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Are Lake Trout Good to Eat?

Are Lake Trout Good to Eat?

You’re on your way back to shore with a boatload of lake trout you just caught, but you’re beginning to wonder if it was worth the effort of catching them.

You may have heard that lake trout doesn’t taste as good as other types of fish, or that it isn’t good for you to eat.

Are these rumors true? Can you eat lake trout, does it taste good, and is it healthy for you?

Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.

Are Lake Trout Good to Eat?

Lake trout are not actually trout–instead, they are a strong-tasting member of the arctic char fish family. As the name suggests, they are commonly found in lakes.

So, are they good to eat? It depends on who you ask.

Lake Trout food

Lake trout can be both good for you and good tasting–if you cook it right, and if you like strong-tasting fish. That said, it’s best to eat lake trout in moderation, as it can cause an upset stomach due to its strong taste and whatever toxins it may have absorbed from its environment.

What toxins, you ask? Lake trout often contain a high concentration of mercury, along with whatever else may end up getting dumped or mixed in with the lake water. The fish absorb and retain these toxins as they get older, which may diminish their quality the longer you store them.

The number of toxins you have to deal with can depend on which lake you’re fishing in. For example, trout from a small country lake with relatively pure water will undoubtedly contain fewer toxins than trout from any of the Great Lakes.

There are plenty of people who enjoy eating lake trout. You won’t find it in stores, so if you want to try it, you’ll have to catch it yourself. Though it is not as commonly fished as other types of trout, it can be cooked and eaten as you would do any other fish.

Catching lake trout

As mentioned above, lake trout has a stronger, more fishy taste than some types of trout; because of this strong flavor, you have to really like that fishy taste to enjoy eating lake trout. Those who can only stomach milder fish may not like the taste of lake trout.

What’s more, larger lake trout tend to taste even stronger, so if you’re going to try eating lake trout for the first time, you’ll probably want to go for the small to medium-sized fish rather than the biggest one.

You can freeze any extra lake trout you may have, but keep in mind that the fishy taste will only get stronger the longer you store it.

In addition to the strong taste, some people don’t like lake trout because it is greasier than some types of fish. That said, it is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, a good source of protein, and very high in potassium.

What is the Best Trout to Eat?

So maybe you’re not sure you want to try lake trout after all; maybe you’re looking to catch something that has a more mild flavor. What type of fish should you target? Specifically, which is the best kind of trout to eat?

As you might expect, the answer to this question is a matter of opinion. Some anglers may swear that lake trout is the best kind of trout because they love the greasiness and extra strong flavor.

But if you’re looking for something a little milder, many anglers agree that brook trout is one of the best to eat. It is far more popular than lake trout and has a much milder taste.

Brook trout

Other popular trout varieties include rainbow trout and brown trout.

Generally speaking, the milder trout are considered the better ones to eat. Regardless of the type of trout you catch, the small to medium ones are considered better than large ones because the flavor will be milder.

What’s more, it’s better to eat the fish soon after catching it. The longer you keep your fish, even properly stored in the freezer, the more fishy-tasting it will become.

What’s the Best Way to Cook Lake Trout?

Lake trout can be cooked like any other type of fish–fried, grilled, baked, steamed, sauteed, broiled, or smoked. You can use a variety of seasonings to complement the strong fishy flavor.

Let’s take a closer look at the steps involved in preparing and cooking your lake trout for eating.

Step 1: Bleed It

Slit the fish

This is the first thing you want to do, and it’s best to do it as soon as possible after catching the fish.

Using a sharp knife, slit the fish vertically on each side of its body just behind the gills. Allow the blood to drain out of the fish through these slits.

Place the fish on ice or in cold water until you are ready to clean and cook it. This will further facilitate the blood draining from the fish.

This step is important for improving the flavor of the fish; the longer the blood is left in the fish, the stronger and more bitter the fish will taste.

Step 2: Clean and Filet the Fish

Filet the Fish

When slicing your fish into filets, look for a dark line running down the length of its body. This is a large vessel known as the bloodline. Removing this vessel will remove much of the blood that hasn’t already drained from the fish.

Place the filets in cold saltwater and allow them to soak for about 30 minutes. Not only will this pull out more of the blood, it will also pull out some of the toxins and fishy taste as well–in other words, it will leave you with a better tasting fish.

Once the fish is done soaking, remove it from the water and pat it dry with paper towels.

Some anglers don’t recommend soaking first; you can try it both ways and go with whatever you prefer. If you’d rather try not soaking it, check out this helpful article.

Step 3: Choose Your Cooking Method

Cook the lake trout

Again, there are any number of ways you can cook your lake trout; one way isn’t necessarily better than any other way.

Think of how you generally like your fish cooked and try cooking it that way. If you don’t care for it, maybe try another method next time.

Battering and deep-frying is one method that tends to reduce the fishy taste; you can also try sauteeing it with lots of butter and garlic, cooking it in lemon juice, basil, and rosemary, or experimenting with your own combination of spices.

Again, you may just have to experiment with different cooking methods to find which one you prefer the most.

A word of caution though: don’t cook more than you’re going to eat, as you won’t be able to freeze cooked leftovers and they won’t stay fresh in the fridge for very long.

If you have more fish than you can eat in one sitting, it’s okay to freeze them; but you should freeze them raw. Place them in single layers in freezer bags or freezer-safe containers, and use them as quickly as possible.

How to Cook Lake Trout (Mackinaw) 3 Ways


Lake trout may not be as tasty as other, milder fish. But, if you enjoy that strong fishy flavor and follow the appropriate steps to bleed and soak it before cooking, you may find that you actually love the taste of it.

Happy fishing and best of luck out there!