Sushi question : anyone tried fresh caught freshwater fish?

I love sushi. We probably go to the local sushi bar at least twice a month, sometimes more. In a few months, however, I’m moving to a town where the nearest sushi bar is at least 150 miles away, maybe more. I’m planning on putting myself through a crash course on sushi making, so at the very least, I can make it myself, if I can find a source for sushi quality fish.

I’ll be living right on Lake Superior. They have excellent lake trout, whitefish, and (in season) salmon available at the local fishhouse. My father and Mr. Athena will be fishing quite a bit in the summer as well. We know they make sushi out of salmon, Mr. Athena claims to have seen trout sushi, and my new sushi cookbook has some recipes calling for “whitefish”, which is a catch-all phrase for many kinds of fish.

Can I make sushi out of freshwater fish? Are Lake Superior fish free of whatever it is that could make us sick? I know that 15-20 years ago people were warned against some Great Lakes fish, but as far as I can remember, Lake Superior was fine - it was Lake Erie & Ontario that were having big problems with pollution.

I know my sushi book says not to make it from freshwater fish. I don’t know why though. And there is such a thing as ocean trout.

Not only have I done it, I did it with trout and salmon from Lake Ontario. The problem was mercury which was found mainly in the fat of the fish, which I did not eat.

I also have made sushi from store bought salmon and tuna. For a while I was making my own from supplies bought at the Japanese Market.

I am not a doctor, but I can’t see why the fish would be unsafe. I am sure that others will disagree with me.

Personally, I find that Salmon is the only fresh water fish that tastes good raw. Oh, and masago, which is smelt roe.

I have also eaten raw beef, pig liver, deer…I have a very odd palate.

What’s the deal? Were the whitefish/trout too fishy?

The trout, IIRC, was fishy. But we tried lake caught browns. There are 3 species in Ontario and I did not try all. I don’t keep fish anymore, so I haven’t tried river trout out here.

As for whitefish, you have to be more specific. There are some that I caught in Canada that might be OK but I never tried. What they call whitefish in Rochester was more like a Silver Bass and we did nnot fish for those. Bass was, well, bass-like. I do not like to eat bass. I never tried Pike but I bet it would be good. Nice and firm, white meat. Jack Perch might be OK too.

Oh, one great thing to do is slice raw salmon thin, put it on a cracker with some cream cheese and Capers. We ate that frequently.

Parasites appear to be the source of the concerns. I don’t know why it’s not a problem in saltwater fish.

And Mr Zambesi’s palate doesn’t sound that odd to me. Mmmm, venison carpaccio.

Harmful bacteria in freshwater is also much more common. Think about that too.

A few thoughts from a restaurant safety professional (me):

  1. sushi that you eat in a restaurant, such as we have in Colorado, has been caught and dumped in cargo holds, cut up under lord know what circumstances, handles by several people that you don’t know, and is however old. If you are worried about bacteria, don’t eat raw meats.

  2. The vegetables you buy, including ones you do not cook are picked by migrant workers. I am pretty sure they do not have bathrooms in teh field with hot water and bacterial soap. In fact, they do not have bathrooms. IF you are worried about e-coli, don’t eat salads or fruits.

  3. Fresh water fish are going to have a flavor that depends on what they eat. In the lakes, they eat alvives (mooneyes, sawbellies) which are a big fishy minnow. In streams they will eat bugs. In small lakes, they may eat freshwater shrimp. I imagine they eat shrimp and herring in the ocean.

Bodies of fresh water are dumping grounds for massive amounts of human and industrial waste. So is the ocean, but the much smaller bodies of fresh water are more concentrated. There are large numbers of parasites and bacteria present in fresh water sources not present in the ocean.

Additionally, the high-grade fish used for sushi is almost always frozen, usually on the boat, to kill parasites. Incidentally, they’re frozen whole and sold that way. The cutting up usually occurs at the hands of the sushi chef. The entire process is also subject to government regulation and inspection.

Does freezing kill parasites? If so, freeze the fish beofre you cut eat it. I wonder what teh percentage is for parasitic infestation.

I agree about the bacteria problem in a smaller body of water. . I wonder, would the zebra mussels remove this problem. The water is so clean that it threatens to wipe out the food chain.

When living in NY, the main concern was mercury. But then, no self respecting person ate raw fish back then. Knowing the levels of Listeria in even the cleanest restaurants, it takes pure denial to eat anything not cooked. Fortunately, I can achieve this.

Keep in mind we’re talking about Lake Superior here. Yes, it’s smaller than the ocean, but we’re not talking one o’ those puddles people like to call lakes. Call me stupid, but I have absolutely no problem drinking water directly out of the lake at the public beach in my home town. The Lake is my friend.

(side note: everyone I ever take to see the Lake for the first time is boggled at how crystal clear and pristine it is. You can see the bottom in 30 to 40 feet of water. It’s like swimming in an aquarium. Granted, clarity doesn’t mean everything, but I have yet to get sick or know anybody who’s gotten sick from drinking lake water.)

Mr. Zembezi, I see your point - I would have to agree that whatever fish makes it to Colorado can’t be any less risky than fish that was pulled from the lake 3 hours ago. And I, too, can reach a high level of denial.

I’d have to second the parasite concern. I used to joke with my ex about this very issue, because she grew up eating west coast sushi and I grew up eating prairie oysters. There are no sushi bars in Montana, so I’d suggest she cut up the trout we caught.

She was adamant about the parasites being a threat for freshwater fish. Since she had 2 degrees in wildlife biology, I always believed her. And we were talking about head of the drainage, 7,000 feet in the mountain, pink meat rainbow and brown trout.

Fresh water fish do tend to have parasites, though they also exist in marine fish. Kudoa is a disease that the salmon farming industry absolutely hates, hence the antibiotics. It ends up leaving tiney cysts in the flesh that you can’t see when processing the fish. But after you freeze or cook it, sometimes even neither, the meat quite litterally turns to mush (like, applesauce mush) and it grosses people out. Freshwater fish too, depending on the water they came from, can have a particularly strong “fishey” taste that comes from geosmin (a chemical produced by some types of algae). This is most typical of eutrophic or low turn-over bodies of water. When I was in Thailand, the natives much preferred marine fish, even though there were just as many fresh water fish available. The taste is better to them, especially since the freshwater is quite warm and turbid (= very fishey taste). The salmon is real good when cold smoked and thinly sliced… about half the worlds salmon is now farmed, and it tastes just fine to me (used to get it free when I worked for the salmon farming company). The tast of FW fish will also depend on what species they are. Trout tend to be more oily than some others, though a big part of the taste still comes from the water they came from. Freezing will kill some parasites, but not all.