Publishers' Note Summer 2013
Written onJuly 03 , 2013
According to a 2009 report prepared by the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative, the earliest published account of fish in Lake Champlain was by Zadock Thompson in his Natural History of Vermont (1853). In his report, Thompson described 48 different species of fish, and historically, the commercial fisheries on the lake targeted whitefish, walleye, yellow perch, lake sturgeon, eel, and lake trout. These tasty fish graced tables throughout the state.
However, by the 1980s there was little to no commercial fishing on Lake Champlain due to overfishing. More recently, efforts within the past few years to raise tilapia in Brattleboro as part of an integrated renewable energy and food production system have floundered, resulting in the company, Carbon Harvest, filing for bankruptcy in late April of this year.
So, what’s a Vermont localvore to do? If you really want to get your hands dirty, you can grab your fishing pole, get some bait from the general store (you’ve seen the signs—“live bait & night crawlers” on a field of yellow), and head to the nearest lake or stream. But if fishing just isn’t your thing, then the quest for local fish might seem daunting.
In this issue we aim to help you out. As an appetizer, Cheryl Herrick travels up to Wheelock in the Northeast Kingdom to report on Mountain Foot Farm, where Curtis Sjolander brings a new angle to the term “diversified farming.” Curtis has been raising and selling brown trout since 1991, and these days his painstaking attention to detail and rootedness in small-scale production have led him to produce great-tasting local fish sought out by restaurants.
For the second course, we offer a home remedy, or grow-your-own approach. We delve into the mechanics of aquaponics as practiced by a husband-and-wife team in their southern Vermont home. Aquaponics is a sustainable method to not only grow your own fish but also the salad to accompany it. It’s the quintessential slow food served up in blue plastic barrels.
As our final offering, we dish up a story on Wood Mountain Fish, whose motto is “direct from bait to plate.” Seafood wholesaler Ethan Wood travels to the New England coast, where he purchases fresh seafood directly off the boats and brings it nonstop to restaurants and clients in central Vermont. No warehouse, no middlemen, and if you’re curious, Ethan will tell you the name of the fisherman who caught your fish!
In the 1930s, Roaldus Richmond wrote in Eating in Vermont, “As a rule Vermonters are not enthusiastic about salads or fish.” But what might have been true then is certainly not the case today. Vermonters do like their fish (and from what we can tell, their salads too).
Boys with fish, 1949; photo courtesy of the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration.