First Time Cooking Your Catch? 4 Things You Should Know!

By Debbie Hanson

Sep 29, 2014

You've had a great day of fishing with your family or friends and now you're all ready for a delectable dinner that includes your fresh catch.

You've had a great day of fishing with your family or friends and now you're all ready for a delectable dinner that includes your fresh catch. You can practically see it and taste it already… a nice white fillet that flakes at the touch of your fork and melts in your mouth.


There's just one concern, it's your first attempt at cooking your catch and you don't want your main course to come out tasting like rubber or cardboard. Well, guess what? Learning how to prepare and how to cook fresh fish is easier than you think if you follow a few simple guidelines.

  1. Put your catch on ice immediately. Always ice your catch, even on cold days. Have a large cooler on hand with plenty of ice and place your fish right side up on top of the ice right away. Cover the fish with a layer of ice on top and make sure the lid on your cooler seals tightly. If the ice starts to melt, use the spigot on your cooler to drain any excess water out. Keep your fish in a sealed cooler on ice until you get back to the dock or fillet station to clean them.

  2. Eat the fish the same day you catch it if possible. Fresh fish should keep in your refrigerator for 2-3 days after being caught; however, it's always best to eat it the same day you catch it. Once you take the fish out of your cooler, store it in a resealable bag in the coldest part of your fridge. A few hours before cooking, remove the fillets from the bag and rinse them off to remove any loose scales. Then, pat the fillets dry and leave in the fridge uncovered on a baking sheet until cooking time.

  3. Use the 10-minute cooking rule. Cook fish fillets 10 minutes per inch, turning halfway through the cooking time. For example, a one-inch fish fillet should be cooked 5 minutes on each side for a total of 10 minutes.

  4. Fish is cooked when the fillets turn opaque and are firm. This is an important tip to remember if you want to avoid over-cooked, rubbery fillets. The fish will be done when the fillets turn from translucent to opaque or white and feel firm but are still moist. The fillets should be just ready to flake.

Attention to these details regarding storage and preparation will help ensure that your catch tastes fantastic when it gets to the dinner table. Do you have any tips for beginning chefs or first-timers on how to cook fresh fish? If so, share them in the Take Me Fishing Community forum.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.