How to Keep Fish Fresh While Fishing and Other Tips

By Richard | Fishing Advice

how to keep fish fresh while fishing
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Everybody loves the taste of anything fresh, whether it be fruits, vegetables, meat, or fish.

If you are an avid angler and loves to go out on fishing adventures, then you surely have some ideas on how to keep fish fresh while fishing.

There are numerous ways on how to keep them fresh until you are done fishing.

Some would choose to make sure that the fish stay alive, which may be a bit challenging, while others will immediately remove the innards and clean the fish, and that's what we'll teach you today!

Things You Need When Fishing

To succeed in keeping the fish fresh and ensure you have a catch, you need to prepare the basic but essential things, including:

1. Tackle Box

The tackle box is considered your toolbox in fishing since most of your fishing essentials are in this box for you to enjoy the experience.

Some of the things that you will find inside the tackle box include hooks, sinkers, other lures, extra line, bobbers, and plastic worms.

2. Live Bait Container

You will not catch any fish if you don’t use baits, whether live or artificial, and there are times when fish is not attracted to artificial lures.

That is why you should always be prepared with a container of live baits as traps.

As it is, fish cannot resist the smell of live and raw worms, increasing the number of your catch.

3. Ice Box or Bag

One of the essential items that you will need is an icebox or bag so that you have something to put and preserve your catch.

You should fill it with ice before you leave the shore so that you can put the fish inside until you finish fishing.

4. Landing Net

Another handy and useful accessory is a landing net.

Having it in your arsenal will make it easier for you to transfer the fish to the boat as soon as you caught it.

5. First Aid Kit

In anything we do, safety should always be prioritized, including in layback sports such as fishing.

Though it is considered a safe sport, unexpected accidents that may result in minor injuries can still happen hence the need for a first aid kit.

How to Keep Fish Alive While Fishing

If you are into fishing tournaments, then you must keep the fish alive until the competition is over so as not to get penalized when submitting a dead fish for weighing.

Keeping the fish alive while you are still out in the water is also another way for ordinary anglers to maintain its freshness.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Make It Dormant

This tip is applicable for smaller fish species, and to do do, you must store them inside a cooler or a bucket filled with chipped ice.

Arrange the fish in an upright position with plenty of space in between for the fish to stay alive longer.

2. Keep It in a Stringer

If you wish to use a stringer, you have to keep in mind that it should be lowered into the water for the fish to stay submerged.

You need to be aware of the water temperature, though, because the fish needs cold water instead of warm since it will hasten the expiration of your catch.

3. Place It in a Basket

Using the same principle as the stringer without the loops, you can put your catch inside a lidded basket and lower it into the water.

Just be conscious of any obstructions inside the basket to prevent any injuries on the fish.

4. Preserve the Fish in a Livewell

Livewells are an expensive option since these are containers with varying sizes depending on the size of your fish.

These containers can keep the fish secure since they are lowered into the water and help to keep them alive.

How to Keep Fish Fresh While Fishing

Fishing is an activity that requires you to have a lot of patience as you wait for your catch.

After catching your first target, you can’t just stop and go back to the shore only to keep the fish alive and fresh.

Here are the steps on how to keep fish fresh while fishing, if you prefer it not be alive:

1. Kill It Immediately

If you want to retain the freshness of your catch, you need to kill it immediately to avoid ruining the fish quality by allowing it to die on its own while stored in a container.

You can hit the fish on its head or poke a pointy tool to the eyes of the fish to kill it instantly.

2. Wash It Thoroughly

Wash the fish right after killing it by cleaning and washing the blood thoroughly.

This will ensure that the fish will stay fresh until you are back on land.

3. Keep It Cool

One of the most crucial steps in maintaining the freshness of the fish by keeping it cool or storing it in cool storage.

Even if you can keep the fish iced or chilled for a day without cleaning, though, it is still best to gut it once you are out of the water to keep the flavors in.

how to keep fish fresh while fishing

How to Store

As noted above, after catching the fish, make sure to keep cool until you have the time to clean it properly.

Here are three ways to store the fish after it has been cleaned.

  • Put It on Ice

Put the fish on ice from the time you caught it until it is cleaned and dressed.

Ice is one sure way to keep the fish from spoiling if you have plans of bringing it to another place.

If you are using an insulated cooler, make sure that you remove the drain cover to prevent the melted ice from spoiling the fish.

  • Refrigerate

Before you put the fish inside the refrigerator, rinse it with cold water before you pat it dry with a paper towel or cloth.

Afterward, wrap the fish in waxed paper, aluminum foil, or a plastic wrap before storing inside the refrigerator.

You can keep the clean fish inside the refrigerator for a maximum of two days and still retain its flavor.

  • Freeze

Freezing is another typical way of storing fish, and it can last from three months to as much as 12 months as long as it is properly cleaned and packed.

After cleaning the fish, you can put it inside a Ziploc bag and try to remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag.

Another way to store the fish is by covering it with aluminum foil before wrapping it once more in freezer paper right before you put it inside the freezer.

You can also store the fish inside a block of ice by placing it inside a freezer container then fill it with enough water to cover the fish before putting it inside the freezer.

How Long Can Fish Stay on Ice After Being Gutted?

All freshwater fish will start to deteriorate and die when roughly handled or stressed after being caught.

Ensuring that the fish stay alive or fresh until you can properly clean and store it is vital to keep its flavorful taste.

If you are still out in the water, it is crucial that you remove the innards, clean, and wash the fish before covering it with crushed ice.

Remember never to let the fish soak in any form of water once it’s dead since it may be spoiled and ruined.

Fish surrounded by crushed ice will give you the option to store the fish for at least five days at the maximum before it is completely ruined.

However, keep in mind that the quality of the iced fish gradually deteriorates every day.

How to Tell if Fish Is Spoiled

You can store fresh fish in the refrigerator or freezer, but how do we know if the fish is still safe for consumption?

Sometimes, there are telltale signs that will indicate that the fish should not be eaten anymore, like the smell and the texture of its skin.

Discard the fish immediately if it shows signs of spoilage to avoid food poisoning.

Here are other ways to check whether or not you need to discard the fish:

  • Follow Recommended Days

As a rule of thumb, raw fish should be stored in the freezer for two days only and should be discarded after that time.

If in case you decide to cook the fish, before storing it, you can store it in the refrigerator between five and six days only.

Frozen fish, on the other hand, can last from six to nine months before spoilage.

  • Inspect the Fish

The first indication that the raw fish is starting to spoil is a thin layer of slimy coating on its outer surface.

Raw or cooked fish will emit an overpowering fishy smell once it’s spoiled, which should be a clear sign that you need to discard it.

Seeing a glossy milky color on raw fish means that it is not safe to cook and eat, and needs to be thrown into the trash.

Fish that has been stored in the freezer for a long time will show freezer burns like formed peaks of ice and discoloration on the fish meat.

  • Check for Expired Salmon Indicators

Salmon is popular with its thin white lines running on its meat, but if you don’t notice those lines on the salmon’s flesh, then it is not safe to eat.

Fresh and edible salmon should have a firm flesh when you try to touch it, whereas spoiled salmon has a squishy and soft texture.

You will also notice some discolorations on the salmon’s meat, which indicates that it has expired.

How to Bring Home the Fish Without Ice

We have been advised to bring an ice cooler filled with ice whenever we go out on a fishing trip.

What are we supposed to do if we ran out of ice while we are still out in the water to fish?

One crucial fishing technique that we need to learn is how to make fish cooler without using any ice.

Things You'll Need

The first item that you will need is a sphagnum moss or also known as a peat moss, which abounds typically in the northern part of the country.

Your catch will stay fresh and sweet for two to three days more based on what you did to the fish after catching it.

What to Do

Here’s the step by step guide on what you need to do:

  • Gather a handful of the gray-green moss until your gunnysack is full of it.
  • Keep the fish alive as much as you can and keep it out of the sun at all times to prevent it from decaying.
  • Clean the fish by removing the entrails and gills as well as the blood on the spine area to prevent spoilage but make sure not to remove the scales, fins, and heads.
  • Put the fish in a bucket full of cold well or spring water and let it chill before thoroughly washing it by removing the slime and leftover blood.
  • Soak the moss in the cold water then squeeze out any excess water before spreading it on the bottom part of a carton, box, tarp, or your raincoat.
  • Fill the body cavity of each fish with the wet moss before arranging the fishes in layers, ensuring that there’s no contact between them by putting some soaked moss in between each layer.
  • Once you are finished with packing and arranging the fish, secure it by putting it under the shade until it’s time for you to travel home.

Final Thoughts

If you are new to fishing, these tips will be a great help so that you can keep the freshness of your catch until you are back on land.

It is also best to know what types of fish are in season so that you will know what to expect and what kind of preparations you should do before you start your fishing venture.

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