Keeping – cleaning fish

Keeping – cleaning fish



  One of the real pleasures in life is a shore lunch—beaching your boat and cooking and eating fish that you’ve just caught. Fresh fillets cooked over an open fire are truly delicious. A morning of fishing guarantees a hearty appetite, and the fish will never be fresher or taste better. Throw in a skillet of home-fried potatoes, cole slaw and some hushpuppies, and you have a meal that rivals any served in the finest restaurants! For many anglers, eating fish is the final reward in fishing. Fish are delicious, healthful and there’s a special satisfaction in sharing your catch with friends and family. For fish to taste their best, however, they must be cleaned and kept properly. This process starts the moment the fish is landed.

Keeping – cleaning fish

 Caring for Your Catch

 When you keep fish to eat, be sure they stay fresh. This guarantees they will retain their best flavor for cooking. If fish aren’t kept fresh, the flesh becomes mushy and strong-tasting. There are two ways to ensure freshness: keep fish alive or keep them cold. Fish may be kept alive in a fish basket, on a stringer or in the live well of a boat if the water is cool and well-oxygenated. Or, fish can be killed and placed on ice as soon as they’re caught. When you fish from the bank, a simple rope or chain stringer is the easiest way to keep your catch. Punch the point of the stringer up through the fish’s mouth; then pull the stringer through the open mouth. Do not string fish through the gills. This makes it hard for them to breathe and could cause them to die. In hot weather, it’s best to put your fish on ice.

Dead fish that aren’t placed on ice will spoil quickly. Check the eyes and gill color to determine freshness. If the eyes look dear and the gills are dark red, the fish are fresh. If the eyes are cloudy and the gills have turned pinkish-white, the fish are beginning to spoil. Before putting fish in a cooler, give them a sharp rap with a blunt object (pliers, knife handle, etc.) on the spine just behind the eyes. This kills them quickly, which keeps them from flopping around in the cooler. Then place the fish on top of crushed ice in the cooler. Keep excess water drained away as the ice melts. Fish flesh gets mushy when soaked for an extended time. Many anglers prefer to field-dress their fish before placing them on ice. This is done by cutting the gills and guts away with a small knife. These are the organs that spoil first, so this additional step helps ensure freshness.(Keeping – cleaning fish)

 Tools for Cleaning Fish

 Any fish-cleaning method requires a sharp knife. I recommend a fillet knife. These knives have thin, sharp, flexible blades for easy cleaning. A knife with a 7-inch blade is adequate for cleaning most fish. One good alternative to a fillet knife is an electric knife. Of course, fish cleaners must be careful not to cut themselves, and this is an even greater concern with an electric knife. An inexpensive metal scaler with pointed teeth makes scaling fish much easier, but scaling can also be done with a metal spoon or a kitchen knife with a rigid blade. A fish-cleaning glove is optional; it protects your hand from nicks. A piece of 1/2-inch plywood makes a good cleaning platform, and you’ll need two pans or buckets: one for the cleaned fish, and the other for remains.

Simple Methods for Cleaning Fish

 Fish should be cleaned as soon after they’re caught as possible. Don’t leave fish in a cooler overnight. Clean and refrigerate them immediately. They will taste better, and you’ll be glad you don’t have to face this cleaning chore the next day.

(Keeping – cleaning fish)


Fish can be kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days without losing much freshness. However, if longer storage is desired, they should be frozen. To keep cleaned fish (whole, fillets or steaks) in the refrigerator, blot them dry with a paper towel. Then place them on a plate covered with paper towels and wrap them tightly with plastic wrap.

 To freeze whole fish, place them inside a plastic milk jug (cut the top away) or large frozen food container, then cover them with water. Tap the sides of the container to release trapped air. Use masking tape to label the container with the type of fish and date they were caught. Then freeze.
To freeze fillets or steaks, place fish pieces in a double-walled ziploc freezer bag (one bag Inside another). zip the inner bag almost closed, and suck all air out of this bag to form a vacuum. Then zip the inner bag closed. Do the same with the outer bag. The double thickness protects against freezer burn. Before freezing, label the outer bag with the type fish and date they were caught. Fish frozen in either manner described above will keep 6 months or longer without losing their fresh flavor.

 To thaw whole fish frozen in ice, run tap water over the container until the block of ice can be removed. Place this frozen block in a colander so melting water can drain. Thaw fish at room temperature. To thaw bagged fillets, place in a baking pan and thaw at room temperature. Cook fish as soon as possible after they’re thawed.

There are a number of options for cleaning fish. They can be scaled or skinned with the bones left intact, or they can be filleted (meat cut away from the bones). It’s up to each angler’s preference. Usually small fish (bluegill, perch) are scaled and cooked whole, but even they can be filleted. When fish are filleted by a skilled cleaner, little useable meat is wasted.

Keeping and cleaning fish


 To fillet (I) Cut behind the pectoral fin to the backbone. (2) Separate the fillet, cutting along the backbone toward the tail. (3) Cut off the rib section by sliding the blade along the bones. (4) Cut off the belly fat. (5) With the skin side down, begin to cutfrom the tail. (6) Cut the skin from the fillet with a salving motion.

 Scaling—Scaling is the process of scraping the scales off the fish and then removing the heads and guts. The skin is left on and the bones remain intact. Small sunfish, crappie, walleye, bass and other species can all be scaled and cooked whole. To scale a fish, lay it on its side. Hold the head with one hand, and scrape from the tail toward the head (against the grain). This will cause the scales to flake off. The sides are easy to scale with hard spots along the back, stomach and near the fins. After scaling, cut the head off just behind the gills. Then slice the belly open and remove the guts. The tail and major fins may be cut off if desired. Finally, wash the fish thoroughly to remove loose scales and blood.


  Skinning catfish. (I) Grip the head and slit the skit? on both sides just behind the pectoral spines. (2) Slice the skin along the backbone to just behind the dorsal fin. (3) Use pliers to peel the skin off over the tail. (4) Pull the head down breaking the backbone and pull out the guts. (5) Remove the fins with pliers and slice off the tail.

Filleting—Many anglers prefer to fillet their fish for meat with no bones. Filleted fish are easy to cook and a pleasure to eat. Also, when filleting is mastered, its faster than scaling. Experts can fillet a fish in less than a minute. The only drawback is losing a small amount of meat in the filleting process.

 Skinning—Catfish and bullheads are covered by a slick skin instead of scales. These fish may be filleted as explained above, but many anglers prefer to skin and gut them. Catfish and bullheads may then be cooked whole, or bigger fish may be cut into steaks.(Keeping – cleaning fish)

Keeping – cleaning fish

Keeping – cleaning fish

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