What is Meant by the Term "Trash Fish"?

What Do You Consider a "Trash Fish"?

Freshwater drum caught on a jig and pig
This big freshwater drum hit a jig and pig. 2011 Ronnie Garrison, licensed to About.com

What is a trash fish? As you might gather from the name, it's a fish you might consider rubbish, garbage. . . not worth your time.

Many fishermen consider any fish species other than the one they are trying to catch to be a trash fish. Or, you can define a trash fish as one that is not good to eat. For still others, it might be invasive species that we're trying to expel from lakes and rivers.

The term is usually used to refer to non-game species--those not controlled by regulations on catch limits or keeper size.

This doesn't mean, however, that there is no reason to catch these species. Some of them fight hard and are great fun to catch. Here are some examples of "trash fish" you may well want to catch, or even try as fish for the dinner table:

  • Gar (L episosteus spp.) often are considered trash fish because they are not game fish and are usually thought of as inedible. But in fact you can eat gar, and they do fight hard when hooked. Their teeth will cut your line, so it takes a special rig to land them consistently, and they are good to eat if you know how to clean them .
  • Bowfin (Amia calva) are a hard-fighting freshwater fish that are often caught while fishing for other species. They eat minnows and other baits used by fishermen and will hit on many lures, from crankbaits to plastic worms. Some say bowfin can be eaten; although few have tried them, some that have cooked and eaten bowfin do say they are good  eating. ​
  • Freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens) grow big and fight hard. A big one will give you all the fight you can handle on bass tackle. Many people do eat them and say they are very good. Some time ago, a reader response published here drew 19 responses from people who say they do eat freshwater drum and enjoy them. Most freshwater drum are caught while fishing for other species, and they will hit many of the same lures that bass hit. They are often found in the same waters that harbor walleye. A jig and pig is especially good for them.

    There are other species that may be considered trash fish by some anglers. What do you consider trash fish? Do you try to catch them and do you eat them? Let me know in an email.