Most anglers rate the brook trout as “the best eatin’ fish ever,” as a friend puts it. Anyone who has had the pleasure of eating pan fried or barbecued brookies will agree that it’s one of the best when it comes to eating fish. We’re talking fresh water and not salt water fish here, of course. There are many who will argue that brook trout can’t compare to striped bass or flounder for table fare but, like I said, we’re talking fresh water fish here.
When it comes to frying up brook trout, the smaller fish are better. To me, large brook trout, 10 inches or more, tend to taste a bit muddy or earthy – I can’t think of more appropriate words to describe the damp, river bottom flavour of large brookies.
Brown trout, even the smaller fish, aren’t as tasty as brook trout. The same goes for rainbow trout. Browns and rainbows have a bit too much river bottom flavour for me, but I suppose with a bit of experiment with various condiments they can be perked up and made tasty.
Fish for fish, I believe white perch and smallmouth bass stand out as superb table food, even when compared to brook trout. To me, pan fried filets of smallmouth bass taste a lot like striped bass; pan friend filets of white perch are a close second.
Now, when it comes to eating fish not classified as a sporting species, the lowly gaspereau rates near the top. For hundreds of years the run of gaspereaux has been a traditional spring fare in the Maritimes. Never mind that nonsense about the gaspereau being to bony to enjoy. Dining on the pale, slightly oily flesh of the gaspereau (which is high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids) is worth the effort of picking out a few thousand bones from each fish.
You could employ a method of preparing gaspereaux a friend told me about a few years ago. After it has been cleaned and the scales and head removed, lay the fish on its side, cut along its length and remove the lower half of the body. This eliminates most of the rib cage and three quarters of the bones; what’s left is might good eating.
Here on the Gaspereau River and down the Valley on the Annapolis and Nictaux River I’ve never heard of this fish being called anything but a gaspereau. They’re referred to as kiack in other areas of the province, which might come from the Mi’kmaq word ki’ak.
Gaspereaux will take a fly, by the way. I’ve caught gaspereaux in the Gaspereau River using size 12 yellow wet flies. I’ve had to argue with federal fisheries officers on more than one occasion when doing so, however. They told me I couldn’t legally angle for gaspereau, yet below me on the river fishermen were catching thousands of them in their nets on every tide.
Difficult to find nowadays is the finest fish treat of them all, smoked gaspereau. At one time there were at least half a dozen smokehouses operating in the Gaspereau Valley when the spring run was on, all turning out smoked gaspereau. I’m only aware of one smokehouse operating today in this area and good luck if you can get on the waiting list for a few of these golden, smoked goodies.