Lured in: Fishing at stocked trout ponds

This summer CBC Edmonton visits local fishing spots to introduce you to accessible angling in and around the city. In this series, fishing expert Michael Sullivan tackles everything from bait and hook to catch and release.

Trying out fishing can be as simple as heading to your local park. 

Several Edmonton-area parks have stocked trout ponds, including Hermitage Park Pond, Beaumont Pond and Gibbons Park Pond. 

The Alberta Conservation Association and Alberta Environment and Parks stock select ponds with rainbow, brook or brown trout which anyone is allowed to catch and take home.  

"[The trout] get stocked at about 20 centimetres, they might grow a little bit over the summer but they are meant for eating," says fishing expert Michael Sullivan. 

Beaumont Pond, about 40 minutes south of downtown Edmonton, has a spray park, ice cream truck, as well as hiking and biking trails around it. It's right in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Beaumont, making it easily accessible. 

Emily Rendell-Watson/CBC

While the ponds are convenient places to fish, Sullivan warns that the trout may not be the tastiest in mid-summer. 

"They have sort of a muddy flavour to them so they're not maybe the best eating, but if you catch them in the fall when the water has cleared up and the algae is gone, they can be tasty fish," says the provincial fisheries biologist.

With bobber fishing, anglers can either hold the rod or set it in a rod holder and relax in a lawn chair. Fishing stores carry fancy versions of the holders with lights and other add-ons, but Sullivan recommends making your own. 

"You can take a paper towel cardboard centre, wrap some duct tape around it with a stick and that works just fine too," he says. 

'Alien abductions'

Catching and releasing fish at a trout pond might seem like the perfect opportunity to brush up on your photography skills while showing off the catch of the day.

But Sullivan calls taking fish out of the water "alien abductions" and doesn't recommend it. 

He led a new study by the provincial government called "Do smartphones kill trout?" It found the mortality rate in fish that are excessively handled for around two minutes is almost 30 per cent. 

"If you do want to photograph it, try not to hold it up, try not to drop it on the grass," he says. 

Sullivan recommends having your camera and net ready so you minimize the amount of time the fish spends out of the water before it is returned to the pond.

Emily Rendell-Watson/CBC

Sullivan says when his kids were younger he brought them to fish at local stocked ponds. While they waited for a bite on the bobber they played in the cattails and gathered an ingredient for a special recipe. 

They would put a plastic bag over the big yellow pollen spikes of the cattails and shake to loosen them up. 

"You could easily collect a cup of yellow pollen. We'd take it home, mix it with pancake batter, and it turns the pancake mix bright yellow. It gives it sort of a pleasant, swampy flavour," he says. 

Sullivan and his kids call them "cattail pancakes."