One man’s rough fish … one man’s ‘other white meat’

Never disparage an angler who appreciates a good meal of bullhead. They are a fine-tasting fish that is appreciated by plenty of anglers across the country. (Image by Tim Lesmeister)

I have a friend who won’t fish a particular lake because if he catches a walleye there, he has to throw it back. He’s never caught a walleye he wouldn’t eat. I toss back loads of walleyes because I prefer northern pike for eating. But my second favorite fish for eating is the bullhead.

Asked me what I like to fish for most, and I’ll say smallmouth bass, but carp come in at a close second thanks to their ability to rip the rod from your hand and fight you to the bitter end.

It amazes me that anglers prefer one species over another and relegate all those other fish that don’t fit the criteria to make their list to the bottom of the barrel.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. “You going to keep that slimy hammer-handle?” Well, yeah, is my reply. Once you learn how to clean the Y-bones out of them, pike fry up real nice.

“You’re fishing for bullheads?” I get that a lot, but when I explain that I was born in Iowa, most cautiously nod their head like they now understand why I would consider such an obscene idea. But again, once you realize you can fillet a bullhead and secure some nice slabs of meat for the frying pan that taste outstanding, does your source of origin really matter?

Many factors influence what an angler chooses to fish, but does one species create a higher level of respect than another? Does an angler using a fly rod on a mountain stream have more credibility than a catfish fisherman on a big lazy river?

In England, respectable anglers release carp. In the U.S., carp fishermen are at the bottom of the angler totem pole. In the southeastern section of the U.S., the largemouth bass receives premier status while the upper midwestern states are walleye and muskellunge country.

The last time I was in California fishing saltwater, a group of anglers laughed at me when I told them I would like to try vertical jigging for rockfish. The salmon bite was nonexistent but the rockfish were aggressive. These guys would rather get skunked on salmon than have fun fishing for what was biting.

In the Pacific Northwest, they hate the northern pike and will wipe out all the fish in a lake where pike have been introduced (obviously by someone that they would hang if they could catch them). In Canada, trophy pike fill resorts.

In Minnesota, even a mention of a potential muskie stocking in a lake will get people screaming because, “Those big pike eat everything and they’ll gobble up all the walleyes.” In Wisconsin, it’s tough to find a lake that hasn’t been stocked with muskellunge.

No matter what species you love and cherish, just remember there are other anglers out there who think you are a lunatic. Their attitudes don’t bother me when I’m eating my beer-battered bullhead.

Categories: Blog Content, Tim Lesmeister

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