Keep Your Catch Fresh from Water to Table

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Danny picked up the trout from fish net in the water.

Ultralight fishing is not only the best way to get fish, it also means you are targeting many species which make for excellent meals. Personally, ultralight fishing allows me to target one of my favorite table fish, being the trout. I find nothing more satisfying in smoking a trout and serving it with some fresh greens and crusty loaf… YUM!

dinner caught ultralight fishing

For many anglers the idea of catching and eating their own fish represents the joy of fishing. While many fishermen and women enjoy catching and releasing their fish, there is certainly nothing wrong with keeping what you catch in order to eat it when it is legal to do so. You will probably want to make sure that the fish you intend to eat is caught from clean waters with little pollution. You can check with your state to determine how safe it is to eat a certain fish caught from specific waters. If it is safe to eat then you can go ahead and enjoy freshly caught fish at dinner that night.

One of the major reasons why anglers love to eat what they catch is because it is the freshest fish you can get. When it comes to fish, freshness matters and nothing is fresher than what you have just caught. Here are some tips to help keep your fish as fresh as possible as it makes its way from the water to your dinner table.

Keep the Fish Alive As Long As You Can

You will want to keep your fish alive for as long as possible. This is especially true if you catch the fish in the morning with the intent to eat it that night. There are several ways you can help keep a fish alive. You can put it on a gill string and hang it over the side of your boat while you continue to fish. Or you can purchase a live basket that hangs over the side of your boat.

most catch with ultralight fishing gear

Some nice fishing boats have a live well, which aerates the water to make sure the fish doesn’t suffocate. If you hold onto your fish for a while make sure the water doesn’t lose its oxygen, or else the fish will die prematurely. You can always purchase portable bucket aerators to help keep fish alive for longer.

Transporting the Fish

Once you are done fishing for the day the best way to transport your fish home is by placing it in a cooler filled with slushy ice water. Or you can put it in a bucket full of ice. If you are unable to keep your fish alive for any period of time you should immediately put it in ice. Ice can also be used to help keep the fish alive in a cooler or bucket until you are ready to kill it.

iced fish after ultralight fishing session

When transporting your fish home it is essential to keep it cool, especially if the temperature outside is very warm. Don’t allow your fish to get warm as this could spoil it. Some people like to gut out the fish before they transport it home, while others wait until they get home to do this. As long as your fish stays cool it doesn’t matter when you gut it.

Cleaning Your Catch

Once the fish has been transported to your home or campsite, you should immediately begin the process of cleaning it. Remove the entrails by gutting it. A fresh fish’s flesh will return to its normal position when pressed by your finger and it will smell clean. The flesh of a decomposing fish will smell bad, be covered with a slime and will not bounce back to its original position when pressed with your finger. Gut and clean your fish right away and always use clean fresh water.

Refrigerate your catch after it has been cleaned if you are not going to fillet and cook it right away. Make sure it is fully cooked to remove any germs or parasites. Catching, cleaning and cooking your own fish can be a very rewarding experience. Just make sure you avoid any potential problems by doing it right.

photo credit: somenametoforget via photopin cc
photo credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie via photopin cc
photo credit: Renée S. Suen via photopin cc

Don’t Forget to check out our Ultralight Fishing Post!

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