First, remember to keep a fish alive or chilled with ice from the time it's caught until it's stored. Clean the fish 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. Once you have a clean fish and you have filleted or steaked to your liking, there are several ways to store it.
It’s very important to ice fish all throughout the process of preparing it. But it is especially important after a fish is dressed, to ice it. Icing fish is also the best way to store fish for transport. 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 the clean fish 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 (panfish and walleye) store better than fatty fish (trout).
Frozen fish can 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. Here are a few methods for freezing:
- Clean the fish, then place it a freezer safe ziploc bag. Before you zip, make sure to remove all of the air, or as much of the air as possible.
- Consider wrapping the fish in aluminum foil, then wrapping them again in freezer paper before you freeze fish.
- If you store fish often, consider buying an air tight package sealer. These work best as they remove all air from the package as they are sealed, preventing the fish from losing its flavor.
- Another way is to freeze fish is in a solid block of ice. Use a refrigerator container. Place the clean 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. To prepare fresh fish, consider these ways to cook your catch.