White fish: fertilizer or good eaten?

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strawberry shortcake

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My grandma and I fished together (well, she fished and tried to keep me away from the river bank) when I was little. In Spring, she kept all the whitefish and buried them in her corn hills. Otherwise she would throw them back, or throw them off to the side to feed them to the wild animals.

Last season I kept catching the same quite large whitefish in a deep slow moving section of the Wallowa River. After the third time dragging this no-fighter out of the water I thought what the heck, I was going to eat the darned thing just to get back at it for eating my worms.

Once home I split it opened and it was filled with two huge slabs of bright orange roe (no wonder it was such a big fish). Anyway, I coated it in seasonings, and a dusting of flour and cornmeal. Then I fried it in a bit of bacon grease. The bones were large and easy to dispense with, though great in number, and the rather scaly skin came off easily. The surprise was in the taste. Oh my! Not such a fishy taste and sweeter than trout. Kinda reminded me of fresh crab. If I catch another one that big, I sure will be eating it.
 
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fisherwilly

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I started smoking whitefish after seeing smoked whitefish fillets for $10 a pound in Safeway. The great thing about whitefish is that nobody else likes to keep them.
 
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RLK

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I know people who would rather keep the whitefish than a trout. Try skinning one first before cooking.
 
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Moe

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so where do you find these whitefish, and can you catch them on worms? Are there any in the sandy or the Clack?
 
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strawberry shortcake

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I live in Wallowa and Umatilla Counties and I haven't fished the Sandy or the Clackamas rivers. They are thick as thieves in the Wallowa River.
 
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cookshot

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This might be a dumb question, what exactly is a whitefish? I always thought they were the same thing as squaw (or pikeminnow) and I would definitely not eat one of those. But now I'm thinking I may have been confused all this time.
 
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RLK

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This might be a dumb question, what exactly is a whitefish? I always thought they were the same thing as squaw (or pikeminnow) and I would definitely not eat one of those. But now I'm thinking I may have been confused all this time.
Not a dumb question most people think of them as squaw type fish but they are not. Squaw fish will eat everylast egg in the redds if given a chance. this is why a lot of fisheries have bounties on them If i'm correct the columbia still has a bounty on them. As all fish white fish will eat eggs but it isn't there main source of food, they eat a lot of insects. Everytime I hook one while steelhead fishing they hit like a freight train to get your blood pumping, then all done time to real in dead weight. I have eaten squaw fish chillie before and i would rather eat tree bark.
 
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strawberry shortcake

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Plus you can't kill the darned things. No brain to whack, gills as tough as leather, they don't learn to swim away -far far away- after being caught, and their mouth and throat are so hard that when you remove a swallowed hook, it doesn't pull guts out. Which is why you can catch the same one time after time in under an hour.

Good thing about the mouth, I have never lost a favorite lure, spinner, or whatever else they swallowed. You can retrieve it and still not kill the fish.

RLK, you are right on about the hit. WHAM!!!! Then nothin. You drag the dang thing in thinking you have hit a large log and then thank the good Lawd no one was watching you fight what turns out to be a dead weight fish.

They like slack midstream water and slow water next to muddy grassy banks. They are bottom feeders and are sometimes referred to locally as mud suckers. But the one I caught had a crawdad, rocks, and nymphs in its gut, along with my nightcrawlers. Still hate to admit it, but I intend on keeping these fish, it tasted that good.
 
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TTFishon

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I caught about a 15 inch whitefish two years ago and it fought just as good at a 15 inch trout would have. In fact I thought it was a trout until I got it to the bank.
 
troutdude

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Squawfish and a Northern Pikeminnow are the same specie.

As I was growning up (40 + years ago), my dad despised them because they infiltrated good bass/crappie/bluegill/catfish waters. Anytime that we caught a squawfish, we tossed them up on the bank and left them there. Period.

To this day, I haven't eaten one. I was always told that they are worthless table fare. Sorry folks, just the way that I was brought up. If you enjoy them, that's cool. At least you are removing them from our waters where warm water gamefish live. And, it helps those fish to flourish.
 
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the_intimidator03

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I do know that the Northern Pikeminnow ( or squawfish as some of you call em) are native and i do believe whitefish are native as well just not too sure on the whitefish, They are completely different species. Take the time to learn to identify, its very handy
 
troutdude

troutdude

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That used to be my sentiment too (for almost 50 years). But, since this thread started I've done some additional reading. The whitefish is actually a close cousin of the trout family (just like arctic char's are also related). They are reported to be flavorful and have similar bone structure.

I still, however, cannot picture myself eating a "sucker" fish of any kind...whitefish, chub, or pikeminnow (squawfish).
 
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TTFishon

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I let all the so called trash fish go. I don't care what the haters think. They're here, they're living, let them live.
 
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Growbug

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Caught a couple (plus) of Whitefish myself in the Upper Molalla. They will hit almost anything that is presented to them ALONG THE BOTTOM, so drift fishing, spinners, bait, etc, that works on trout/salmon/steelies will inevitably pull in a Whitefish if they are in the river.
Dead on right about the WHAM as they take the bait, you will immediately think its something MUCH bigger and scrappier than the char that you land. Yes, they are Char! That's also what some of the local "trout" are, so whitefish = "trout(ish)"
Some of my 'native american' friends around here LOVE Whitefish as it was an old delicacy and i have heard campfire stories that families back in the 'old days' would go out and catch Whitefish and throw the TROUT back in!!
As to eat?? YES definitely try one. As noted, a little sweeter than trout and have a fantastic texture.

+1 NOT Trash Fish!
 
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RLK

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This is what a little research can do. I hope the links Iposted earlier have helped. Now there are a few more fisherman who know the truth of the whitefish. It's not TRASH, it's not squaw and it is not pikeminnow. Now I am heading down to the river to leave a steelie on the bank.
Rich

P.S. And no I'm not going to leave a steelie on the bank
 
troutdude

troutdude

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Just for the record, I didn't say to kill the "trash" fish. I only said that's what I USED to do, and it was due to how I was raised.

I only said that I personally would not find it in me, to eat one.

I have caught and released literally dozens of those fish in recent years. Maybe I didn't make that clear enough earlier.
 
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RLK

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Just for the record, I didn't say to kill the "trash" fish. I only said that's what I USED to do, and it was due to how I was raised.

I only said that I personally would not find it in me, to eat one.

I have caught and released literally dozens of those fish in recent years. Maybe I didn't make that clear enough earlier.

Sounded like somebody else was saying to kill them. You were clear, tons and tons of people used to do the same thing, I am one of them. until i heard how good they were and did a little research on them, up the bank they went. The past is the past and oh well. Good fishing TD.
 
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