Trout is both a popular table fish, as well as a sports fish. Some anglers rate their recreational value over their table value so choice to practice catch and release. I personally, do not rate trout that highly for eating. I feel there are plenty of other fish which taste better, but over the years I have taken enough trout home to have a pretty firm opinion on their eating value.
The eating quality of trout varies greatly depending on where they live and what they are feeding upon. Trout which feed predominantly on crawfish, prawns, krill and baitfish trend to have the best eating quality.
I find sea run trout can have flesh and taste resembling that of salmon, red and flavoursome with no unpleasant tones. Even after returning to the river, the flesh maintains the eating quality for quite some time. I personally consider, a nice plump sea run trout has the best eating quality.
On the other end of the spectrum, trout that live in waterways with a muddy bottom often pick up the taste of their environment. These trout largely feed upon nymphs, snails and other insect life. The flesh can taste bitter, musty and even muddy.
I personally do not consider them good eating, I even hear other anglers refer to them as mud fish. Still, many people do not tell the difference. A trout is a trout to them. I guess everyone has different sensitivities to different flavors.
Factors which make a trout good to eat?
I find the best eating trout are fish which feed predominantly on larger prey. Whether its other baitfish, krill, prawns, crawfish. The more predatory the tastier they become. These trout also trend to be fatter, in better condition and health. They simply taste better on the table.
One possible exception is trout which have been feeding upon mice. I personally have never eaten a mouse trout. But I knew someone who had, and he reported the flesh tasted a bit strange. Just something to keep in mind before taking a trout fat full of rodents home for dinner.
Diet is not the only consideration. I much prefer to eat fish from clean flowing water, preferable with a gravelly or stone bottom. I also trend to prefer river trout, over trout which live in lakes.. But that might just be a confirmation bias on my part.
I also will note, trout post spawn which are little more than a swimming skeleton makes for bad eating. I once had the unpleasant experience of filleting and eating one.
Do stock trout taste better than wild trout?
This question is a real can of worms. I have heard people passionately argue both sides. Some people love eating stock trout. They full their cooler with their limit and take it home. I personally consider this a case of personal preference and what the angler grew up eating but when given the choice most fishermen seem to prefer the taste of wild trout (unless it taste like mud).
Many people consider wild trout have better texture, taste and even color. While hatchery trout taste bland with almost insipid flesh. Others say, their flesh somewhat resembles that of cat pellets. I have heard them called Purina trout. This does make quite a bit of sense, fish pellets and cat nuts do share many of the same ingredients. Basically grind up marine life and some grain for filler. If you like the taste of cat nuts, then a hatchery raised trout might just be a special treat.
Now, the longer a hatchery trout spends in the wild. The better the more intense the flavor becomes, so holdover trout can start tasting like wild trout, and depending on the diet that can be either good or bad.
Do brown trout taste better than rainbow trout?
No, I do not believe there is a significant difference between the two species and any different in flavors comes down to environmental variables such as water quality, diet and either they are gaining or losing weight.
I will add, that Rainbow trout do prefer to live in faster flowing water so are less likely to taste muddy than Brown trout.
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