Keeping Fish Fresh

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Posted by: Captain Woody - Comments Off on Keeping Fish Fresh

There is nothing difficult about keeping fish in the first-class condition from the time they’re caught until the time they’re cooked and what a difference it makes to the taste.

Recreational or sport fishing anglers are always ready to jump up and down about any attempts to reduce their right to catch a mess of fresh fish for dinner. Then how come, so many of those same anglers who jump on their soap boxes and vociferously voice their opinion about this right, so often bring home fish that are often an inedible travesty of the original delight they caught?

The summer months seem to be the worse simply because the heat has such a devastating effect on any catch that is left unattended.

Anglers often forget and take little precaution to protect the freshness of the fish they plan on eating. They toss them into a fish box or un-iced cooler where the fish slowly struggles as it drowns in the air. Then as more fish are caught they are thrown on top of the already dead and dying fish. By the time the anglers get to shore sometimes five to eight hours later, they have a spoiled mess on their hands that certainly should not be eaten. Simply put, the fish have literally cooked in their own blood and slime. Now there is nothing left to do but discard the rotting carcasses.

If we’re not going to do it right we shouldn’t be doing it at all… Many anglers would be better advised to fish on an exclusively catch-and-release basis only. If they wanted to have some fish for dinner they could stop by the local market and buy some on the way home. The fish in the market would most likely be in much better condition than the amateur’s catch.

The fact is if we have any right to demand a stake in the way our fishery is managed. And that a significant piece of that fishery is reserved to ensure that recreational and fishing anglers can indeed continue to catch fish for dinner; then it is also true that we must use our share with care. That share must not only be controlled and managed by the obvious measures now in places such as catch limits, and the like. But also by ensuring that the fish we choose to take to the table is in prime eating condition.

If you were buying fish at the local fish market, the rules for checking the condition of the fish are simple. The same rules should apply to fish coming to the cleaning table after a day on the water in your boat.

  • Are the eyes clear and bright? Cloudy or dull eyes are signs are the fish has not been treated right after it was caught.
  • Is the flesh solid and ‘bouncy’ to the touch? When pressed and released does the flesh bounce back into shape? Soft flabby flesh means it is bruised or beginning to decompose, or both.
  • Is the fish slimy? Excessive slime is a sure sign the fish has been allowed to overheat and is beginning to decompose.
  • Does the fish stink? A strong, putrid, fishy smell means the fish is decomposing. Fresh fish in good condition have a clean fishy smell, not unpleasant, or strong.

There is no reason we cannot produce fish in prime condition when we start preparing them for the table. The simple facts are that to produce table fish in a prime condition we simply follow four easy steps.

First Step – fill an insulated cooler with ice, lots of ice.

Second Step – as fish come over the side, kill them right away with, preferably with a solid whack over the eyes with a fish club. Then place them in the cooler and cover with ice.

Second Step (Option) – However, If you have a freshwater circulated water livewell place the fish in the livewell and keep them alive as long as possible.

Third step – Add some water to the insulated cooler along with the ice and drop the dead fish into this slurry as they are caught or die. Keep adding ice as needed.

Fourth step – Whenever time permits, remove the stomach contents and drop the fish back into the slurry.

Following these simple steps has very real advantages.

Because the flesh is chilled down, when the time comes to prepare the fish, the job is much easier. The fish will not be slimy, which means cleaning is easier, more efficient and filleting is especially a breeze.

Many people, who have trouble filleting fish, find the difficulty comes from slimy soft flesh making it hard to make a clean full cut. It’s much easier when the flesh has some consistency and firmness.

Preparing fish for the table also becomes more pleasant when there is little or no odor. Cooking fish should be an appetizing smell. I know many people who do not like eating fish because of bad past experiences. The cooking odor of foul-smelling fish is an integral part of taste because our brain usually relates a bad smell to a bad taste.

But by far and away the biggest bonus will be in the taste. There is little to compare with the taste of fresh fish that has been well cared for since capture, especially fish that we have caught ourselves. For me, that is one of the true joys of fishing.

Despite the very real problems in our saltwater fisheries, in comparison with most other places in the world, ours is a dream fishery. The ability to take to the sea with realistic anticipation of hooking into a nice catch of fish is one of the things that make our area unique. To mistreat the fish we choose to keep is an abuse of this right and privilege.

Give Me a Call and Let’s Go Fishing If you’re interested in learning to fish the bay areaCaptain Woody’s been guiding and fishing Florida waters for over 50 year’s providing single boat charters for up to 4 anglers or multiple boats for large group events. And the results are always the same “Memorable Fishing Adventures with Tampa’s Top Guide”.

For more information or to book a trip, visit my website at www.captainwoodygore.com, you can also reach me on my cell at 813-477-3814 My Email address is fishing@captainwoodygore.com