Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part Eighty-two

What is Trash Fish to One is Treasure to Another

By Bob Krumm, Sheridan, Wyoming

The scene was all too familiar to me: an angler looked at the fish he had just caught with disdain. He looked around to see how far the bank was and decided he could reach it. He threw the fish, a Goldeye, onto the bank and resumed his fishing.

This type of a fisherman seems to be quite typical for our area. If the fish he or she catches isn't the proper species, he or she kills it. The term that many give to these unwanted fish is "trash fish." Whatever they are called, it rankles me that a person can kill fish without using them.

Let's look at this phenomenon from a different perspective, first of all, through the eyes of a youngster. On Saturday I had the pleasure of guiding a young fellow, Henry Batty, of Sheridan, Wyoming.

Henry had had a long day fly-fishing but with no success. Though he had hooked a couple of trout, they had escaped.

I maneuvered my drift boat into a hole and pulled ashore. I noticed some fish rising to the tan caddis that were hatching so I switched Henry's rig from a nymph to a dry fly, an elk hair caddis.

Henry started casting to the fish, but he soon lost heart and wanted me to put the nymph rig back, but I advised him to stick with it for a few more casts. About five casts later, a fish rose to the fly. Henry set the hook and started reeling. He was consumed with excitement and joy; he had a fish on the end of the line.


After a twenty second tussle, I netted a 14-inch Goldeye. Henry shouted, gave me a "high five" and begged his father, Hugh, to take a photo of his fish. After several photos, Henry released the Goldeye, and resumed fishing with renewed enthusiasm and confidence.

Henry managed to land three trout - two rainbows and a brown - from the pool, but I doubt he would have persevered had he not caught the Goldeye. That fish made the trip for him and turned an unsuccessful day into a very successful one.

Another example of the value of a "trash fish" involves the day I guided a blind fellow on the Snake River many years ago. The fellow operated a spinning outfit quite well. I had rigged it up with a Mepps spinner and whenever I came into a large hole, I would instruct him to cast to the right or left and retrieve the lure.

Over the course of the day, the fellow caught five or six Whitefish - fish that were reviled by local anglers - but the fish that had blessed him by taking his lure awed this fellow.

He would say, "tell me about this fish, describe it, please. Let me touch it."

I would comply and describe the Whitefish, then hold it so that he could stroke it and feel it. He would reply, "beautiful, beautiful."

I really think that we need to look at our fish through the eyes of a youngster and the senses of a blind person. When we do, we might realize that the trash fish is not worthless. It has value and should be treated with respect.

I cannot imagine God, after creating the universe and all the plants and animals that inhabit the world, saying, "That's good, except for the trash fish."

Many anglers who wouldn't think of killing a trout and are imbued with catch and release principles don't treat other species the same way. What happened to catch and release for Whitefish or Goldeye?

If you insist on killing non-trout species, at least make use of them. Whitefish and Goldeye are excellent to eat when they are smoked. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, smoked Goldeye are priced the same as Walleye.

My mother used to send me out in the springtime to catch Carp specifically for fertilizer for our tomato plants. Those Carp grew some of the healthiest, and biggest tomatoes that I have ever seen.

My cat loves to eat boiled Suckers, stunted Perch, and Sunfish. My dogs like boiled fish, too.

One question for trash fish killers: what do you hope to accomplish by killing them? You are not going to eliminate them from the drainage. Most fish species are so prolific that a single pair can produce hundreds of thousands of offspring. Killing a few won't help. You would need to kill darned near every trash fish in the stream to have an effect.

You should also consider the stink and health hazard you create. You probably won't want to fish in the same spot two or three days after you tossed those fish onto the bank.

Look at the fish that is on the end of the line as the biggest and best fish you have on at the moment. Just like a child gets excited over a fish on the line, you should, too. Look at the trash fish as a child or a blind person and you might realize that the trash fish has lots of value. ~ Bob Krumm

About Bob:

Bob Krumm is a first-class guide who specializes on fishing the Big Horn River in Montana, (and if there terrific fishing somewhere else he'll know about that too.) Bob has written several other fine articles for the Eye Of The Guides series. He is also a commericial fly tier who owns the Blue Quill Fly Company which will even do your custom tying! You can reach him at: 1-307-673-1505 or by email at: rkrumm@fiberpipe.net

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