One of the greatest benefits of fishing is that you can bring your catch home for a fantastic meal as long as you follow state and local regulations. If you have caught a fish, you need to make sure that it stays fresh until you get back home, and on a hot day with several hours ahead of you, some proper precaution is necessary.
In this article, we are going to discuss what to do if you are in need of keeping fish fresh, but lack a refrigerator or ice to store it for longer periods of time.
Ways to Keep the Fish Fresh
Ice plays a great role while preserving the fish. It helps to keep your fish fresh and in prime condition before cooking as well as consuming it. Even if you have no ice, here are some techniques you can consider on your next fishing trip.
Keep Fish Alive
The best way to keep your catch fresh is to keep the fish alive until you are ready to cook and consume it. This is usually possible in streams, ponds, and lakes where there is ample water for the fish to survive until you bring them home.
Here are some ways to keep the fish alive:
- Keeping fish on a stringer: A stringer is a long piece of cord or wire with metal hooks that you use to string the fish. You can tie the stringer near banks and in shallow waters to keep your catch alive until you’re ready to take them home.
- Live wells: These are special tanks that can hold many adult-size fish at once and provide them with enough oxygen to survive. You can buy a live well from fishing and boating stores, or you can build one yourself.
- A bucket: Instead of purchasing live well, you can use a bucket to keep fish alive for a surprising amount of time.
- A fish basket: Using a fish basket made of wire, or woven materials can be an option. Placing fish in this basket for storage before leaving the body of water can be a way to keep fish alive for extended periods of time.
Fish can die from these methods, but the fish are generally in colder water, which will likely preserve them fine for the rest of the day even if they don’t live the entirety of time you have them stored. As with any method, make sure you clean and store the fish (or cook) as quickly as possible.
Make your Own Fish Cooler
Making a cooler is a lot easier if you have ice, but you can still keep fish cold enough without ice for a long amount of time by following some key best practices:
- Keep the fish alive and cool as long as possible. Keep fish away from sunlight. Because the heat can spoil the fish’s meat pretty quickly, and one rotten or deteriorated fish can spoil the rest of your fish more quickly.
- Store the cooler in the shade, or in the coolest are possible.
- Use cold water from the body of water in the cooler. If you are at a warm body of water, bring cold water from your home.
- Before placing fish in the cooler, make sure they are fully cleaned. Avoid scaling, cutting off fins, or the head. Simply remove guts and all blood. This will help keep the fish fresh for longer.
- Use peat moss if you have access. A thick layer of moss at the bottom, moss in the body cavities, and on top can create a natural cooler.
- Try and keep fish from laying directly on top of one another without a layer in between.
Salt The Fish
If the two above methods aren’t possible, or you are fishing in very warm weather and still don’t have any ice or refrigeration, then salting fish is necessary. This method is extremely effective and practiced by many anglers across the world.
In order for this to be successful, you need a substantial amount of salt. For the average angler, this isn’t too difficult, as it requires around having 6% of the weight of the fish you plan on catching in salt. So if you catch 10 pounds of fish, you’ll need 0.6 pounds of salt in order to effectively store the fish.
There are a few steps to this process:
- Fully clean and gut fish. Ensure they are rinsed thuroughly.
- Immediately apply salt all over the skin of the fish, and within the belly cavity. Do it as quickly as possible, and fully cover the fish.
- Place the fish in damp cloth and place in the coolest environment possible.
The amount of salt needed to store fish like this means that before cooking, you’ll need to thoroughly rinse off the fish to remove salt, or it won’t be edible.
Another common storage option is pickling. We don’t highlight this much here, because you likely can’t start the pickling process on shore or on your boat, so you’ll need to follow one of the above methods before pickling the fish.
No one wants their fish to die or go bad, so it’s important to take steps to keep it fresh. If you don’t have access to ice while traveling, don’t worry; there are other effective and affordable methods of keeping the fish alive. By following the above-mentioned methods, you can increase the odds that your fish will be fresh and enjoyable by the time you get home.
Christine Karelina is a Partnership Manager at Nicelocal, a leader in providing local seafood to consumers. She has been engaged in writing articles on traveling and outdoors for a number of years. Christine is an expert in her field and is always looking to help others learn more about the world.