Fishing is a favorite outdoor sport for millions in North America. White many anglers practice catch and release, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a few for the table or shore lunch to enjoy some tasty fish dinners.
Keep it Fresh
Nothing beats the flavor of fresh fish. But to ensure the fish you catch are at their flavorful best, take some time to plan for their proper care. Fish are extremely perishable food. Fish that do not have red gills, clear eyes and a fresh odor should be discarded. Keep your catch alive as long as possible. A good stringer, fish basket or boat live well is fine for short periods, especially when the water is cool. It’s best to clean a fish within the first hour or two and cook it within 24 hours. If you are keeping fish from a fishing trip, they should be field dressed (gutted) or filleted as soon as possible, rinsed, placed into a plastic bag and put directly on ice in a cooler or refrigerator. The colder the storage the longer the fish will maintain with little flavor loss. Fish stored in a cooler with ice usually will stay fresh for 2 or 3 days to be eaten. Be sure to drain often not allowing the water to soak into your catch.
Storing & Freezing Tips
If you’re not going to cook the catch right away then freezing the fish should be done at once. Here are a couple quick tips for proper freezing techniques. Don’t loosely wrap the fillets with freezer paper, plastic wrap or a used bread bag and toss them into the freezer. This will cause the fillets to dry out or freezer burn. Most freezers today are frost free which pulls the moisture out of the air to prevent frost buildup. It also pulls the moisture out of poorly wrapped fillets.
The best to preserve the fillets are to freeze in water. Any dehydration that occurs will happen to the ice, not the fish. One suggestion is using covered freezer containers or clean milk cartons, fill with meal sized portions and add cold water ensuring that the fillets are encased in ice. If needed add additional water. As a rule, fats in fish will begin to oxidize over a period of time. Fatty fish such as lake trout and salmon have a freezer life of about one month, while lean fish, walleye, pike and panfish will have 2 to 3 months. Never thaw frozen fish at room temperatures by placing the fish in a kitchen sink. This may cause bacteria to grow as the fish is thawing. Thaw the container of fish in the refrigerator overnight. Drain as necessary or by running under cold running water. Do not refreeze the fish after it has been thawed.
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