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⚠ Thanks for visiting TakeMeFishing.org. If you are interested in enjoying the outdoors and going fishing or boating, check the latest COVID-19 updates on your State Natural Resources Agency website first. We encourage you to follow CDC recommendations and official orders in your state before heading to the water.

Keeping Fish Fresh

Keeping fish fresh to eat is essential if you want to save your catch for a tasty meal. Even if you are focused instead on how to fish responsibly and plan to return your catch to the water to practice sustainable fishing, there are key ways to preserve your fish while still fishing.

Returning Your Catch

Catch and release is a conservation technique used by anglers who enjoy fishing, yet don’t want to eat their catch. It is also often a policy in many private fishing spots to maintain their stocks.

The practice of catch and release is simple: reel the fish in, unhook it, take a quick pic (preferably in water) and return the fish to the water, resuscitate and release. Here are tips to maximize your catch’s chances of survival after release.
 

  • Use fish friendly hooks such as circle, self-release or barbless J hooks.
  • Quickly land fish to avoid exhaustion. Keep your catch in the water.
  • If you must remove fish from the water, keep your hands wet (or use fish gloves) while handling.

Keeping Fish Alive

If you plan to eat your fish, you may opt to kill and dress your catch immediately. However, since this step can interrupt your fishing experience, you may want to try one of several methods for how to keep fish while fishing:
 

  • Placing fish on a stringer and lowering it in the water
  • Putting your catch in a wire mesh basket and placing it in the water
  • Using a live well that accommodates all of your fish
  • Positioning the fish in a cooler or pail with shaved ice to keep them cool; this will make smaller fish go dormant

Staying Cool

Once you know how to keep fish fresh while fishing, if you plan to bring your catch home to enjoy, you’ll also want to make sure you know how to preserve it for the journey because fish can decompose quickly once they die. Whether you have a short boat ride or a long walk from the pier, temperature is critical.

Since the only way to keep fish fresh is to chill, put it on ice. Once you get home, store the fish in the refrigerator or freezer.