How to Clean and Keep Your Catch
Northwest Zone

How to Clean and Keep Your Catch

A quick guide to cleaning and storing the fish you catch.

Cleaning a fish

Many anglers like to simply clean the fish and cook it whole. This works best for fish that have very small to no scales, such as trout. Your catch should be cleaned and gutted as soon as possible. A safety reminder: fish are slippery and knives are sharp – be careful!


Freezing your catch

If you don’t plan to eat your fish in a day or two, you’ll want to freeze it. Most freezing methods work best if you quick freeze the fish first – place uncovered fish on a sheet of aluminum foil in the freezer to freeze it as quickly as possible.

The best method for keeping fish in the freezer is to vacuum seal it, which protects the fish from freezer burn. Quick freeze the fish, then seal it in a vacuum seal bag. Vacuum sealed frozen fish should be eaten within three or four months.

Another way to protect fish from freezer burn is to freeze it in a block of water. Quick freeze individual portions, place each in a zip lock freezer bag, fill with water and freeze.

Finally, if you’re going to be eating the fish within two weeks you can double wrap quick frozen fish tightly in plastic wrap (squeeze out as much air as possible) and then put in a freezer bag.


Releasing a fish

  • Use barbless hooks if you plan on releasing the fish you catch – they can be much easier to remove.
  • Always wet your hands and handle the fish gently as you remove the hook. Grasp the fish carefully to avoid any spines on the back.
  • Use pliers or hemostats to remove the hook.
  • If the fish is hooked deeply, you may not be able to remove the hook. Cut the line and release the fish. The hook will rust, dissolve or work its way loose.
  • If necessary, revive the fish by gently moving it back and forth in the water to move water through its gills. When the fish revives and begins to struggle, let it go.
  • Fish do not always survive being caught.

Download a pdf of this article 

Header photo by Kathy Munsel

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