Fishing is fun and a great way to spend time outdoors, but you don’t want to come home empty-handed—you want to bring home a few of the hard-fighting, bragging fish from your escapade.
Unfortunately, fish flesh deteriorates rapidly after the fish dies, and when you have one bad fish in your pack, chances are it will spoil all of the others, and you don’t want this.
To enjoy a fresh, scrumptious fishmeal, you should strive to keep the fish as fresh as possible.
Are you wondering how to keep fish fresh while fishing? It’s actually easier than you think, and there are plenty of ways you can go about it. Some of these ways include:
Ice the fish
It doesn’t get easier than this, and the beauty is that ice fish has excellent flavor and texture.
You need to carry your insulated cooler to your fishing trip and ice fish in your boat.
To keep the fish fresh in ice, use 2 pounds of crushed ice for every pound of fish. Remember to continue adding ice throughout the day with every catch.
When adding ice, ensure that it surrounds the fish so that most of the surface area of the crushed ice stays in contact with the fish.
Before you add ice to the cooler, let all the water drain so that the fish doesn’t sit on the water instead of ice and, as a consequence, end up rotting. It will even be better to leave the drain plug on the cooler open so that the melted ice runs out.
Keeping an alive fish in the cooler is unwise as it will fight hence bruise, stress, or even damage itself. To have an easy time and keep the fish fresh and safe, bleed the fish before placing it in the cooler.
Put the fish in an insulated fish bag.
Do you see the bags used in catch and release fishing tournaments? You can use them to keep your fish fresh and bring home a fresh catch for your family.
These insulated fish bags have an air barrier with an insulated core, and they can hold ice for a couple of days. When the ice melts, they have a drain plug that you need to open to drain the water.
When buying a fish bag, go for a larger one so that you can hold larger catches. As a rule of thumb, go for a bag at least 24” x 60”.
Put the fish on stringers.
Stringers keep the fish fresh and alive by keeping them immersed in water. To put the fish on the stringer, you need to thread a needle through the fish’s lips, then place it back in the water.
Some anglers thread the needle through the gills, but it’s better to do it through the lips as this allows the fish to breathe easily through the gills. Threading through the lips also keeps the fish upright.
Although using a stringer is a great way to keep the fish fresh and alive, fish on stringers deteriorate due to stress, so you end up with damaged fish. This isn’t what you have been working hard for, is it?
If you have been out fishing for a long time, don’t let your fish stay in the water for too long and spoil. Instead, stun the fish, gut it down, fillet it and place it in a cooler.
There are two main types of stringers you can use: basic and chain stringers.
The basic stringers are the easiest to use and often widely available. Although they are easy to use, you can only string one fish at a time.
Chain stringers have multiple hooks staggered on the chain, and they can hold multiple fish. The downside to them is when you catch large fish or fighters, there is the risk of them breaking or snapping the chain.
You should weigh your options and choose the most appropriate stringer to use.
Keep the fish in a Livewell
Does your boat have a Livewell? You can keep freshwater fish there until you stun it and transfer it to a cooler.
Livewells have circulating pumps that pump water in and out of their container and use aeration systems to increase the chances of the fish surviving after a catch.
To prevent the fish from dying, pump out half of the water and replace it with fresh cool water every few hours. For the best outcome and avoid shocking, draw the water from the depth you caught the fish.
Now and then, open the Livewell’s lid to allow the ammonia gas to escape. Also, use a non-penetrating cull system to reduce the stress on the fish and keep the fish near the bottom so that they are fully submerged in the water.
Keep a close eye on the number of fish you keep in the Livewell. If having a bountiful expedition, periodically dispatch the fish and ice them immediately.
This prevents overcrowding in the Livewell. Remember, when fish overcrowd, they compete for oxygen and bump into each other too often, which increases their chances of dying.
When transferring the fish from the Livewell to the cooler, do so carefully and ensure that the cooler has the same water you caught the fish in. Again, this is to prevent shocking the fish.
Hold the fish in floating fish baskets.
Also known as non-electric Livewells or mesh baskets, floating fish baskets are tied to the boat and hold fish underwater for long periods.
They are often 5 gallons, so ideal for small fish. This means that if you are out for larger catches, this option might not work for you.
Some of the excellent places to use mesh baskets are on the dock, pier, or bridge.
There you have it
These are some of the best ways to keep your fish fresh when fishing. To ensure that the fish you catch are worth keeping, ensure that you know how to fish. After all, it’s pointless preserving damaged fish, isn’t it?