Posted on Leave a comment

What exactly is a trash fish?

What exactly is a trash fish?

Trash fish is not just a descriptor but a perception.  So much so, I've seen first hand fisherman too scared to touch a carp or drum pulled from the same water their bass and catfish come from!  Many are left on the shore to die because they are perceived as a threat to the habitat or offspring of other species in the river, are invasive, or "that's just what I was taught to do".

If you look to Merriam Webster, the definition of trash fish is as follows:

1) rough fish

2) a marine fish with little or no market value as human food but sometimes used in the production of fish meal

Using Missouri as an example, there are 3 invasive fish species: Bighead Carp, Black Carp, and Silver Carp.  Nowhere on the list are common carp, grass carp, buffalo, drum, gar, or other non-gamefish species that often get left on the shore.

For future reference below are examples of what each looks like courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Bighead CarpFishing Tackle, Outoors, Nature


Black CarpFishing Tackle, Nature, Outdoors

Silver CarpFishing Tackle, Outdoors, Nature

So the above fish are invasive.  Does that mean they are also trash fish?  If we use the dictionary definition above, you can't say these fish have no market value as human food.  Still beyond the consumption value of fish is the value in the sport of catching them.  Give the below video a try to see what fun you can have catching and even eating these invasive species of fish.  And before you turn up your nose at the thought of trying this, at least check out the first few minutes.  Luke Nichols runs a very successful fishing blog but by day is partner of a Virginia law firm as well.  I doubt he needs to eat these fish for subsistence.

In addition to the Missouri examples, there are a variety of fish nationwide that are invasive that even if you choose to never eat (or really touch!), you can have a great time catching.  Snakehead are one example of a species that are aggressive, abundant, and well worth the pursuit.  Another video example:

The key here is now you know what is invasive, please, please, please don't leave your common carp, drum, gar, and others on the shore due to the notion that they are an invasive species or trash fish.  They can be kept, eaten, or thrown back (my preferred choice). 

One of the best parts of fishing rivers is the abundance and variety of species.  It's what keeps the young fishermen engaged when they're on the shoreline for long periods.  Some trips are like a science field trip with each cast producing a different species.  The curiosity of a kid seeing their first sturgeon or gar is priceless!  Most of all, an elementary age child will not be concerned with a fish's "market value as human food" or if it's a designated game fish or not.  They're just happy to have something on the line and you helping them enjoy it!

More useful tips delivered to your email

We Write About Fishing and Family, Join the Group Today!

Please enter a valid email.

The River King Shoreline Fishing Guide


This e-book helps you catch more fish without the distractions.   This is done using a minimalist approach on light tackle targeting proven river structures from the shoreline.

ON SALE $3.99


Patrick Ritter

Patrick Ritter is the founder of River King Fishing, LLC.  Raised near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the outdoors, especially fishing, has always been a passion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.