Can backcountry fishing save carried food weight?
Apr 10, 2023 at 9:00 am #3778538Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
Companion forum thread to: Can backcountry fishing save carried food weight?
This article explores the benefits of backcountry fishing (especially tenkara), including the incorporation of fish in your diet and potential food weight savings.Apr 10, 2023 at 10:24 am #3778549Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
My fondest memory of backpacking with my father was a five day trip that he was teaching me to use a fly rod. He brought some trail mix for snacks, some spices, some oil (or maybe it was gee… it was 50 years ago) for when he wanted use frying pan rather than a small grate, and some fresh veggies. He was quite skilled. Breakfast and dinner were freshly caught trout. Lunch was fish from the morning that he prepared during breakfast for the hike. It was marvelous. Never got tired. When I returned years later with friends we brought food because we aren’t so skilled, but certainly caught enough fish to offset the weight of the fishing gear.Apr 10, 2023 at 11:28 am #3778558Bill BudneyBPL Member
@billbLocale: Central NYS
Wow, great article! Still, every fisherman wishes they could know, in advance, whether or not they would catch a fish today. While I would prefer a trout or salmon, I would carry a stick of pepperoni just in case. :)
This could be just me, but I would be interested in discussion of lightweight fishing alternatives rather than just Tenkara. I know that Tenkara is a whole ultralight sport thing, but spin-casting or even just a line from your survival kit work fine. As you say, it comes down to the fish’s cooperation.Apr 10, 2023 at 1:01 pm #3778571DAN-Y/FANCEE FEESTBPL Member
but spin-casting or even just a line from your survival kit work fine. As you say, it comes down to the fish’s cooperation.
I would go mini spincasting especially Diawa mini systems.Apr 10, 2023 at 1:43 pm #3778575Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
can you just take some line and a hook and manually throw it into the water?Apr 10, 2023 at 1:51 pm #3778576Keith TBPL Member
@keith-tLocale: Western Central Sierra
So I don’t necessarily want to start a fight, but I’d like this community’s opinions on a subject with which I’m struggling:
Backcountry fishing seems to be a clear violation of LNT principles. I define a LNT violation as, “if everyone else who comes here does the same act I’m considering, how devastating will the effect be for the environment?” If everyone who hikes the JMT takes a fish per campsite, there will be almost no fish left in the backcountry. (This is based on the premise that most JMT lakes are not stocked, but I’m not sure that’s true.)
My hiking partner and I once caught two fish at Upper Boy Scout Lake while exhausted, and the resulting fish stew was one of the best-tasting and most-appreciated meals of my life. But since then, I’ve reconsidered how ethical it was to fish those waters, and I’ve hypothesized that it’s an unsustainable practice.
How can we preach LNT, no campfires in fragile habitats, ect., but still ethically partake in backcountry fishing?Apr 10, 2023 at 1:57 pm #3778577Bill BudneyBPL Member
@billbLocale: Central NYS
Jerry: Almost. You’ll need bait of some kind, and optionally a float to suspend the bait. Maybe a sinker to keep things straight. Or just throw and reel/pull. Without a reel, the hardest part is managing the line to prevent tangles. You can wrap the line around a stick or something. A stick can also be rigged as a makeshift pole to facilitate positioning (or un-sticking) your lure.
KA-bar even makes a pocket-size gizmo to help the job, although it is no more than a convenience. The basics are not too difficult; but the fine points can take a lifetime. Or, well, a while anyway.
Keith: That’s why fishermen get properly licensed by the state’s Fish and Game Commission, which sets rules and limits to manage fishing.
Dan: Cool. Thanks.Apr 10, 2023 at 2:24 pm #3778591David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
If you don’t use any gear and don’t cook the fish, it’s all saved weight!Apr 10, 2023 at 2:32 pm #3778594David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
It only saves weight if you left food behind. Meaning you’ll be hungry if aren’t successful. IME, being assured of that requires one of two things:
Be really far off the beaten path (and have decent skills) or
Have fabulous skills. I led trips in the Sierra with a guy who could think like a fish. The clients would return to camp telling of how they hooked 2 or 3 and landed 1 or 2. Ron wouldn’t say anything. When asked if he went fishing, he’d just say “yes”. If asked if he caught any, he’d just say “yes”. Only if asked “How many fish did you catch?” would he mumble “About 60.”
For most people, it’s fishing. For a few people and places, it’s catching.Apr 10, 2023 at 2:35 pm #3778595Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I caught and ate a fish once, probably just a line and hook, I think I used a salmonberry as bait
Once I got a hook stuck in me and I couldn’t get it out without help from medical person so I’ve sort of been down on fishing since. Fearful of people wildly casting fishhooks into the water.
Maybe if I got tired of walking, fishing would be a good pastime.
Maybe I could go Gollum and just use grab fish with hands.Apr 10, 2023 at 3:11 pm #3778597
I backcountry fish while backpacking in waters where a 10 lb pike or 5 lb bass isn’t so rare. The mini systems don’t cut it for that. My trusty old Symetre finally bit the dust so after long searching I went with Shimano Ultegra FC 2500. This offered the lightest weight in high quality model that had a collapsible handle, a must have for cutting through brush. The rod is Bass Pro Shops telescoping fishing rod 6’6″ med + gear tie. I’ve landed 20lb musky with this thing, it takes a beating. It can also be partially collapsed with a piece of duct tape to cast between trees on the shoreline. I carry a few light lures in a ziplock
All in its light by fishing standards at 13 oz, if heavy by BPL standards. But no lighter rig exists that I can find that’ll handle 20lb sport fish, packs down to very little in a backpack side pocket, is streamlined enough to bushwack with, high quality and casts long distances through narrow openings between trees and bush side arm or underarm. [Edit: and can collapse, a must while cliff scrambling between tight spots without the pack]. I’m open to lighter suggestions, but that’s a tough wish list and haven’t found anything better! It’s worked really well for me and a weight penalty I’ll gladly take as fishing while backpacking is my happy place.
I don’t eat fish on trail. I often lake hop through the day & carrying fillets in my backpack for an extended period in the sun sounds like GI Russian roulette. I also try to be very careful about keeping fish smells off my gear to not attract night visitorsApr 10, 2023 at 4:18 pm #3778599Adam ThibaultBPL Member
Do the new findings about the level of PFAs in wild fish give anyone pause? https://www.ehn.org/pfas-in-fish-2659101814.htmlApr 10, 2023 at 5:20 pm #3778602jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
I once camped with a guy who always caught fish, he said. He’d collect bait on the way in to a lake–in this instance, grasshoppers that were everywhere. Whatever was crawling or hopping about. Then, he’d cast a line with a floater/weight way into the lake. Then he’d leave the pole upright on the shore and walk away. He’d come back in thirty minutes or more and usually have a fish hooked. He let me share his meal and it really was good.
I don’t see many people fishing out backpacking. Surprising in a way. Given the trout were planted in most high Sierra lakes, and aren’t native, the ethics are complex.
I grew up fishing in streams in the north Cascades. I think the limit in those days was 12 or 15 trout. there were often 6 people fishing those streams in our group. Lots of people were out fishing those streams every day–this was around Stehekin in Wa. So the easy pools were always fished out in September, when we’d go. We’d still mange to catch our limit each day. My relatives and family would fish for four days straight, taking hundreds of fish. Somehow the trout didn’t go extinct. Nowadays the limit is much lower, thankfully.
My experience of trying to cast a fly out into a lake without a weight was a disaster. The slightest wind would blow the fly back. It was impossible to get it out more than a few feet from shore.Apr 11, 2023 at 9:50 am #3778622Ben H.BPL Member
@bzhayesLocale: No. Alabama
I’ve always thought if you plan on depending on caught fish you were guaranteeing you would be skunked. I bring enough food, without the fish, to improve my fishing odds.Apr 11, 2023 at 11:00 am #3778631Luke SchmidtBPL Member
Ben I think that is how it works. Also the best way to avoid bear problems is to hike with a rifle and a hunting license…. to bad rifles are heavy.Apr 17, 2023 at 10:52 am #3779109
LNT is definitely a practice I religiously follow but as the majority of the the High Sierra lakes and streams had no indigenous salmonids, only amphibians, and the import of salmonids extirpated the indigenous anurans, especially Rana Sierrae, I consider it a benefit to catch and eat as many fish as I can. Of course leaving behind any line or lures in the water is not acceptable. I am curious as to what the proper procedure for the fish entrails is though. I usually bury them near a tree.Apr 17, 2023 at 7:49 pm #3779140
>Do the new findings about the level of PFAs in wild fish give anyone pause?
I grew up eating a ton of Lake St Clair and Kawartha Lakes Walleye in the 70s and 80s. We followed fishery guidelines at the time, favouring smaller fish over larger, limiting consumption to guidelines. This is a bit scary.
Great example of how nutritional guidelines may be barely worth wrapping fish withApr 18, 2023 at 7:59 am #3779162Axel JBPL Member
Best practice for fish entrails in the High Sierra is not to bury but throw them back into the lake/stream.Apr 18, 2023 at 9:36 am #3779176
Recommendations are regional but up here it’s usually to throw them into deep waterApr 18, 2023 at 9:46 am #3779179
Thanks for the clarification.Apr 18, 2023 at 2:21 pm #3779202DWR DBPL Member
I actually went ‘full Gollum’ hiking the JMT years ago… nice big trout caught with my bare hands… read how to do this in a fishing book… worked first time!… see fish trapped in small shallow pond (drought year in the fall)… wade in… fish gets scared and hides in bank undercut… move slowly… stir up bottom to muddy the water and that confused the fish’s senses… slowly reach under until you can feel his fins treading water… squeeze HARD AND FAST… pull the fish out and throw him up on the bank… it’s a pretty savage !!! the rest is like all other fishing… yum… I was tired, hungry and out of food… my cache was the next day…Apr 18, 2023 at 3:02 pm #3779211
Yes, DWR D, I have done that many long years ago in Chiquito Creek which is one of the minor tributaries of the San Joaquin flowing into Mammoth Pool Reservoir. Same technique: wade into a shallow pool, muddy it up, and then start feeling around under rocks. I was only 15 at the time but I remember it well.Sep 21, 2023 at 10:28 am #3789513Brian CurtisBPL Member
High lake/backcountry fishing is my passion and somehow I managed to miss this article when it came out. Hence, the late reply.
The minimal western kit in the article could be improved. The most important thing to do is to carry a 6-piece rod that completely fits in your pack which will then serve as your rod case. This will shave both weight and bulk.
I agree with the basic premise of the article that some weight in food can be saved, but not enough to offset a western-style fishing kit, especially if you are carrying a raft as I would be (20 oz plus 3 oz for paddles). Our typical formula is to carry enough freeze dried meals to cover half rations for every night of the trip and to assume we will eat fish on half the nights. We would always have enough food to have a freeze-dried meal every night even if we didn’t catch a single fish on the trip and every night we eat fish for dinner gives us an evening of full freeze-dried rations.
The ethics of keeping fish were brought up in comments. Most of the key points have been addressed, but I’ll try to do a brief summary. The vast majority of high lake fish in the lower 48 are not native. There is no ethical reason not to keep them beyond leaving some for other anglers to catch. As soon as fish are introduced to high lakes they become the top predator in the lake. Typically, they would be supplanting amphibians as the top predator, but not all high lakes are good amphibian habitat. Studies in North Cascades National Park found that trout introduced in low densities would co-exist with native biota. Where problems occurred (amphibians extirpated, zooplankton communities altered) it was generally because the fish were stocked too heavily or they were able to naturally reproduce and overpopulate lakes. Stocking should be periodic with low densities to both preserve native biota and to provide quality fish.Sep 21, 2023 at 10:58 am #3789514HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: The West is (still) the Best
LNT .. fishing … no fish left
For those not in the know, states now raise fish in hatcheries and then transport them to various lakes, streams, etc.. to sell fishing licenses with some species off-limits. At a certain point they are transported by various means to backcountry streams and let go into the flow (not to mention lakes). Not sure all these populations are completely “natural” but fishing is popular. The fish are caught throughout their lifecycle and, if consumed, some prefer smaller fish like trout .. others bigger.
Bottom line: the state isn’t going to run out of fish, and anyways, there’s no refund on fishing licenses if catching nothing.Sep 21, 2023 at 12:32 pm #3789518MarcusBPL Member
I was recently in the BWCA and was not interested in eating fish due to the likely very high levels of PFOS PFOA. I just found this map with actual local samples, so this may be good to review to see if the area has generally higher or lower contamination.
Unfortunately nothing from the sierras, but just looking at random samples across the country, none of them are “low contamination”
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