Nova Scotia

Surprise rainbow trout in Shelburne Harbour 'very tasty'

People are hauling out of Shelburne Harbour an abundance of the freshwater rainbow trout native to the West Coast.

Nova Scotia unsure why freshwater West Coast fish are there, but says they're safe to eat

Kathleen Glauser said she's never seen so many people fishing at Island's Park. (Kathleen Glauser/Facebook)

There's a new kind of neighbour moving in near Shelburne.

People in the town have been hauling an abundance of rainbow trout out of Shelburne Harbour.

Rainbow trout are native to the West Coast and are naturally a freshwater fish.

But for Kathleen Glauser, the first sign that the fish making an appearance in the Atlantic was when she was walking at Islands Provincial Park — across the harbour from Shelburne — and noticed an unusual number of cars in the parking lot.

"There were more cars in the parking lot than I'd ever seen before," she said Thursday.

'Catching hordes of fish'

At the shoreline, she saw crowds of people reeling in rainbow trout. 

"People were just saying that they were catching hordes of fish," she said.

She even ran into an acquaintance, who gave her one of the fish he'd caught. 

Robert Daniel caught this 33-centimetre-long rainbow trout in Shelburne Harbour on Tuesday. (Robert Daniel)

The fish weren't just being spotted at Island Park; she said heard people say they were catching fish at different points around the harbour.

"It wasn't just 10 fishermen," Glausner said. "You definitely heard they were catching them in other spots. It just seemed like so many."

Last seen in 2014

The last time rainbow trout were seen in Shelburne Harbour was in 2014, when the Chronicle Herald reported that the fish were so abundant, locals were scooping them up with nets. 

At the time, it was not clear where the trout had come from. 

Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists said it's highly unlikely those fish would have survived long enough in the Atlantic Ocean to return in 2016. 

Rainbow trout fish farms nearby 

Aquaculture company Ocean Trout Farms Inc. operates pens of rainbow trout and salmon in Shelburne Harbour, as does Kelly Cove Salmon, a division of Cooke Aquaculture. 

Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller said that it couldn't be confirmed whether the fish had escaped from local fish farms. 

"Their nets don't seem to be compromised, everything seems to be fine, but we're looking into the matter further."

Rainbow trout safe to eat

In the meantime, Miller reassured residents that rainbow trout farmed in Shelburne Harbour have not been treated with chemicals that would make them unsafe to eat.

Which is exactly what Glauser and others have been doing. 

After an internet search to verify no news about diseased fish released into the harbour, Glauser said she figured the fish were probably no more dangerous than anything else — and had some for dinner. 

"It was very tasty," she said. "And it sure was fresh."

With files from Jean Laroche