All freshwater and saltwater fish that are freshly caught within minutes will start to spoil. They will ruin rapidly especially if it is roughly handled at the Gill Plate and stressed from a fight reeling it in. Added with a sun-baked beach, or lakeside the freshest of fish can ruin fast. Here are some ideas to keep fresh-caught fish fresh while you keep fishing. What are the best ways to keep fish fresh while fishing?
Poke a hole through the fish’s lower jaw
Run stringer through the hole & out his mouth
Keep fish alive in H2O
Spike fish-dig a hole in beach below waterline put fish in & cover-up
Bleed them out in a 5 gal. bucket
Keep fish out of the sun/covered with a wet towel
Ice fish with crushed ice if available
Once a fish dies the flesh will start to deteriorate soon after death, fish flesh deteriorates quickly if the fish isn’t handled correctly. Once they die, try and gut them immediately when possible to do so. Don’t let sour, bacteria-filled stomach and intestinal juices touch the flesh for long. Being realistic, that situation is not always possible but here are some tips to make that fish you caught better tasting on the dinner plate.
How to Keep Fish Alive After Catching
I’ve seen a few tricks while fishing Freshwater and Saltwater over the years, and once you hit on a school of fish off the surf or inside a hole on a lake the last thing you want to do is stop fishing. But in order to keep fish fresh while fishing especially if you plan on being there for a while is to have a plan. The very best way to keep a fish fresh would be to keep it alive. Sometimes it’s possible and sometimes it’s not.
You might not think of it until you actually catch one. There is a rush involved and all you can think about at that point is to get your line back in the water. You need to think about it before you hit on a run on what you need to do beforehand. One of the most identified ways is to attach the fish to a stringer in the water just off the edge. In the ocean, it would be in the surf where the tide will reach the fish. This keeps them alive a while longer.
So as soon as you can get the fish off the hook you a and dd the fish to a Stringerget your line back into the water before the fish start to move. The fish need oxygen and the water provides that on the edge of the water or the surf. Try to keep the stringer loose so that the fish can move. This swim action can keep more oxygen flowing through the fish especially on a lake where there is no movement or surf and will keep the fish alive longer. The stringer can be the Chain Stringer or a Standard Stringer made from plastic rope that has a spike on one end and a metal circle on the other.
The standard way to string a fish is to come up through the Gill plate and exit the mouth but I feel the most appropriate way to add a fish to a stringer is to poke a hole through the bottom of the fish’s jaw with the metal clip or make the hole with the spike or even a knife and run the rope through his lower jaw and exit out his mouth and connect the fish on the stringer without damaging his gills. Damaging the fish’s gills will kill him faster and should be an alternative to running the stringer through his gills and exiting the fish’s mouth.
Then get him back into the water where the fish can breathe. There are simpler ways of stringing the fish but like making the hole through the jaw with a knife or some fish don’t have a soft bottom jaw so it’s not possible to make the entrance hole through the bottom of the jaw but surprisingly most salt and freshwater fish do. Check this video out and learn this little trick.
How to Keep Fish Fresh Without Ice
On the Surf, I’ve seen a lot of old-timers bury a fish in the sand until there ready to leave:
Just dig a hole on the beach until you hit the water level lay the fish in the hole then cover them up. You can wrap it in a wet rag before placing it in the hole. This will keep it cool, wet, and out of the sun. You can spike them before putting them in the hole. Spike the fish directly through the brain between the eyes on his forehead as you would in Ikejime. This will keep them alive but brain dead and not able to feel pain on suffocation buried in the sand hole.
I also use the Japanese technique called Ikejime severing the spinal cord and the two major dorsal blood vessels initiate the bleeding of smaller fish. You then sever those same vessels at the tail. Later on, you put the fish in salted water to complete the bleeding. In larger fish, like Bluefin tuna, it isn’t practical to sever the spinal cord at the head, so cuts are made near the pectoral fin where there are major blood vessels near the surface. For smaller fish, you can use a 5-gallon bucket with saltwater to bleed them out, then gut them in the water clean them and rinse them clean.
The idea is to get the blood out as fast as you can and keep the meat wet and out of the sun. This keeps everything fresher if you can’t keep what you just caught alive. On most beaches, you can’t access it by car or truck so the only way to get ice and coolers out to where you are fishing is to hike out to your favorite spot with a fishing wagon that can hold your supplies. If you can bring a cooler for fish that are caught used crushed ice. It’s better for keeping fish on a hot beach colder because of how it can cover more square inches of the fish’s flesh.
How Long Does Fresh Caught Fish Last in the Fridge
Also, when you thaw the fish, later on, the internal organs will start to decompose very quickly, which can also have a negative effect on taste. In order to avoid this, try to remove the gut when the fish is still partially frozen. Bleed it-Gut it-Clean it-Filet it-Refrigerate it.
You should also keep in mind that you can’t refreeze fish that has been thawed, since the thawing process accelerates decomposition. So if you catch a big fish, it’s better to clean it right away and then freeze it in small portions that you can take out of the freezer individually.
If you bleed un-gutted fish and then store them on ice or in the refrigerator, they can be kept for 24-48 hours without quality problems. However, it’s essential to keep the fish cool. If you don’t keep them cool, you only have 6-12 hours before un-gutted fish goes bad. The reason for this is that bacteria and digestive enzymes inside the gut start to affect the rest of the fish. This is another method for keeping fish in the field. Super-chilled fish that have been gutted and left in the round can be kept on ice for five days and often longer.
Super chill-To super-chill, line the bottom of an insulated cooler with several inches of crushed ice, leaving the drain open. In another container, mix coarse ice cream salt and crushed ice at a ratio of 1 to 20. For average-sized coolers, that’s one pound of salt to 20 pounds of ice.
Properly frozen fish keeps well and holds its flavor for months, although the quality deteriorates progressively the longer they’re frozen.
References: How to keep Fish fresh