Some of those fish you are throwing back may be worth more than you think. Here is how you go from trash fish to treasure fish.
Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, fishing was a regular part of life. We ran catfish lines in the Coldwater River, fished for crappie in Enid reservoir, and bass in farm ponds. Any fish that we did not like to eat, we considered trash fish.
Here is a hint for you. Any fish that is good "if you know how to cook it" is worth a hefty dose of skepticism.
Trash Fish to Treasure Fish
Maybe you have had the occasion to snag a "spoonbill." We thought that paddlefish did not bite hooks but it turns out they just do not eat any sort of traditional baits.
Paddlefish feed on zooplankton it filters from the water as this video illustrates:
A fish we despised was the "grinnel," more commonly known as the bowfin. Vicious predators that had a mouth full of teeth, a bad attitude, and looked like something out of Jurassic Park.
Thanks to an ability to survive in a puddle of spit and ferocious appetites, bowfin are known to completely take over fishing holes.
Who knew that this too would become a fish of value?
Cash for Trash
I remember hearing from my dad that some locals had started netting paddlefish on purpose to harvest the eggs. It turns out that the paddlefish is closely related to the sturgeon, the traditional source of caviar.
I do not know who first decided to eat paddlefish eggs but I have not yet been that hungry. At $23 an ounce in gourmet stores, someone somewhere must sure like them a lot.
But that's not all.
Later on while browsing a gourmet catalog, I discovered they also sold bowfin caviar, currently priced at $5 an ounce. That's $80 a pound, folks. For grinnel eggs?
You have to wonder, what else are we throwing back, walking over, or turning up that is treasure in disguise?