The Problem with "Roughfish"

Legally, the term "roughfish" has been used in Minnesota commercial fishing statutes since the 1960s to distinguish between those species monitored and/or stocked by the state for sport("sportfish") and those which are not ("roughfish"). Traditionally, however, it has for decades referred, both politely and otherwise, to any fish that a particular angler simply does not want to catch, and has been accompanied by many unpleasant assumptions. The negative connotations of "roughfish" have in fact become so ingrained, that many working with the fish have ditched the term altogether in favor of "underutilized."

"What in the world is this thing?"
As the undisputed King of the Roughfish, the appearance and reputation of the Carp tends to overshadow that of other underutlized fish, and leave them similarly cursed and ignored by the angling public. With their lipped mouths and ability to grow quite large, for example, Suckers are frequently thought to be carp (and vice-versa), though they are actually an entirely distinct native family of fish. A similarly large fish, the Freshwater Drum ("Sheepshead"), is, like the carp, frequently considered unfit to eat, despite its close relation to the prized Drums (such as the redfish) of coastal cuisine. With a little practice and a reliable Field Guide, identifying and distinguishing between these three distinct families of fish can be easy; when accompanied by an experimental palate and recipes, it can be downright rewarding.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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