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There Are No Trash Fish

Published: 2nd September 2021 | Author: Sean Platt

The term trash fish is one that I have heard often, and it is a phrase that has baffled me as long as I’ve been an angler. Who are we to decide the importance or value of a fish? Furthermore, what are the metrics we base these decisions on? What qualifies a species as a trash fish?

In search of picky fall fish.

Wild and Native

While planning a trip this summer a client asked where we could find wild, native browns. I kindly informed them that browns aren’t native to this area and that most of the ones we have are stocked. To say they were perplexed would be an understatement. They wanted wild native fish, so I suggested a small brook trout stream with heritage trout…too small. “Well, what about some Fall Fish?” There was a long pause and then they asked if I was joking. I wasn’t, I told them that fallies are native, wild, fight well and are, in my opinion, beautiful. They were shocked.

How can you hate one of these?

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

When we say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we forget to mention that the status quo also has a huge influence in what we consider to be of value or beautiful. Rather than rant and rave about how all fish have value, I want to ask a few questions.

Gross 😉

Think of a fish that you might be bummed to catch or that you might roll your eyes at. Is it a sucker, bowfin, pumpkin seed, whitefish, or carp? Now list ten things that make it a trash fish. I mean things that truly qualify it as a trash fish. If any of your reasoning is based on what someone else said or what the industry has told you, then consider doing a bit of a deeper dive into your evaluation. In most cases I think you’ll find that you don’t really have much evidence.

I’d take one of these beasts over a stocked trout any day.

Let’s take it a little further. Can you think of a time when you had a fish on, and it was putting up a great fight and you didn’t know what or how big it was? How excited were you? Then come to find out it wasn’t the species you were targeting and somehow the experience lost value. Interesting, isn’t it? Kind of crazy really.

Sometimes trash fish require strong tippet.

Lastly, and to build on the previous paragraph, if the fish in question ate your fly because you were trying to fool a different species, and that fish lives in the same water and eats the same way…why then wouldn’t you be psyched to have more opportunities? Isn’t fishing ultimately about the process and not the result?

Ask Yourself Some Hard Questions

While I doubt that this article will make you abandon your favorite species in pursuit of something you have long harbored as a trash fish, I hope it does make you ask yourself a few questions. I think as anglers, keeping open minds and expanding our practices is one of the best ways to grow and progress. Hope to see you on the water soon. 

To read more from Sean, head over to his profile on the blog by clicking here.

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