“If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em!”

Omnivore, herbivore, carnivore…invasivore? Eating invasive species is one way of sticking it to troublesome plant and animal intruders. The University of Illinois has been serving Asian carp in student dining halls, divers in the Florida Keys are going after lionfish,  and a community of invasivores post recipes for everything from perennial pepperweed to wild board.

When we accidentally introduce a non-native species into an environment where it doesn’t have natural predators, it has an unfair advantage over native plants and animals. To learn about a few invasive species of concern and how to prevent their spread, check out this piece titled “Humans as Vector” that we wrote for Green Matters.

We encourage you to prevent the spread of invasive species by cleaning your gear before and after recreating, planting native species, and by simply getting to know your weeds so you can spot infestations.

Another approach people have taken is to eat invasive species. Remember, don’t eat things you can’t identify, don’t eat things that have been sprayed with an herbicide or chemical, and eat things at your own risk. Carlin Girard, the Water Resources Specialist here at Teton Conservation District, shares his take on eating lake trout below. We also included a few more enticing recipes we found online. If you have some of your own invasive recipes you’d like to share, send them to info@tetonconservation.org.

A freshly caught lake trout.

A freshly caught lake trout.

Carlin’s Lake Trout Special

I enjoy fish when it is prepared well, and notice very quickly if it is not. In order to have the best experience eating lake trout, you need to start by keeping your catch cold and cleaning it as soon as you get home.

Lake trout ready to be cleaned and filleted.

Lake trout ready to be cleaned and filleted.

Per my mother-in-law’s guidance, the trick to cleaning a lake trout (or any other fish for that matter), for the perfect fish is as follows. Begin by filleting. Once I have fillets, I take off the skin, and then remove the pin bones with a delicate thin slice on each side of these pesky little bones. If you don’t know where they are and you can’t see them, you can feel them with your finger in the upper third on the side of the fillet facing into the fish by running your finger in a tail-wise direction. The bones angle towards the outside of the fish in an upward direction. The final step is removing all (ALL) tissue that is different than the normal muscle color. This includes silver from the inside of the skin, and all of the red or brown muscle tissue that is positioned under the lateral line. Now, you have a sushi grade piece of late trout to cook as you like.

I prefer two different ways of cooking this delicious meat: 1) make healthy fish sticks by cutting them into strips, or 2) use skewers to hold the meat together and grill them.

1) For healthy fish sticks, I cut them into strips to a size of my liking. Similar size is good so they cook at a similar rate. I often season the fish directly before I bread them – lemon pepper or white pepper blends add a nice touch. Then, I use a double breading technique, whereby I dip the fish into flour (or pancake mix for a sweeter flavor), then egg, then breading. Breading can vary a lot. I like to use an Italian Seasoning breading myself, but whatever works. Sometimes I add finely crushed walnuts and coconut to my breading for some extra flavor. Now for the healthy cooking departure. Of course, you can fry these fish sticks in vegetable oil. However, they also cook very well by dabbing them with olive oil and broiling them. Depending on the size of the fish sticks, they can cook very fast under the broiler, 4-5 minutes, flip, oil again, and 2 more minutes. When they start to get crispy and brown, check if they are done by breaking one open to assure they are the same color all the way through. If you’re in the mood, make some homemade tartar sauce by mixing mayo and relish (or chopped up pickles) to flavor.

Skewered lake trout fillets.

Skewered lake trout fillets.

2) Cooking fish without the skin can be a bit tricky, because it tends to fall apart. That’s why I often use skewers and even put the skewered fish fillets in a fish basket on the grill. If the fish sticks to the grill it will want to fall apart, but there are advantages of cooking it this way. The main one being that once you have your boneless, skinless, sushi quality filet, it will taste as good as any marinade you create. I like a teriyaki, because it is a touch sweet and spicy. With fresh ingredients, I like to make my own spin on teriyaki with some soy sauce, sesame oil, shredded ginger and garlic, pepper (I like white pepper blends a lot), and honey or maple syrup. The beauty of fish marinades is that they only take a few minutes to really absorb, especially once fish are cleaned to the extent described here. 20 minutes seems to be plenty. If anything, I have over seasoned fish this way, and while lemon and soy sauce are excellent in fish marinades, too much can really take over. Grilling also doesn’t take long and the crispy ends are my favorite bites

There is something very rewarding about spending a day on the lakeshores in Grand Teton National Park, fishing, eating a delicious harvest, and doing some native fish conservation.

A few more “invasivore” recipes for inspiration:

Smoked Lake Tout*

Smoked Lake Trout and Smoked Lake Trout Rillette*

White-Tailed Burgers**

Canada Goose Pastrami**  

Pan Fried Dandelion Greens with Tomatoes

Lastly, here is a video on how to eat musk thistle, and here is another take on it.  

*Note that the Wyoming Department of Health has provided consumption advice according to mercury levels for fish caught from Jackson Lake. You can read the advisory here.

**Canada Geese and White-Tailed Deer are not technically invasive species, but according to some, they are displacing other more sensitive native species.