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IntoThe Outdoors - Preserving Fish

With various kinds of fishing in full swing now, it might be a good idea to take a look at preserving one’s catch for use at a later time. Preserving fish for later use is a problem often faced by anglers, especially those who do a lot of fishing for prolific species such as panfish. Despite the current emphasis on catch and release fishing, especially on the television outdoor shows, there is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping legal fish to eat.

f course, proper field care of fish is the first step to good eating. Fish that hang on a stringer all day will die after a short while, and the eating quality starts to go down from there. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep your fish in a cooler with plenty of ice, which will really slow down the destructive process. Just remember to keep everyone’s catch separated in compliance with the law.

Freezing is the most popular and widely used method of preserving fish today, and with good reason. It’s pretty easy, and frozen fish won’t spoil. At least, it will not spoil in the traditional sense. The eating quality, however, can really suffer a lot. The biggest culprit is freezer burn, or drying out while in the freezer. Freezer burned fish, or anything else for that matter, tastes really bad. In order to prevent this, you must keep air from getting to the fish. Covering it with water, and freezing it in solid ice is a good idea. The ice keeps the air from the fish. It takes up a bit more space in the freezer, but it’s worth it. Fish kept in this way stays good for a surprisingly long time. A lot of people freeze their fish in plastic bags of water, while others use Tupperware type containers.

A number of years ago, I got a shrink wrapper, also known as a vacuum sealer, as a birthday gift from my wife and son. In my experience, at least, they live right up to the claims made for them. I’ve had fish in the freezer for several months and it stayed great. The seal is airtight, and that’s just what you need. These work great for other foods as well, and you can seal matches, ammo, etc. to keep them safe and dry. I’m now on my third unit, and they seem to just get better.

Canning fish is another option, but you have to be careful. I have personally never tried it, but I’ve read a lot about it. I find it a little bit scary. Despite that, I am going to try it this year, probably with panfish, which I seem always able to catch. The only recognized safe way to do this is with the use of a pressure canner, and even then, you must follow the instructions carefully. Failure to do so could lead to some very serious, even deadly food poisoning. I’m told that salmon and other somewhat oily fish lend themselves well to the canning process. With my electric pressure canner, I am going to give it a try.

For many years, perhaps centuries, fish was preserved by packing it in salt. It would keep for a very long time when preserved with this method. I’ve only eaten salted fish once, and it wasn’t too bad, although even after a thorough rinsing, it was still rather salty.

Smoking is also a very old method of preservation. While it’s now obsolete for that purpose, people, over the years, developed a fondness for the smoke flavoring. Just about any fish can be smoked successfully, although trout and salmon are my favorites. There are many different kinds of commercial smokers on the market, or you can build your own. Smoked fish will keep for a while in the refrigerator, but, if you plan to keep it for a long time, it should be vacuum sealed and frozen. Around our house, it usually gets eaten up before spoilage can become a problem.

I hope you enjoyed this information. Fish are delicious. Good fishing!!!

Next week, we’ll look at bass.

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