Fishy Trout?

It boggles my mind.

People describe things in different ways. I understand that. We pull from different experiences, see our own versions of things. We prefer different foods for different reasons. But when someone says their piscine meal tastes "fishy," I tend to think pretty much everyone is on the same page as to what that means. Anyone who has eaten a decent amount of fish likely understands how distinct that "fishy" taste is (anyone who has only ever eaten fish once probably does as well...though they may have incorrectly attributed it to all fish).

That's why I don't understand how my experiences and description of what tastes "fishy" can differ so significantly and basically from what I hear and read from others.

This certainly is not the first time I've noticed someone mention the "fishy" taste associated with trout and salmon, and (not to pick on Mr. Streeter, but) I just don't get it.

Don't get me wrong, I do think the pink-orange flesh of a trout or salmon is a little more full-flavored than a white flesh, but at worst, it's like comparing whole milk to skim. It isn't (inherently) a "fishy" flavor. That's not to say I haven't had "fishy" trout or salmon, but like most any fish, that is due to improper preparation or storage (or, as I've noticed, sometimes having been freshly stocked).

The other thing I don't get is fish eaters who prefer panfish to the "too fishy" trout. Now, I don't eat a lot of fish, but drawing from 20-something years of solid-food experience, panfish (sunfish, bluegill, even perch and bass) have outscored trout and salmon on the occurrences of "fishiness" at least 4-to-1. I do like to pride myself on preparing certain foods...maybe I just can't handle panfish prep.

Or maybe my sense of taste is confused as to what "fishy" means. Seeing how I have personally convinced at least three (3) people, contrary to their individual and long-held beliefs, of trout/salmon's utter lack of "fishiness" by preparing it for them, I just cannot accept that.

So we are at an impass, trout-haters. I realize that there are other reasons to dislike eating trout (too fatty, too bony, too delicious) as opposed to other fish, but if you believe it to taste too "fishy", please consider the following:

-Are you sure your experiences to-date have included fresh trout cared for and prepared properly? Have skin, dark meat, and any other "waste" been properly removed? Has it possibly sat too long either before or after cooking? We all know to stay away from "fishy"-smelling fish, but there may be other subtleties that you are not yet aware of.
-Can the "fishiness" be attributed to hatchery-fresh fish or fish from poor living conditions or strange diet?
-Can fishiness be species-specific? I have never eaten a char, but it seems strange that so many people love the way brook-trout taste, but hate the way lake-trout taste (perhaps attributable to diet?). I have eaten Great Lakes king and coho salmon and steelhead, eastern New York stocked rainbow and brown trout, wild Alaskan king salmon and farmed Atlantic salmon in the past. To me, none of these have been inherently "fishy" tasting.

Where else can this "fishy" trout perception be coming from? I guess it would be better to perpetuate it and leave more fish for C&R and occasionally my plate, but I'm just so confused I wish someone would at least explain it to me.

Hey, maybe it is just a conspiracy to keep the hands of others off the true prize.


Margaret said…
I totally agree and have had similar thoughts a few times. Maybe it's because we're from the same family and have had similar food experiences, although we do tend to have very different food preferences. (ie: I hate herbs, spicey stuff, shrimp, and lobster tails.) Anyway, the reason I love salmon so much is because it doesn't taste/smell as fishy as many other fish. It also doesn't have as fishy of a texture - a very important thing for me. So, yeah, what are those crazy peeps talkin' about? Salmon and trout are the least fishy fish.
AnglerNorth said…
I've never found fresh trout that I've caught to taste "fishy" whether it's been stocked or not.

I have had salmon smell and taste a bit stronger at restaurants. But I assume that since I'm not spending $150 a plate, this fish may be more than hours old..

I know it's taboo, but maybe you'll share one of your favorite recipes on this blog?
FoulHooked said…
"It also doesn't have as fishy of a texture - a very important thing for me."

I think a lot of people like the lighter, flakier texture of panfish. The fuller texture and flavor of fish like salmon, tuna, swordfish, etc, seems to turn some people off too.

anlgernorth - good idea...don't have many but I'll throw what I like up soon. I posted my favorite salmon "recipe" on DayTripper's blog comments somewhere.

I should note that I've restricted my "commercially available" salmon diet to 1 night a year (Fish Night aka Christmas Eve) due to overfishing and fish-pen-farming issues. That was kind of a tough decision, but I felt it was appropriate.
Flying Ties said…
I love trout, though the last bit of steelhead that I had tasted metallic.

Found this article today...
FoulHooked said…
"Trout has a subtle taste. Unlike many kinds of fish, it doesn't have that strong flavor that often turns picky eaters away from seafood for good."

How can there be such a disconnect between what people consider a strong seafood flavor? That's my question. I'm definately on board with this guy. To me, it isn't a preference's an inherent quality of a factual nature. I may like coffee and you may prefer tea, but we can both agree that coffee is more bitter.

Thank's for the article, have to try some of those recipes.
Anonymous said…
I might have cooked the trout wrong, but recently when looking in the grocery store I found such a deal on sea trout I couldn't pass it up. Seeing as I love to experiment with new dishes and tastes I decided to try to fix it using the recipe on the back of the box even though I've never cooked trout before.

It was very simple, salt pepper and butter, bake at 350 for 15 minutes, let set then serve.

I don't know how I managed to mess this dish up, but I took one bie and gagged. The flavor was so overwhelming that I littereally couldn't eat it, and neither could my husband.
FoulHooked said…
I don't know that I've ever had sea-trout...and depending on what they meant by "sea-trout," I don't have a clue as the best way to prepare them (spotted- or speckled-sea trout are not salmonids, but part of the drum family, some of which are decidedly less appetizing than others). Regardless, there are any number of reasons it could have turned out poorly, and it wasn't likely your fault. I do prefer to cook my fish hot and short however (400+ degrees for as short a time as will allow the fish to almost cook will continue to cook after the heat is removed). If you had quality fish, it would have been near impossible to mess it up with that recipe. Maybe it wasn't quite as fresh as you had hoped, or maybe even sea-trout just aren't that tasty.
Unknown said…
River trout are delicious, lake trout (in most cases) are vile. They taste very "fishy" as in off fish, old fish, and quite earthy/muddy. You just have to google it to see how many people have this issue and what they do to make the things edible. I LOVE fish, i'm in Scotland and we have wonderful lakes and rivers, as well as a vast coastline however trout is the only one I struggle with. Delicious from rivers, awful from lochs.Makes for great fish jerky though, just dry em out over a fire and you;re good to go.

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