At some point, every angler asks themselves: how long can I keep my catch on ice before it goes bad? Should I even put my ungutted fish on ice in the first place before it’s cleaned out properly?
If a fish is bled and gutted correctly, it can be stored on ice for up to 48 hours without any negative impact. After this, they can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before you need to clean them out properly.
The answer to this question is also contingent on the steps taken before the fish is actually put on ice. The fish must, of course, be bled correctly to preserve the quality of the fish when it is later gutted and cooked.
Why Should You Keep an Ungutted Fish On Ice?
Many fishermen wonder about the value of waiting to gut your fish opposed to just gutting it when the fish is caught. However, the reality is, not all anglers have the time to gut a fish immediately. This is why it is useful to keep an ungutted fish on ice: it can save time in the moment and allow you to get more fishing or other tasks done.
Naturally, the first best option is to keep the fish alive. This is, most of the time, unrealistic, and keeping the fish on ice or an ice slurry is a close second option. The temperature in your cooler box should be anywhere between 32 and 40 degrees Farenheit. This is extremely critical for ensuring that the fish is safe to eat.
Most anglers don’t want to just stop fishing after one or two fish. When you put a fish on ice or in a cooler there is no need to head back from the pier or the boat early. Putting an ungutted fish on ice can sustain a fish for long enough to finish an entire day of fishing.
How to Keep Your Fish Fresh After Catching it
After you catch your fish, it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to keep it fresh. This will set you up for success when you get around to putting the fish on ice or freezing it and later eating it.
Immediately after you reel your fish in it is important that you bleed and then gut the fish. Then, after you have bled and gutted your fish, put it immediately on ice or in your cooler.
Bleeding and gutting the fish right away can be a good option, however, if you can it is beneficial to keep your fish alive after catching for as long as possible. This will ensure that the fish is fresher when it is eventually cooked. To keep the fish alive store it in a keeper net or bucket of water. Buckets of water are better for smaller fish, and keeper nets tend to work well for larger fish.
How to Bleed a Fish Properly Before Putting it On Ice
In order for an ungutted fish to be properly kept on ice, it must also be bled properly. If you bleed a fish right after it is caught, you’ll be able to keep it fresh until you serve it. You should bleed a fish right after it is caught to make it take better.
When you’ve pulled up your fish locate the brain, which is directly behind the eye. Wait about twenty minutes until after you’ve caught it and put a knife to the brain of the fish, behind the eye. Push the knife through the fish to sever the nerves and kill the fish in the most humane way possible.
Start bleeding the fish by severing the main artery, which is located behind the gills of the fish. Putting pressure on the fish can also help force some of the blood out of the smaller veins. Dunk your fish in a bucket of cold water to wash out the blood, or use a hose to rinse out the fish.
How Long Will Your Fish Last in the Fridge?
After you’ve bled out your fish and gutted it you’ll want to put it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to prepare it. This will ensure that the fish stays fresh until its time to be cooked.
Ungutted fish will only last about one or two days in the refrigerator. Gutted fish, on the other hand, will last a bit longer. It can last about three or four days in the fridge and still be safely eaten. It will also maintain its healthy texture and color.
It can be dangerous to eat fish that has been in the fridge for longer than this period of time. Fish is extremely perishable and is prone to accumulating bacteria if not stored properly or if stored for too long before eating. It is important to be careful when storing and tending to your fish as the bacteria can make a person very sick.
How Long Will a Frozen Fish Be Edible For?
If you want your fish to last longer and plan to eat it a little further down the road, then freezing your fish is a good option. Raw, frozen fish can be stored indefinitely and stay edible, however, it is necessary to consider that the flavor and texture may deplete over extended periods of time.
For optimal flavor and texture, it’s recommended that frozen fish be consumed within three to eight months of freezing. This will ensure that the fish is just as delicious and fresh as it would be when it was first caught. Any longer than this and the quality of the fish will go down significantly.
Frozen fish should be stored, for best quality, in a freezer that is zero degrees Fahrenheit. It should not be left out.
How to Can Your Fish to Save It For Even Longer
Canning your fish can make it last for an even longer time than if it is frozen. It will last about a year if all the steps are taken to preserve the fish properly. This can be a great way to make your fish last for much longer, even after fishing season.
The first step of canning is to get out your jars, lids, and rings. Make sure you use new lids so it seals properly. Then, prepare your fish by cutting the fish into the desired sizes. Pack the fish tightly into each jar.
After the fish is packed, add salt and clean the rims of the jar. Then, add the lids and the rings. Lid tightly, making sure that the seal is airtight. Lastly, put water in the canner.
How to Keep Your Fish Fresh Without Ice
On occasion, you may catch a fish and not have any ice available. Or, it may be a hot summer day and your ice has already melted. If this happens to be the case, it is imperative to bleed and clean the fish right after catching it.
After you have bled and cleaned the fish, be sure to keep it in a location with a lot of shade. It should be out of direct sunlight to prevent the growth of bacteria. This will prevent bacteria from growing.
If you plan to keep the fish out for a longer period of time, longer than half of a day, an easy trick is to salt the fish. Rub a hefty amount of salt over the outside of the fish as well as inside the body cavity of the fish. When you’re finally ready to eat the fish, soak it in water for fifteen to twenty minutes to wash off as much of the salt as possible.
These are a few of the best ways to store your fish after reeling it in. Happy fishing!