As a fly fisherman that predominately is a catch and release fisherman, I hate hearing the phrase “trash fish”. The definition is, “a fish having little or no market value as human food”. That does not mean they can’t be eaten. Saltwater trash fish like the Lion Fish have been found to be quite the tasty table fare. VERY careful preparation is required for these fish’s venomous spines though. Stingrays are always getting in the way of Redfish and Sea Trout but they are actually pretty good eating. The rumors of them being pawned off as scallops is still out for debate but they are tasty. Most of the fish that fall into this category need a little more preparation to be eaten but are still good for the table.
In sweet-water fishing, Gar, Carp, Bowfin, Pickerel or “Jackfish”, are some of the top names associated to this moniker. Personally I like to target these fish. They usually put up a hell of a fight and can really put your gear to the test on a fly rod. After a quick picture I release them to swim and fight again.
In past years I have seen a lot of groups stage tournaments around some of these fish. Bringing anglers together to support a great cause or charity or just to have fun. I have tangled with Gar on the fly and it is a blast! The Gar Bros Collective is a group of folks that all love the chase and share tips and tricks on catching these pre-historic fish.
One of the things I hate to see is a gar floating by with its beak broken off or laid up on the bank, tossed there because someone “hates trash fish”, or seeing a big carp tossed into the rocks to rot away. Trash fish are not the sexy fish everyone wants. Largemouth Bass are the kings of sweet-water and people will go out of their way to make sure they are not harmed if they choose not to keep them. Why not other fish. Gar and Bowfin love the same food as bass and can get in the way or a bass fisherman’s limit for a tournament or day of fishing but take these guys for what they are. A fun fight and let them swim on their way. I have lost many flies to bowfin, it was frustrating at first then it became a personal challenge.
If you enjoy the fight of a fish, I encourage folks to give them a shot as a game fish. Look for them and try to catch them. In my humble opinion a Gar on the fly fights five-times harder than any bass I have caught and to me is a lot more fun. So remember those of us who love these fish and let ‘em swim when you catch them.