Brown trout, like most trout, are known for their flaky meat and fishy flavor. Plus, they contain protein, omega-3, and other necessary vitamins and minerals. Depending on your preferences and how you prepare them, you’ll find brown trout to be a delicate, tasty fish.
My first introduction to eating brown trout was on a backpacking trip in the Western United States. We decided to stay an extra day on the trail but ran out of food. Our only option was to catch our food. Thankfully, the rivers held brown trout, so we didn’t go hungry and became familiar with eating brown trout.
Is Brown Trout Good to Eat?
Like most freshwater fish, you’ll find that smaller brown trout taste better than bigger brown trout. I like to eat brown trout that weigh around 1 to 2 pounds. Their meat is firmer, and they don’t have as much of the fish taste as you find on some of the older and larger trout.
I also like to try and eat wild brown trout. Since brown trout aren’t native to the United States, I don’t find any native populations, but there are plenty of wild populations around the country. Wild brown trout don’t have as much of a fishy flavor as stocked browns who grew up on pellets.
Since most brown trout can only survive in water that’s 65 degrees or cooler, you rarely have to worry about one having a muddy or spoiled taste due to warm water conditions. You may find that brown trout caught in muddy water have that mud taste, but it won’t be from water that’s too warm.
When in doubt, I keep 1- to 2-pound trout caught from streams and rivers. I think fish caught in moving water taste fresher than those caught in lakes and ponds. Fish from moving water really do taste better.
Is it Legal to Eat Brown Trout?
Yes, eating brown trout is legal. Certain fisheries have special regulations that prevent the keeping of brown trout, but there are very few. Since brown trout aren’t native to the United States, Game and Fish Departments aren’t as worried about anglers keeping a few.
As long as you know the fish limit you can keep and follow those rules, you can keep brown trout.
Is it Safe to Eat Brown Trout?
Yes, eating brown trout is safe. Too much trout can lead to mercury poisoning, but you would have to eat quite a few to put yourself at risk. If you’re pregnant or have small children, stick with one to two helpings of brown trout per week to stay safe.
Proper Size of Brown Trout to Eat
A brown trout that’s 10-12 inches and weighs around 1 to 2 pounds is my sweet spot. These size fish are usually two years old and aren’t quite at the spawning stage. They haven’t lived long enough to gain the gamey and fishy taste you find in older brown trout.
You don’t get a lot of meat from these smaller brown trout, but they taste better. I’m willing to filet a few more small brown trout if it means getting better meat.
Brown Trout Preparation and Recipes
The preparation process is important if you want the best-tasting brown trout. You’ll ruin your meal if you don’t handle and prepare the fish properly.
Clean Them and Get Them Cold ASAP
When you catch your brown trout, don’t let them bake on the shore or floor of your boat. Keep them in the water so they stay alive as long as possible. Clean the fish as soon as you finish your day on the water.
Cleaning the fish saves the meat. A distressed or dead fish releases chemicals into their body that can easily spoil the meat. Removing the guts and bones and cleaning the filets allows you to keep the meat tasting as fresh as possible.
Trout With Garlic Lemon Butter Herb Sauce
This simple recipe is one of my favorites for trout. You’ll cook on a stovetop, so you only need a pan. This recipe also requires keeping the skin on the filets, so don’t remove it when cleaning the fish.
To prepare the fish, season the top of the filets with Italian herb seasoning and salt.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and add the fish filets flesh side down. Cook it flesh side down for around three minutes, then flip the filets onto the skin. Cook for another three minutes and remove the pan from the heat.
Let the fish sit in the pan for 10 minutes, covered.
You can remove the filets and skin from the fish when ready to eat. Add some diced garlic, three tablespoons of lemon juice, and a couple of tablespoons of white wine in that same pan. Let this simmer for a few minutes, then add two tablespoons of butter. Stir it all together until it’s creamy.
Add the sauce to the filets, and you’re good to go.
If I want to do minimal work, I’ll bake my brown trout in the oven.
All you need is olive oil, a cut-open brown trout with no bones or guts, a lemon, parsley, and some salt.
Heat your oven to 400 °F and put aluminum foil onto a pan. Season each one of the filets with oil and salt and place them skin-side down onto the foil. Inside the fish, put two slices of lemon and some parsley. Then, wrap the foil around the fish.
Let the fish bake for 10-15 minutes, and you’re ready to eat.
Brown trout are easy to clean and delicious to eat. You can prepare tasty meals with brown trout with some basic cooking skills. Follow your local rules and regulations before you keep any fish. Keeping brown trout is legal, but do your best to protect fish populations for future generations.