Sooooo-ee!!! Calling All Pellet Pigs: What You Should Know About Feeding Trout

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The Fish of Wal-Mart! (this just makes me laugh)

The Fish of Wal-Mart! (this just makes me laugh)

The other day one of our readers was offended when I used the term “pellet pig”. I enjoy offending people, so I decided to write an entire post on the subject.

I honestly didn’t know we weren’t supposed to talk about this. Pellet pigs are a fact of life. They exist and people catch them. They are not offended that we call them pigs, because they don’t speak English. They can be a TON of fun. (get it) They can turn a marginal stream into a hog farm and they can seriously fuck things up.

Feeding fish on private water is a very common practice. I am not going to tell you that it’s ‘bullshit’ or it ‘doesn’t count’ or that it makes you a ‘pud whacker.’ I did it myself for a season and I have good friends who still do. I’ve had some great times catching pellet pigs and sharing the experience with friends. Through personal experience, I’ve learned the positives and the negatives.

Feeding fish, on private water, is a great way to insure that they hang around. Feeding will also attract wild fish from other parts of the stream to hold in your water. It’s a sure fire way to insure that you will always have good fishing, regardless of the quality of your water. It makes fish grow fast and generally means big fish will be present in unnaturally high numbers. This all sounds pretty good, right? Well, nothing in life is without cost and pellet pigs are no exception.

I’m not saying it’s always a bad idea to feed fish. You can do it right and you can do it wrong. What I am saying is,

if you decided to feed fish, here are some things you ought to know.

1)Your trout is so fat it showed up at the Macy’s parade wearing ropes!

2) Feeding fish takes natural selection off the table. This can negatively impact the entire ecosystem of a stream. It discourages predation and supplements trout which would otherwise end up food themselves. If the trout in question is capable of reproduction, they pass on inferior genetics. Feeding also encourages fish to to crowd into holding water in unnatural numbers, increasing the spread of disease. These hordes of fish put unnatural pressure on forage food and can virtually wipe out localized forage species like insects and crawfish, leaving the fish increasingly dependent on feeding.

3) Your trout is so fat it can’t hold in a run, it has to hold in a waddle!

4) Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. Feeding fish in one section of a stream can negatively impact the overall population. Causing fish to congregate puts them at risk on many levels. In addition to spreading disease, large pods of fish attract predators like otters, herons and bait fishermen. When a large pod is wiped out, the fish which are lost might have populated several miles of stream. Spread out, they would have survived.

5) Your trout is so fat you need permission from air traffic control to land it!

6) The issue of predators goes a step further. Faced with the decimation of his fish, the well intentioned trout feeder usually finds himself at war. He finds himself devoting more and more of his time to fighting a losing battle. Trapping or shooting otters is extremely difficult and time consuming as well as illegal many places. Keeping bears out of feeders is virtually impossible. Bait fisherman shoot back and burying them is a shit-load of work. What starts off as a fun endeavor often ends a litany of frustration and negativity.

7) Your trout is so fat it hasn’t seen its feet in ten million years!

8) Feeding fish can mean killing them with kindness. Trout have an eating disorder. They don’t know when to stop. They literally don’t stop eating and will eat themselves to death. A morbidly obese trout is no healthier than a morbidly obese human. Obese fish die from oxygen depletion at lower water temperatures than fit fish. They can die from the exertion of being caught. They are slow and can not escape predators. Of the people I know who feed fish, almost all of them over feed. Once, maybe twice a week, in sparing amounts is a gracious plenty.

9) Your trout is so fat that when it backs up, your dealer checks his beeper!

10) Fishing to fed fish can make you a lazy angler. I’ve seen it happen. Feeding trout rewards un-trout-like behavior. Fish hold in feeding zones rather than natural holding water, they key on unnatural fly patterns, ignore insect hatches and become accustomed to humans. Anglers who spend all of their time fishing to these affected fish learn little about reading water, identifying hatches or understanding fish behavior. It’s OK once in a while, but I don’t recommend it as a steady diet.

11) Your trout is so fat when stoned hippies see it they yell, “Wow, double rainbow!”

12) Feeding fish creates an unnatural fishing experience. Fishing is like sex, when it’s good it’s really good and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty damn good. That said, I find nothing as rewarding as a really good, natural fishing experience. Fishing a stream where fish are fed can be a lot like a round of miniature golf and while it’s fun, it’s not playing The Masters. The problem is, good, natural fishing experiences are hard to come by and getting harder. I don’t look down on folks who decided feed their fish but I have known guys who it’s ruined. Guys who no longer found joy in catching a small wild fish or who didn’t appreciate what it meant when they caught a real wild trophy fish. You should also be aware, that when you make the choice to feed fish, you are making that choice for your neighbors as well. The most successful private feeding programs I have seen are the ones where everyone is involved and on the same page. Getting everyone’s feelings out in the open and some ground rules set will save a lot of stress down the road.

13) Finally, Your trout is so fat the native fish society wants it removed to restore the steelhead run!

If you decided to feed fish, here are a few tips that might help you avoid some of these pitfalls.

•Keep the feeding to a minimum. Once or twice a week is fine and don’t use too much chow.

•Hand feed. Don’t let the fish get used to the predictability of an automatic feeder.

•Feed in natural holding water and switch up your feeding location and scedule.

•Cut feeding back when water temps approach 70 degrees or if fish develop bellies.

•Don’t fish while your feeding. Excited fish take flies deep. Besides it’s just wrong.

•Use a quality feed that’s high in protein.

•Don’t store your feed where it will attract predators.

Good luck and have fun petting your pigs!

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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22 thoughts on “Sooooo-ee!!! Calling All Pellet Pigs: What You Should Know About Feeding Trout

  1. If I owned my own stream, I would in total support of a twice/day feeding program.I would invite football coaches from all over the southeast to come to my stream, catch a 5lb brownie and take hero photo for their office credenza. They could tell everybody “She’s beauty! Caught her on my very first day fly fishing. Drifted a brown wooly blogger into her secret lair and bam. Turned and ran as fast as I could. Drug her ass right up and over over the red clay bank on 1X. Yep, I just do not get the fuss over fly fishing. Nothing to it”

  2. Can a trout get so fat that the back of its neck looks like a pack of hotdogs? Or when in gets on the scale it reads” To be continued”? Funny stuff Louis and good advice, especially on the predation part of it. Also the point you made about the fish turning from there natural sources of food. I’m on the same thought process that Its not totally a bad thing if you feed in the right manner and not solely depend on it. Thanks and God bless!

  3. The fish of Walmart.

    Still laughing. The difference is I would happily play with this fish, but keep me away from those people.

    Maybe I will find a picture of one of my Walmart fish.

    I will admit that there are times when fishing a pond, with pellet raised trout is quite fun. You can go out with friends, joke around, enjoy a beer or two, catch some fat fish, and not have to think too much.

    Not something I want to do every day, but two or three times a year can be fun.

  4. Good shit Louis! Good shit! Good way to make light of a subject that appears to have been classified as taboo in some parts…

  5. Hey, I usually have to shop at Walmart just because there isn’t much else where I live…and that trout is MUCH better looking than the people of Walmart!

  6. I used to work at a place that had a stocked trout pond high up in the mountains. It was plenty deep for fish to winter and survive from year to year. We were encouraged to feed the fish pellets, but I opted not to as long as natural food sources were prevalent. Although, when we did pellet feed these stockers I would throw a mouse or two or three in the pond as well. There were some large fish that would attack the mice to ensure it was dead, then grab and eat it. An overpopulated trout pond mitigates aggressive fish that grow large, sharp teeth to compete with other fish. And the pellet fly never worked. The fish were conditioned to eat when pellets were thrown in; it created a frenzy from the pellet splatter across the water. A single pellet fly randomly cast in was worthless to the fish. Funny article indeed!

  7. right on article. To humor myself I fish one of these place. The pristine ausable is 4-5 hours away and this spring creek is 45 min. All the comments are true. Now how about a pellet fly! It would save me some time maybe.

  8. Pingback: Pellet Pigs | MidCurrent

  9. Pingback: Is Pay-To-Play Fly Fishing Good For Anybody? | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

  10. Great article, you are spot on, most of the time the fish will ignore your flies as they are waiting on the pellets to turn on.

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