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Best Way to Keep Fish Fresh After Catching

If a freshwater fish is treated forcefully or is overly agitated, its fragile skin begins to weaken before it dies. Therefore, if you want to conserve your catch for a good supper, you’ll need to keep your fish fresh.

Even if you’re more concerned with learning how to fish properly and releasing your catch into the water to practice sustainable fishing, you may still take vital actions to preserve your catch while fishing.

As an angler, you must know the best possible ways to maintain your fresh-caught fish for a fresh-tasting meal afterward.

To help you, we’ve put together this guide on the best way to keep fish fresh after catching!

best way to keep fish fresh after catching
Source: Canva Pro

Handling Fish With The Utmost Delicacy

Handling involves keeping it in water after netting/landing it, then stunning it before eating. 

Stunning is knocking the fish out so quickly that it doesn’t feel any pain as it’s bleeding out. The fish can be stunned in two ways to keep the fish fresh:

Spiking 

Puncture the fish’s brain with anything sharp. You can use a blade or an ice pick to accomplish so. To put the fish unconscious, swiftly and securely press the spike.

‍Percussive Stunning 

Strike the fish in the head with power and speed. Execute the blow slightly above the eyes, aiming for the brain. If the fish is still conscious, give it another whack.

Storing Your Fish

You can store fish in the manner prescribed once you’ve dispatched it. Here are some of the ways in keeping fish fresh:

Keep Fish in a Livewell

One step toward fine-tasting fish is to maintain them alive as long as possible in a suitable Rubbermaid container or a keep bag before washing them.

Further, if you intend to consume your catch, you may choose to kill and dress it right away. However, because this procedure may disrupt your fishing experience, you might want to use one of the following ways for keeping fish while angling:

  1. Dropping a stringer of fish into the water.
  2. Keeping the fish cold in an insulated cooler or fish bin with shaved or crushed ice; can cause smaller fish to fall latent.
  3. Placing your catch in a wire mesh container and submerging it in water.
  4. Use a live well large enough to hold all of your catch.

Refrigerate Fish

Another approach to keeping fish fresh is to refrigerate it. However, keep in mind that even fish in the refrigerator deteriorates over time.

As a result, the fish meat will only last 3-5 days if stored in this way. Also, a big, lean fish should be refrigerated rather than tinier, fatty fish.

How to Refrigerate Your Catch

To keep fish fresh by putting it in a refrigerator or crushed ice properly, follow these easy steps.

  1. Wash in cold water and dry it with a dry, clean cloth or paper towels. 
  2. Cover the fish in waxed paper, aluminum foil, or plastic wrapper and keep it refrigerated or on ice. 
  3. Store the fish in the refrigerator in an iced dish, but be sure to remove and refill the ice on a regular schedule to avoid a mushy fillet.

Alternatively, you may use a container with drainage holes drilled at the bottom.

Retain Fish in a Stringer

Unless the water is really cold, stringers cause greater stress to the fish than other approaches. When the temperature is elevated, it’s ideal for killing fish as soon as possible and encircling them with ice.

Further, when icing, putting it in livewell, or stringer, keep in mind that the fish meat shouldn’t remain in the water for too long; else, you’ll end up with a gooey fillet.

Also, catch the fish as soon as possible and remove the guts so that ice may cover the space.

Freeze Fish

You may freeze the fish meat if you don’t plan on eating it right away. Icing fish can last up to a year in the freezer.

However, how you prepare your fish for freezing is crucial since fish meat degrades through oxidation and dehydration when exposed to the elements.

Hence, to be able to properly execute this method here’s how to keep your frozen fish fresh:

Ice Glazing Method

If you have adequate time, ice glazing is the approach to use. Here’s how it works:

  1. While making a cold-water mixture, put a metal baking pan in the freezer for about 10-20 minutes. 
  2. Remove the pan from the fridge and set the fish on it after soaking the fish flesh in very cold water or melted ice. 
  3. Put the pan back in the freezer until you have a lovely glaze. It just takes 5 minutes. Remove the fish flesh from the freezer and continue the process until you have a 14-inch thick coating on the meat. 
  4. Vacuum, seal, or zip lock the bag as securely as possible to keep as much air out as possible.

If the meat is lean, frozen wall fish can survive up to 6 months and 3 months if the fish is tiny and fatty.

Whole Fish Freezing Method

Another method of freezing your freshly caught fish is doing it to your whole catch. Here’s how whole frozen fish works:

  1. Scale and gut the fish before rinsing the cavity in a stream of extremely cold water to clean it.
  2. Vacuum seal or place the fish in a zip lock bag with as little air as possible. 

Also, check out the best vacuum sealers here.

Return Your Catch

Some anglers who like fishing but don’t want to consume their catch practice catch and release as a conservation approach. Many private fishing areas also have a policy of maintaining their stocks.

How Do Catch and Release Work?

The catch-and-release method is straightforward:

  • Reel the fish in
  • Unhook it
  • Snap a short photo (ideally in the water)
  • Release the fish back
  • Revive, and release

Therefore, here are some suggestions for increasing your catch’s survival chances after release.

  1. Hook fish quickly to prevent tiredness. Retain your catch in the water as long as possible.
  2. Use fish-friendly hooks, such as circular, barbless J hooks or self-releasing.
  3. Keep your hands moist (or wear fishing gloves) if you have to take fish out from the water.

To help you decide on whether you should release your catch, check out our list of the best freshwater fish to eat.

The Bottomline

As an angler, if you want to carry your catch home to eat after learning how to appropriately store fish while fishing, you’ll also want to know how to keep the fish fresh for the trip.

The temperature is important whether you take a short boat trip or walk a great distance from the dock. Hence, avoiding heat and air is the only way to preserve its freshness.

Indeed, there are various ways to store fish while maintaining its freshness. Therefore, learning all of these is a way to eat a tasty meal after your fun fishing experience.

Johanes Godoy
Fishing Editor
Johanes is a talented Editor for Cast & Spear. She's helped edit and write hundreds of articles on fishing and the outdoors. When she's not editing, she's exploring the world and documenting it on her own blog.
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