Keep a fish alive or chilled from the time it's caught until it's stored. Clean it as soon as possible to preserve its flavor. However, a whole fish can be kept for up to a day before cleaning, if it is iced or chilled.
After a fish is cleaned and skinned, filleted or steaked, there are several ways to store it.
After a fish is dressed, you can ice it. It's the best way to transport fish. Use an insulated cooler and leave the cooler's drain plug open so ice water will run out. Water spoils the flavor of the fish.
Before refrigerating a fish, wash it in cold water and dry it with a clean cloth or paper towels. Then wrap it in waxed paper, plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and store it on ice or in the refrigerator. You can usually store a fish in the refrigerator for up to two days. Large fish or large pieces of fish will keep longer than small pieces. Lean fish (pan fish and walleye) store better than fatty fish (trout).
Frozen fish last from three to 12 months. However, the preparation for freezing is important. A fish can lose its flavor if it comes in contact with air. One way to prevent this is to wrap the fish in aluminum foil, then wrap it again in freezer paper.
Another way is to freeze the fish in a solid block of ice. Use a refrigerator container. Place the fish into the container, but use only enough water to just cover the fish.
To thaw frozen fish, put it in the refrigerator overnight or place the wrapped fish in cold water. Don't thaw fish in a microwave because part of the fish will begin to cook before other parts are thawed. Don't thaw fish at room temperature.
Smoking, pickling and canning are other ways to store or prepare fish. Look for recipes in cookbooks, on the Internet or at your public library.
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