Fishing is a favorite summer pastime among Vermonters and visitors to the state for good reason—fish tastes great. While anglers may enjoy fishing as a chance to get in the outdoors with friends and family, many also appreciate the benefit of bringing their catch home for a nutritious meal.
Vermont anglers can hook many of the traditional fish like trout, bass and salmon that are beloved by chefs. But many other fish species such as yellow perch, crappie and pumpkinseeds are also abundant in Vermont’s waters and are easy to catch. These species are often referred to as panfish because they are delicious when pan-fried.
“Well-regulated fishing can be one of the most ecologically-friendly and sustainable ways for people to gather food,” said Eric Palmer, director of fisheries for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “Vermonters are generally very conscious of what they eat and where it originates. When you catch a perch from a Vermont pond, you can be assured it is local, organic, free-range and absent added hormones or antibiotics.”
By purchasing a fishing license, anglers also help the environment. These funds support the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s efforts to improve fish habitat. The department also monitors fish populations and sets harvest limits to ensure that a species will not be over-fished.
As for potential health risks associated with eating fish, Palmer noted that most Vermont fish are perfectly safe to eat.
“People hear reports on the news on initiatives to reduce runoff into Lake Champlain, so they often mistakenly assume that fish caught there are unsafe,” said Palmer. “These efforts are focused on reducing excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, rather than on issues with mercury and PCBs that can sometimes make fish unsafe to eat.”
The Vermont Department of Health issues guidelines on which fish species are safest to eat. “In general, Vermont’s wild fish are safe to eat if you follow these few simple guidelines,” said Palmer.
The Department of Health’s guidelines for eating wild Vermont fish are available at www.tinyurl.com/VtHealthyFish. A quick web search will reveal thousands of fish recipes to try.