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Here’s Why Garbage Fish Don’t Always Deserve Such a Bad Reputation

garbage fish

They’re not all bad.

Trash fish, garbage fish, garbage mouth, or rough fish. While there are a lot of names, they all describe fish that are not a desirable game species. You are probably thinking of a few right now, for several different reasons. Some fish are not good for eating, others don’t put up a fight, some are believed to be killers. I’m guilty of harboring a few prejudices towards fish species. I’m working on this and the more I learn, the more I tolerate, or in some cases, like what I once thought to be garbage.


Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest

All the gar species have been labeled as garbage. The alligator gar having it the worst being targeted for elimination, even by state and federal authorities. Now, lets take a step back and look at the gar species as a whole. This is a fish that has remained relatively unchanged since the Cretaceous period with some reaching sizes of eight feet long and over 300 pounds. Who wouldn’t want to hook into something like that? Imagine the drag that thing pulls, even the smaller ones.


The freshwater drum has stolen many a bait off of my crawler harnesses when walleye fishing. I’m not mad, I don’t think a fish that fights this hard could make me mad. I have to admit, I don’t eat this fish and probably never will. It’s all because of what the fish themselves eat, zebra mussels. I have heard this fish is great eating when smoked or the back straps are cut small and fried. Personally, I would rather let it go so the fish will continue to eat the invasive zebra mussels.


Image via wikipedia
Image via wikipedia

Some and possibly most of you are looking at this and are arguing that catfish are not a rough fish. Well that depends on where you live. Being a Michigan native I believed that this was one of the worse trash fish out there. I have never been so happy to be wrong when I pulled up a 37 inch channel cat that my wife convinced me to keep. All members of the catfish family are terrific eating. I probably don’t have to go into detail about how fun they are to catch, but they are the most unique and fun to catch.


Common, buffalo, grass carp, all of them deserve to be taken off of the trash list. This species has been targeted by fly anglers and for a good reason, they are fun. Carp fight hard and apparently taste pretty well. Buffalo carp are some of the most widely sold and eaten fish in the U.S. Bow fishing for these are a bit controversial but that is fun too. Carp also thrive in bodies of water that other fish can’t survive in. This fish offers angling opportunities across the globe in bodies of water that might not offer fish.


Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest

Dogfish, mud fish, and mud pike are some amazing fighters. If you have had the fortune of hooking into one you know that they can put up a fight better than almost any game fish. These fish are elusive and can be tricky to catch which makes this worth the pursuit. Bowfin also have one of the most unique uses, “Cajun caviar”. Regulations on sturgeon have created a market for caviar substitutes. Dogfish roe is collected and processed into caviar, the fish are also captured for their meat.


This one I just don’t understand. Smoking suckers is a Michigan classic. If you think of most suckers as being inedible you need to make a trip to the Midwest.

White Bass and White Perch

Full disclosure I have yet to taste test this fish, but I will. I won’t say that these species are exceptionally great fighters, but apparently they taste fine. In fact most people I have talked would describe them as “Damn Tasty.”


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Here’s Why Garbage Fish Don’t Always Deserve Such a Bad Reputation