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January 2, 1790





Short Description:

David Thompson discussed the presence of fish as a common food source while trapping. "The Trout to attain to a large size, they require to be in extensive deep Lakes. In this region they are from one to twenty pounds. They are as rich as meat."





David Thompson's narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812 / edited by J.B. Tyrrel

Topics: (click to open)

Trapping, Exploring, Hunting
Man The Fat Hunter
Carnivore Diet

Important Text:

The Rivers and Lakes have Pike, (the water wolf.) He preys on every fish he can master, even on his own species ; he seizes his prey by the middle of the back, and keeps his hold until it is dead: when he swallows it. It catches readily at any bait, even a bit of red rag. It is a bold active fish, and in summer is often found with a mouse in it's stomach. It's jaws are strong, set with sharp teeth, somewhat curved, it is of all sizes from one to fifteen pounds ; it is seldom found in company with the Trout, which last appears to be the master fish, for where they are found In the same Lake, the Pike are confined to the shallow bays. 

The Trout to attain to a large size, they require to be in extensive deep Lakes. In this region they are from one to twenty pounds. They are as rich as meat. The white fish is well known, their quality and size depends much on the depths of the Lakes. In shoal Lakes they are generally poor, and in deep lakes fat and large, they are almost the sole subsistence of the Traders and their men in the winter, and part of the summer : they are caught in nets of five to six inches mesh, fifty fathoms in length, and five to six feet in depth ; which are set and anchored by stones in three to five fathoms water, if possible on sandy, or fine gravel, bottom. They weigh from two to ten pounds. They are a delicate fish, the net ought not to stand more than two nights, then [it ought to be] taken up and washed in hot water, dried and mended.

Some of the Lakes have only a fall fishery and another in the spring, in this case the fish are frozen, and lose part of their good taste. Fish do not bear keeping, the maxim is; from the hook or the net directly into the kettle of boiling water. Those who live wholly on fish, without any sauce, and frequently without salt, know how to cook fish in their best state, for sauces make a fish taste well, which otherwise would not be eatable. There are two species of Carp, the red and grey; the former is a tolerable fish; the latter is so full of small bones, only the head and shoulders are eaten. They spawn in the spring, on the small Rapids, are in shoals, the prey of the Eagle, the Bear, and other animals. The Sturgeon to be good must be caught in muddy Lakes, he is the fresh water hog, fond of being in shoal alluvials; in such lakes it is a rich fish; but in clear water not so good ; they weigh from ten to fifty pounds.

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