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Into the Outdoors: Trout Season

Before we get to the meat of this week’s column, I would like to mention a couple of other things. I saw my first robin of the year in my own yard. I also saw my first groundhog of the year. I know others have already seen, but this was a first for me. There are buds on my lilac bush. I find these signs of spring to be wonderful.

By the time you read this, another first day of trout season will have come and gone. As of this writing, I have not decided whether or not to go. I know how crowded it will be, and I find that somewhat unpleasant. I will probably wait until the upcoming weekend.

When you come right down to it, if I had to pick a favorite way to eat fresh trout, it would be, I think, for breakfast. There’s just nothing else quite like trout filets, with the skin left on, alongside a couple of sunny side eggs and home fries. Top it all off with toast, and you have a breakfast fit for a king. For this, I like the filets coated in flour and skillet fried.

Trout are also good when fried whole, with, of course, the entrails removed. Here, you have the option of leaving the heads on or cutting them off. I usually remove them, as that’s just the way my dad taught me to do. Flavor wise, it doesn’t really matter at all. Deep frying is my preferred method of preparing trout this way. Often, you can remove most of the bones with one pull. Some always seem to get left in the fish, though, so you still have to pick through them. Personally, I hate doing that, so I nearly always filet my catch.

When it comes to fish for smoking, trout are really hard to beat. There are so many pre-smoker brining solutions out there that I couldn’t begin to cover them all. The biggest hazard lies in getting the fire too hot. Low and slow are the keys here. If your fire is too hot, the end product will have the texture and, possibly the taste, of last year’s sneakers. When I smoke trout, I like to leave the bones in. For some reason, I sort of enjoy picking through them in smoked fish. Also, whole fish are much less likely to dry out than filets. Filets are good, too, but you have to keep a close eye on them.

Although I’ve never tried it, I’ve read that you can make something similar to ham salad with smoked trout. You just follow the ham salad recipe, but substitute the smoked trout for the ham. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to give that a try this year. If I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out. I had every intention of trying this one last year, but it just didn’t happen. Maybe 2022 is the year.

All of this, of course, raises the issue of catch and release fishing. Due in large part, I think to television fishing shows, some anglers have a genuine aversion to keeping and eating trout. While I certainly see nothing wrong with catch and release, I also see nothing wrong with catch and eat. I have to say that I really wonder how many stocked trout actually winter over in local streams. Put and take fishing seems to lend itself well to enjoying some great meals.

On another front, the Game Commission cautions us to leave young wildlife alone when we encounter them in the woods. All too often, well meaning people mistakenly think that young animals have been abandoned by their mothers. Usually, this is not the case, and disturbing or handling the cute little critters can lead to a multitude of problems. Sometimes, the fact that they were handled by humans will cause the mother to abandon them for real. Also, it’s common knowledge that wildlife moms often take exception to having their young fondled, with sometimes devastating results. And finally, you can get a nasty bite, and could end up taking rabies shots. It’s best to just look at them and leave them alone.

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