Can You Eat Trout Raw? Guidelines for Freshwater Sushi

November 5, 2020

Can You Eat Trout Raw? Guidelines for Freshwater Sushi

If you’re an avid trout fisherman, you’ve probably wondered if you can eat trout raw. Saltwater fishermen talk all the time about catching Spanish mackerel or tuna and eating right on the boat. But saltwater fish and freshwater fish live in very different environments. So can you eat trout raw?

The quick answer is that yes, you can eat trout raw if you’re desperate – but otherwise, you should not. It’s not recommended and could be bad for your health. Freshwater fish (including trout) have a higher chance of carrying parasites that could harm you. On the other hand, saltwater fish are less likely to have harmful parasites in them – and are safer to eat raw. But even then you can still get very ill from eating any type of raw fish.

But what are your other options then? What are the best ways to prepare trout if you’re camping and if you do have to eat trout raw (like if you’re trying to survive without a fire), how would you go about doing it as safely possible? 

We’ll answer all these questions and more in this article. Let’s get to it!

Why Can’t You Eat Trout Raw?

Before we get into what you should do if you absolutely have to eat trout raw as well as ways to prepare trout you’ve just caught, let’s go into a bit more detail as to why you cannot eat trout raw. 

With any raw fish, you run the risk of picking up any parasites that might be living in its meat. These parasites could be tapeworms, lung fluke, or other digestive bugs that will cause you serious harm if transferred to your digestive system.

As we mentioned earlier, saltwater fish don’t have nearly as many parasites that survive in human bodies and are there for less risky to ingest raw. That being said, health experts recommend you freeze all raw fish (saltwater included) at -4 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 7 days to kill any parasites that might be living in them.

This is the standard that sushi restaurants live by and applies to all raw fish.

Can Trout Be Eaten as Sashimi?

Sashimi is small pieces of raw fish – so aligning with our previous answer, you should not eat trout as sashimi. It’s still raw and can harm you for all the same reasons you shouldn’t eat trout raw. Just because it has a fancy name does not make it any different from eating plain raw trout!

What to Do If You Have to Eat Trout Raw

Now that you know you should not be eating trout raw unless you need to to survive, let’s go over the things you try and do before eating it. It’s worth noting that we are NOT medical experts so if you do take our advice we are not liable for your health.

The first thing you should do is make absolutely sure you have no way to start a fire to cook the trout. Can you use friction to start a fire with two sticks? Do you have a lighter somewhere on you or someone in your party that you may have forgotten about? Be absolutely sure you can not start a fire before proceeding. 

After you’ve checked that, you should focus on cleaning the fish properly and quickly. You’ll want to eat the trout as quickly as possible after you catch it to ensure it doesn’t go bad. The longer you wait after it is dead the more time bacteria have to grow on it and cause you harm.

How to Clean a Trout

Once you’ve caught a trout (maybe with a bobber setup or using a stick to spearfish) that you want to eat, you should immediately cut its gills to let it bleed out. This will preserve the flavor of the meat and remove some of the stronger flavors in the blood. 

After cutting the gills you should clean it as soon as possible. Here’s how to clean a trout. The process is similar for all species of trout, whether it’s a rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, or lake trout

Instructions 

  1. The first step in cleaning the trout is to make sure you have a sharp knife. Considering you’re in survival mode, even a pocket knife will work fine. If you don’t have a knife. We recommend finding a sharp rock and trying to follow these steps.
  2. Begin by cutting down the trout’s belly starting from the anal fins up to the pelvic fins and the beginning of the collar. We like resting the fish on a big rock to get leverage.
  3. Next, reach up inside the trout and pull out the innards. You may need to use both hands to pull them loose if they are stuck to the rib cage. 
  4. Wash away the blood and extra gut from your rock then cut through the collar and remove the head. 
  5. Next, it’s time to cut out your fillets. Make a cut across the end of the tail on both sides. Then connect the cut your already made on the belly to the end of the tail.
  6. Make a cut from the top of the backbone starting at the collar and going all the way down to the tail. Move your blade all the way down the spine while cutting through the skeletal bones. 
  7. You can then use your knife to cut away the fillet from the collar of the trout.
  8. The last step is to remove as many of the pin bones as you can with your fingernails. This step can be time-consuming but will give you bone-free fish.
  9. The last step is to inspect the meat for any visible parasites or worms. They should be relatively obvious. If you see something weird, don’t eat that part of the fish or try and catch another one.

How to Cook Trout Properly

Luckily you will find yourself in this situation instead of the above. You’ve caught a trout while camping and you are ready to prepare it over a fire! This is a much safer option than eating trout raw. Let’s go over how to cook trout properly while camping.

Instructions

  1. First, you should follow the above steps we laid out for cleaning the trout properly. This will ensure you avoid eating bones (which can be dangerous) and will make the trout taste better. Bleed the fish first then remove the guts. If you brought any seasoning with you (salt, pepper, etc.) this is when you should add it.
  2. After cleaning the raw trout, find a long thin stick with a tip you can sharpen with your knife. This is going to be the skewer that you will use to hold the trout fillets over your campfire.
  3. Slide each filet onto the stick. If you don’t have enough room on your stick, you should find another stick and sharpen it so you have two skewers. Make sure the skewer holds the filet flat and maximizes its surface area. This will help the fish cook quickly and evenly.
  4. Once you build your fire, wait until the big flames have died down. This is the most common mistake when cooking trout while camping – you don’t want to cook it over open flames! You can, but it will impart a bad tasting charcoal flavor from the smoke.
  5. Once the big flames have died out, push the logs apart so the coals are exposed. This is where you are going to cook your trout.
  6. Hold the trout filets over the coals to cook them. You should start smelling cooked fish. Pay attention to the surface of the meat as well – you don’t want it turning black or burning.
  7. The best way to tell if the trout is done is to feel it. If it is firm like the muscle of your thumb and index finger, it’s done.

What Kind of Trout Tastes Best?

We also get this question all the time, and the answer is that it depends on your personal preference! Smaller species of trout like rainbow trout and brook trout tend to have firmer meat – like bass or pike. They also tend to taste like perch or other small predatory fish.

Larger species like lake trout tend to be softer and oilier. This is because they don’t have to work as hard to find food and have a higher fat percentage in their meat. If it was up to us, we would eat rainbow trout and steelhead the most. We think they have the best texter and a mild flavor that tastes great with very little seasoning. Steelhead are a unique type of trout in that they can be caught year-round – even in the winter

But if you’re in survival mode and purely eating the trout because you need sustenance, you probably won’t care what kind it is or what it tastes like. Hopefully, you don’t find yourself in that situation!

Parting Thoughts

We’ve been camping many times, and inevitably someone asks can you eat trout raw? It might be tempting at first – how much more fresh could the fish get? But as you now know eating trout raw can be dangerous to your health and should be avoided at all costs. 

If you do have to eat trout raw, you should make sure to clean it properly first. Hopefully, you’ll have the resources to start a fire and avoid eating it raw. 

We hope you found this article useful and informative. If you have additional comments or thoughts about eating trout raw, feel free to shoot us a note in the comments below.

Happy Hunting!

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