Late October might mean Halloween to some, but to much of the Pacific Northwest’s ag community, it marks the final harvest.

Frost and winter are just around the corner, and it’s time to harvest what was planted, including planted trout.

Oregon stocks five to six million trout annually. This is nothing compared to the 30 million stocked in Idaho. Hatchery trout are so prevalent in the United States that they are the most numerous invasive species in North America, surpassing the common carp, largemouth bass, bluegill and both eastern and western mosquitofish simply by the sheer volume churned out by hatcheries every year.

According to the Invasive Species Initiative, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness about the world’s “Top 100 Invasive Species,” rainbow trout represent at least as large a problem as kudzu, cane toads and the European red fox.

Hatchery trout outcompete native species like trout have done in New Zealand. Where native trout exist, hatchery fish pollute genetic stock and create hybrids. These hybrid and hatchery-infused progeny can carry whirling disease, a parasite now found in at least 25 states and still spreading. Hatchery fish also lack natural immunities to native bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Hatcheries serve an important role, though. Not only do they help preserve and manage genetic stocks or rare or diminishing species, but they also help to feed the screaming demand for catch-and-keep fisheries nationwide.

Without hatcheries, wild fish stocks would suffer untold abuse.

Trout fishing is insanely popular, and for good reason. Trout are beautiful, fun to catch, and appeal to bait, lure and fly fishermen alike.

Wildlife managers didn’t always understand the problems hatchery fish can create, and these stocking programs began in good faith. Then again, stocking programs in ideal circumstances wouldn’t cause these problems now. In most instances, hatchery rainbow trout are not planted to establish a new species; they’re planted to create a put-and-take fishery for sport anglers. The only time fish establish is when they’re not all harvested or eaten prior to the spawn.

You can do your part to help curb the spread of this unlikely villain by getting out and harvesting some hatchery ’bows this fall — before they begin spawning.

Harvest blessings

While others are out hunting deer, watching football or carving pumpkins, I find myself on the water. The fishing for large native trout is phenomenal this time of year, and responsible anglers release all wild fish.

Hatchery trout, on the other hand, also provide excellent fishing this time of year and are intended for consumption. Planters reach peak size in October, having gorged all summer long on wild foods that actually make their meat somewhat flavorful and potentially even that deep pink color seen in larger, wild fish. Further, the water has cooled enough to make the texture of that meat firmer and more palatable.

Now is the time to make like Marshawn Lynch and taste the rainbow.

When fishing for harvest, I typically use two rods. Most places receiving hatchery rainbows are lakes, which means the Two-Rod Angling License is a necessity. Typically, I’ll soak half of an inflated nightcrawler or green, orange and yellow PowerBait on one rod while casting a one-quarter ounce hammered silver Little Cleo or similar slow-moving spoon with the other. Limits are all but guaranteed in the popular hatchery lakes — especially in low water conditions.

Larger fish can be filleted, but I typically gut hatchery trout and cook them whole. From there, it’s off to the smoker (the most work), the frying pan (some work) or the barbecue (the least work).

You can simply cook them whole with a few slices of your fruit, some salt, pepper, and olive oil, but hatchery trout are not known for their excellent flavor or texture. Consider spicing things up with the recipe above and try out “Thai Pumpkin Trout,” served with fresh green beans or okra and a side of wild rice.

Bon appétit.



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