Monday, September 17, 2007

Biologically friendly eats: Crooked River Whitefish

Letle and I went to the Crooked River today for some fly fishing. We were targeting Whitefish specifically, destined for the smoker.

I've had this plan, see. The Crooked River has tons of trout, from 3,000 - 4,000 per mile, depending on who you talk to or what year the report you are reading was written in. They are native, and naturally reproducing, and amazingly -- people are allowed to kill them. Only two per person per day, but any native trout to my mind needs to be protected no matter what -- stockers are for killing. That's a different matter though, I digress.

Back to The plan -- Whitefish in the Crooked River are extremely abundant; enormously abundant; rabidly abundant. They outnumber the trout 10:1, and compete with the trout for food. They are natives as well, but not as popular for food so although there is no size or bag limit for them, few are killed by fishermen. The more whitefish removed from the Crooked River, the bigger and healthier the trout will become. I bought myself a smoker (the best way to cook whitefish) and plan to catch and eat as many as I can over the course of my life to help out these lovely little trout. This is wild food, "free" (I know, gas and tackle etc, but you know what I mean), and ecologically sound.

I've had some of my favorite fly fishing experiences on the Crooked river, when fishing catch and release for trout. I can't count the times I've made the drive just to do that type of fishing. This plan takes the same trip and adds bonuses to it, for me and for the river. It's great to use something I enjoy recreationally in this manner. A fly rod is a perfect tool for the selective removal of one fish species while not harming others. Trout caught are released immediately, though there is enough difference in the favored habitats for trout and whitefish that very few, if any, trout are hooked at all. Today, I didn't bring a single trout to hand, but landed probably 14 whitefish (losing so many more I'm loathe to publish an estimate).

I have to go look up a good brine recipe for the fish so I can get them prepped for smoking tomorrow.

Enjoy your systems thinking,



crystal said...

i loved this post! can't wait for the step by step of how to smoke fish. I want to do the exact same thing with the fish I catch. I'm hoping you are doing the type of smoking that preserves fish for a longer amount of time, I can't remember if it's cold smoked or hot smoked that preserves for longer.

Bpaul said...

I can't remember either. I do know I'm freezing these to keep them, not depending on the smoke to preserve them more than just extending their freezer life.

I believe the longest preservation time involves the highly technical "smoking and drying the hell out of them" style. Like the NW indians used to do with salmon. Zero moisture left in the fish when you are done. Not as palatable, but no electricity necessary to preserve them.