Looking after your catch

Each year many people spend thousands of dollars on boats, electronics, fishing gear, fuel, bait and burley, yet some fishers do not want to spend another $20- $30 per trip to buy some ice to look after the fish they catch.

Many people tend to neglect their fish once they have been caught. At the end of a day’s fishing, the fish you have caught is the ultimate prize. Not icing or looking after it correctly will see the fish deteriorate much quicker and the quality of the fish won’t be as good as it could have.

Looking after your fish starts from the moment it leaves the water until the time it is served on your plate. Below is a summary of why you should look after your fish and some different ways to look after them that might be helpful.


The Japanese are the world experts in seafood preparation and consumption, which resulted in the development of the iki-jime method for producing high quality commercially caught fish. Iki-jime involves putting a spike through the brain of a fish causing immediate death. Then the rigor mortis process can commence and is an important part of getting quality fish.

You will know if you have hit the brain as the fish will tense up, normally curl its tail up and flare its mouth and gills and there should be no more movement. It can take a bit of practice to get it right, but it is a good way of dispatching the fish quickly and easily.

It is also good practice to bleed your fish. The best way is to cut the membranes on either side of the gills. Don’t slit the throats, just the membranes as that still allows the fish to pump the blood out. Once bled and killed, I gut my fish. This has many advantages; it gets rid of the rubbish and avoids the guts contaminating any flesh when you are filleting the fish and allows the ice or ice slurry to get into the gut cavity and chill the fish down. Blue cod have stomach contents that go off very quickly, even on ice, so it is best to gut blue cod. Just be aware you cannot cut the throats on blue cod as part of the process, they must remain intact.

Icing your Catch

Chilling your fish down once they are caught is very important. To maximise the quality of your catch and prolong the shelf life, you need to chill your fish down as quickly as possible. Chilling the fish’s core temperature down helps slow the action of enzymes and bacteria as well as the chemical and physical processes that can affect fish quality. Fresh fish is an extremely perishable food and will deteriorate very rapidly at normal air or room temperature.

Ice is the most common and easiest method of chilling your fish. Some people will use frozen bottles of water, but that doesn’t go around all surfaces of the fish so does not chill the fish anywhere near as good as flake ice. Using a slurry of ice and sea water is the best way to chill the core temperature of the fish down quickly.

Having an insulated bin helps contain your fish with the ice over it, and keeps it out of the sun, further assisting with the chilling process. There are many different types of insulated bins on the market these days and they do vary in quality. Generally, the more you pay, the longer it will keep ice frozen. If you are short of space, insulated bags are a great option, as you can put the fish inside, cover them in ice and you don’t have the physical bulk of a fish bin in your boat.

Shelf Life

It is considered for every hour delay in icing your fish once it is caught, it will significantly reduce the shelf life of your fish. Maximise the shelf life and ice the fish down immediately. The fish will taste so much better. The consensus from fisheries scientists is fish that have been iced should last three to four days longer than fish not iced.

Rigor Mortis

Once a fish is dead there are chemical changes that take place within the fish, which cause the fish to become stiff due to muscle contraction. The rigor mortis process is complete once all the muscle fibers are contracted. After this process is complete, the fish will relax, and the muscles will soften again. The time for this process to complete does vary between species.

If you fillet your fish too early, while the muscles are still contracting, the fillet will continue to contract and will lose its shape and shrink in physical size, sometimes curling up at the edges. I leave my fish as long as possible before I fillet it, and not only is the fish easier to fillet, but the result is much better too after letting the fish go through the rigor mortis process. If you fish in the morning, try filleting the fish later that evening, or if you can leave the fish on ice overnight, even better and you will certainly notice a difference in the quality and how easy it is to fillet.

Another benefit of looking after your fish is when you get home or fillet the fish they will be in perfect condition and look amazing, like they have just come out of the water. My thoughts are we should give our fish that we are lucky enough to catch the respect it deserves and be proud of what you caught.

This could be preaching to the converted for many of you but hopefully there are some people reading this that find it helpful and will try taking better care of their fish in the future. At the end of the day when you put the fresh fish on the table, either for family or friends, you know you did everything right to make sure that fish tastes as good as it possibly can.

Share this post :


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Create a new perspective on life

Your Ads Here (365 x 270 area)
Latest Stories

Subscribe our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates direct to your inbox.


Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates direct to your inbox.