Bluegill? Bass? Walleye? Muskie? What’s your favorite fish?
Back when Outdoor News Managing Editor Rob Drieslein and I hosted a live radio broadcast on Sunday evenings in the Twin Cities, we would take calls from listeners. Once every year I would ask people to call in and share their favorite fish species. Could be anything from carp to tarpon. Sometimes a caller would say he preferred walleyes in the summertime and panfish in the winter months. Not acceptable, would be my reply: Pick one and only one species to fish for the rest of your life.
An amazing number of anglers preferred bluegills or crappies because they could keep a bunch and eat them all. It became obvious to me that people like eating fish, and a meal of thick panfish fillets was the driving force behind these species’ popularity.
For the catch-and-release crowd, the muskellunge was a big favorite. I have fished muskies over the years and have never understood the infatuation. You have to troll for days or make a million casts to hook one. Sure, they fight hard and create a tremendous photo opportunity, but it’s a ton of time and work to boat one.
Given our location in the Upper Midwest, we rarely heard much about saltwater species. Few anglers have an opportunity to fish for tarpon in Costa Rica or winch huge halibut up in Alaska.
Walleyes have their fair share of admirers, but when the slot limits took hold as part of the management tools for this species, their fan base dropped because anglers who loved the walleye liked to eat them. Releasing most of what they caught was a sacrilege that excommunicated them from the altar of the walleye.
What species would I choose? The rainbow trout. Not any rainbow trout, but the wild trout of the Kenai River in Alaska. How’s that for a specific choice?
We take a drift boat out and slide into a current seam off the low end of a narrows. Rainbows will grab a bead rolling past, and that’s what we rig on a medium-weight spinning rod. You feel the thump when the trout tries to swim off with the bead and you set the hook. There’s no give as the fish starts peeling off line and the drag starts to howl. You watch as the line starts decreasing its angle to the bottom, and then the fish hurls itself from the water, clearing the surface by three feet before landing and making another run.
I’ve caught rainbows over 30 inches on the Kenai, and every year I land some pushing 36 inches. I prefer the trout around 26 inches because they fight the hardest, but I’ll take whatever the resource will provide because – big or small – they all put on a show.
So if you could only pick one species for rest of your life, what would it be?