When you catch fish that are within the regulations and want to bring a few filets home for a tasty meal, there are important tips on how to store fresh caught fish you should keep in mind.
Keep the fish on ice.
The best way to keep your catch fresh, and one of the most important tips for maintaining optimal flavor and texture, is by keeping the fish ice in a cooler. Whenever possible, use crushed ice versus blocks so that the ice completely surrounds the fish. The fish will cool more evenly and completely if the entire surface area of the fish has direct contact with ice. Be sure to get the fish in your cooler and on ice as soon as possible after catching it. This will help keep the flesh firm and tasting fresh.
Be sure to use enough ice for fresh fish storage.
A good general guideline to follow is four pounds of crushed ice for every two pounds of fish when storing fresh fish in your cooler.
Keep the drain open on your cooler if you can.
You want to make sure that the fish is not submerged in water. Keep the lid on your cooler closed, and be sure to add ice to the cooler if it begins to melt.
Limit the use of a stringer.
When keeping freshwater fish, it is recommended that you limit the use of a stringer to the colder months of the year because warm water and stress will cause the condition of the fish to deteriorate quickly. In warm weather, remove the guts and gills, and then be sure to get the fish on ice as soon as possible.
Fillet or clean the fish as soon as possible
Make sure to filet or clean the fish right away, removing the gills and internal organs. Once you fillet or clean the fish, put the fish back into the crushed ice, filling the cavity of the fish with ice. If you are out on the water for a long day, make sure you replace the crushed ice. Be sure not to let your fish soak in water because water will soften the flesh, giving your fish a mushy instead of firm texture.
Once your fish has been cleaned and stored on ice in a cooler, make plans to cook your catch as soon as you can for the very best flavor. When you can't cook your catch right away, you can learn how to preserve fresh fish for a short period in the refrigerator.
How to Store Fresh Caught Fish in the Refrigerator
You might be wondering, how long does fresh caught fish last in the fridge? The answer to this question is about 3 to 5 days if the fish is on crushed ice. You can follow these steps to store fish in your refrigerator on a short-term basis until you are ready to cook it.
- Rinse the cleaned fish or fillets in cold water then pat dry with towels
- Wrap the fish in plastic wrap and place in crushed ice. You still want the fish surrounded by crushed ice because the cooler you keep the fish, the better it will taste. If you don’t have crushed ice, put the fish over ice cubes in the bottom of a bowl, and then place a bag of ice cubes on top of it.
- Check the cleaned fish or fillets often while storing in the refrigerator, taking care to replace the ice when it begins to melt.
These are the best ways to store fresh caught fish before cooking it. If you want to store your fish for an extended period of time, you can also freeze it. Check the section on how to store fish for more tips on proper storage and preparation.