding into the Lake Superior.
"Calling Fly Fishing a hobby is like calling Brain Surgery a job."
~by Paul Schullery~

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."
~by Henry David Thoreau~
TrtklrSeptember 10th, 2008, 10:47 am

Posts: 115
high fly, find those streams that don't have dams and you could find a salmon or steelhead on your fly in northern mn. check your leader strength!
I have seen nothing more beautiful than the sunrise on a cold stream.

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