Friday, July 29, 2011

Going Local ... Eat More Brook Trout

Good... and good for you.
Eat more brook trout. 

I know, I know… that might seem like an odd bit of advice to the average fly fisher, but bear with me.

I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Hank Shaw recently. Hank is the author of “Hunt, Gather, Cook,” a new book based on his blog, Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook. Hank's a “locovore,” meaning he’s like a lot of us who have decided the time is right to start thinking a bit more critically about our food sources, where they originate and how they’re grown.

Locally, for instance, it’s becoming more vogue to farm your own chickens for both the eggs and, after an egg-laying hen stops producing in a couple years, the meat. With a permit, chickens are allowed within the city limits in many communities, and classes are available to anyone interested in learning how to raise laying hens at home. In addition to allowing poultry, it’s also fashionable to visit the area’s many farmers markets to pick up locally grown greens, meats, cheeses and canned goods. With reasonable certainty, these products are far superior to store-bought goods, can be competitively priced, and they come with the assurance that they were farmed or grown locally.

The locovore movement is gaining steam, and not just from the poultry and market crowd. Many in the locovore community are returning to—or discovering for the very first time—hunting and fishing. As Shaw says in the introduction of his book, “We live in an edible world. It’s all around us if you look closely.”

Shaw’s book, "Hunt, Gather, Cook," is essentially an advice-laden cookbook on how to prepare all kinds of wild game and edible plants. It notes that the self-sufficiency that comes with finding and preparing your own meals might be what saves hunting and fishing, two pastimes that are currently on the decline. The challenge, though, is for these “new” sportsmen and women to find their niche, determine their skills and then go about getting the meat or their fish in a way that’s ethical and responsible.

Which brings us to brook trout.

Many of us here in the Rockies know just how tasty brook trout can be when fried lightly over a campfire, dusted with a little salt and pepper and served up hot. They can also be smoked into a finished product that rivals smoked salmon.

And, they’re not native to the area—they’re essentially noxious invaders of the fishy variety. Killing and eating brook trout is hardly a sin (I’ve been doing it for years, and my priest has yet to scold me for it).

But why stop at brookies? As many in the angling community know, invasive lake trout are literally eating away at the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout population in Yellowstone Lake. On the South Fork of the Snake River, non-native rainbow trout are hybridizing with native cutthroats and altering the genes of the fish that literally gave the South Fork its sterling reputation as a dry fly river.

One solution? Knock them over the head and take them home. There might not be a better source of clean, easy-to-acquire table fare than wild trout or char (brookies and lakers are in the latter category). Smoked, fried, poached, baked—it’s all good, and it’s good for you.

The next time you’re casting flies to willing brook trout in the small waters of eastern Idaho, see for yourself. Thump a couple over the head and enjoy a little streamside snack. Or take them home and share a healthy meal with the family.

You’ll be doing them—and our irreplaceable native trout—a big favor. 

Happy eating.


  1. Nicely said Chris! May I also suggest knocking over head any other noxious critter, fins or not, two legs or four.

  2. So, if we take this literally, it is fine to take and eat Rainbows and Browns too, neither native to the area. I'm not adverse to this; I've kept on occasion both. We should be clear though, what fish are 'native', and which are introduced. And what do we want as an we want our rivers and lakes to be entirely 'native'? If so, how would we accomplish this? Are we after some compromise, wherein the cutthroat, greyling and whitefish have a good chance to survive? Or do we want some kind of balance, where the current fish all are 'native', spawning and living in the same stream? Tough questions, and no easy answers.

  3. Local produce is a lot more fresh than imported food products.