Tips on traveling with fish.
Fishing is fun and eating fish is also fun and healthy but fish is better at the table when it has been properly cared for from the moment it comes out of the water.
Here are some things I have learned over the years.
- Other than in very cold water in winter, early spring, or late fall, fish should not be put on stringers and hung over the side of the boat. The surface temperature of water can be very near the temperature of the air and that may very well be too warm to prevent the flesh from warming up and beginning to break down. Fish should be stored on ice. The smaller the fish, the more quickly they can warm up but all fish should be stored on ice.
Here are the methods I use.
- Small Fish: A limit of five trout on a one day trip can just be put into a small ice chest with some ice and kept there until you get home to clean them.
- Large Fish: Steelhead and Salmon should be stunned with a rap to the head and then have a gill arch cut so that they can bleed out. I loop a cord through their gills and hang them over the side of the boat for just a few minutes to bleed them as this reduces the mess in the boat or ice chest. Once bled, they go into the ice chest set up as follows.
- Put a layer of 3-4 inches of ice in the bottom of the ice chest. Lay a wet towel over the ice and lay the fish on the towel. Put another wet towel on top of the fish and add more ice. This keeps the fish damp so that the skin does not dry out and plenty cold enough without them swimming in a slurry of water. Periodically, open the drain and let the excess water run out and add more ice as needed.
- Fish can be kept this way for a couple of days but the gills should be cut out as they are the first parts to spoil. If you gut the fish before traveling it is even more important to keep draining off the excess water as it will mix with the slime on the fish and taint the meat in the stomach cavity.
- Fish, like any other game taken should be properly cared for to insure they are at their best when they hit the fire and then the plate.