Sustainible Trout Harvesting

speedbird49

Active Member
I love eating trout. It is one of my favorite fish. Unfortunately, it isn't easy to get unless you get farmed fish which I am sure we all agree isn't as appetizing. I cannot say the thought of eating stocker trout out of Green or Martha lakes is particularly appealing either. The problem is, with Washingtons Rivers being the way they are, I am not sure if it is possible to harvest trout sustainably. Any river with unblocked access to the sea is out of the question for harvesting Rainbows as Hatchery Rainbows would likely be baby Steelhead plants, and Wild Rainbows would either be baby Steelhead, or perhaps the parent of a future Steelhead. Bull and Dolly are Endangered indicator species that looking at other forum posts on here would get me lynched if I killed any.

This leaves me with three options: Upriver Rainbows, Cutthroat, and Alpine Lake stockers. How are our Resident Rainbow/Cutthroat populations? Would it be unethical to harvest returning Sea Runs where legal to do so? Are the Alpine Lake fish my only ethical options? From what I have seen they tend to be on the smaller end, and getting there is quite a chore, but the one Alpine Lake hike I did last Summer was one of the highlights of my year, and I won't complain about more.
 
Last edited:

BaldBob

Retired- Navy Captain,Forester,Forestry Consultant
I love eating trout. It is one of my favorite fish. Unfortunately, it isn't easy to get unless you get farmed fish which I am sure we all agree isn't as appetizing. I cannot say the thought of eating stocker trout out of Green or Martha lakes is particularly appealing either. The problem is, with Washingtons Rivers being the way they are, I am not sure if it is possible to harvest trout sustainably. Any river with unblocked access to the sea is out of the question for harvesting Rainbows as Hatchery Rainbows would likely be baby Steelhead plants, and Wild Rainbows would either be baby Steelhead, or perhaps the parent of a future Steelhead. Bull and Dolly are Endangered indicator species that looking at other forum posts on here would get me lynched if I killed any.

This leaves me with three options: Upriver Rainbows, Cutthroat, and Alpine Lake stockers. How are our Resident Rainbow/Cutthroat populations? Would it be unethical to harvest returning Sea Runs where legal to do so? Are the Alpine Lake fish my only ethical options? From what I have seen they tend to be on the smaller end, and getting there is quite a chore, but the one Alpine Lake hike I did last Summer was one of the highlights of my year, and I won't complain about more.
You forgot about Brookies. They are without a doubt the tastiest "trout" (technically a char) around. Check the regs for which lakes and streams have them. Most places they will be small, but a few places in WA they reach 12-16". As an added benefit its almost impossible to over fish them in most WA waters.
 

Stonefish

Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
I believe you mentioned you like to fish gear as well. Though not trout, Kokanee would be another option.

Recently stocked bows aren’t great table fair in my opinion. There are certain lakes though that put out decent numbers of carryovers. Once a fish has had a year or more in a lake eating natural food rather then hatchery pellets, they can be quite tasty. Some will cut orange or red like a salmon.
Look at stocking reports for smaller lakes that get a decent planting, have good water depth and have limited access. Lots of lakes, especially general season lakes get a big push of activity around the opener then pressure goes way down.
SF
 

Phil Fravel

Friendly
I would have to agree on the Brookies. Another option would be take a Drive down to the Cowlets in August. There are hatchery cutthroat in there then and they are mighty tasty
 

John svah

Active Member
I like to eat my catch too sometimes. Not sure if this is the same in Washington but in Norcal some of our east side alkaline reservoirs have shrimp and fish that when the stockers spend some time eating them, the stockers start to be tasty. What i cant figure out is that some of the tastiest fish i have eaten were some east side (sierra) reservoir trout and some of the grossest, muddiest, horrible, acrid tasting, dog wouldn't eat it fish were also east side reservoir trout.
If Washington stocks eagle lake trout, those are usually yummy.
 

Saltycutthroat

WFF Supporter
Not here-

View attachment 267723
View attachment 267724
This is really the only system that I harvest trout out of anymore. I have to say, they are the best tasting trout I’ve eaten. From early October to Thanksgiving I go for my bag limit each time and try to keep a healthy stock in my freezer to last a couple months.
 

troutpocket

Active Member
For the low lakes, I used to take fish home early in the season. The holdovers in cold water made for good eating. Prime eating size is 12-16” and fry plants were the best. The larger fish and any trout in warmer water tended to get the mud taste. Brookies from the high lakes eat well too.
 

Salmo_g

WFF Supporter
Sustainably harvesting trout for the most part will mean keeping hatchery trout. The Cowlitz example mentioned above is a good choice. Look to lakes where trout are stocked as fingerlings instead of as "catchable" sized fish. Fingerlings will grow up on natural feed, and those are the fish that you want for table fare. Catchable sized stockers are OK if they hold over for a year - same thing as fingerlings, it's that natural feed that makes them suitable for the table.
 

DerekWhipple

Active Member
In the PNW, I think you can go after brook and brown trout guilt-free. The only problem is, the spots where you can catch a good eating brookie or brown, people don't really want to tell you the spots, especially if they know you are gonna keep 'em. I don't have a problem pulling out brown or brook trout when the native fish are redbands or cutts.

I've kept a few wild brown trout around here (Oregon), and while they are perfectly fine fried in butter or on the grill, I don't think they are that great. Most of my brook trout spots, they are pretty small. I've only caught eating size brookies in lakes.

I really have to hit up the cowlitz this fall.
 

speedbird49

Active Member
Sustainably harvesting trout for the most part will mean keeping hatchery trout. The Cowlitz example mentioned above is a good choice. Look to lakes where trout are stocked as fingerlings instead of as "catchable" sized fish. Fingerlings will grow up on natural feed, and those are the fish that you want for table fare. Catchable sized stockers are OK if they hold over for a year - same thing as fingerlings, it's that natural feed that makes them suitable for the table.
I am definitely going to hit the Cowlitz this Fall
In the PNW, I think you can go after brook and brown trout guilt-free. The only problem is, the spots where you can catch a good eating brookie or brown, people don't really want to tell you the spots, especially if they know you are gonna keep 'em. I don't have a problem pulling out brown or brook trout when the native fish are redbands or cutts.

I've kept a few wild brown trout around here (Oregon), and while they are perfectly fine fried in butter or on the grill, I don't think they are that great. Most of my brook trout spots, they are pretty small. I've only caught eating size brookies in lakes.

Chasing Browns and Brookies sounds like a great time.

The WDFW has posted a list of 186 high lakes with overabundant self sustaining populations of wild trout. The state wants more harvesting of fish at these lakes. I know from experience that many of the lakes are an easy hike and have lots and lots of fish.
A lot of the lakes in that list just didn't have any trails to speak of so I gave up on it assuming they would all be that way, but it looks like I missed some. Another problem is road quality. I absolutely love Alpine Lake fishing
 

Support WFF | Remove the Ads

Support WFF by upgrading your account. Site supporters benefits include no ads and access to some additional features, few now, more in the works. Info

Latest posts

Top