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I am getting into fishing (I bought an entry-level spinner and plan on going to some nearby rivers/lakes) and have been reading a lot of conflicting information in regards to the sequence of events that transpire from the time you catch the fish, to the time you eat it.

Obviously, first you must catch the fish, which as a newbie will probably be a bit difficult for me. Once I catch my first fish and determine that its of legal size and is a species I'd like to eat, then I need to immediately begin preparing it.

I've read that bleeding fish (cutting the gills) helps remove the "gamy" (gamie?) odor that a lot of fish have, as well as removing certain undesirable toxins.

But what do I do if I'm not done fishing yet? What if it's still early in the day and I want to keep fishing for a few more hours? Obviously then, I need a way of preserving the fish so that it doesn't taint before I even get home. The thing is, I don't like the idea of keeping a fish alive once I catch it. Not judging others, just personally would rather kill it as soon as I catch it and put it out of the stress/misery of being caught & wounded.

So, given everything I've read, I'm wondering if my following solution is viable, and if not, why:

  1. Catch the fish, and kill it immediately (probably a knife through its brain is what I've found to be the quickest/humane method)
  2. Bleed the fish, totally
  3. Throw it in a cooler full of ice, and continue fishing
  4. When I get home, clean/fillet it

The only thing I'm worried about here is that perhaps the fish will somehow spoil from the time I throw it on ice, to the time I get home (which should never be longer than 6 - 8 hours). Ideas? Thanks in advance!

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I've bled them when I got back home after carrying a stringer a couple miles in the heat. Never had a gamey fish. –  Don Branson Nov 6 '13 at 2:12
Thanks @DonBranson (+1) - is there anything "wrong" with bleeding them right then and there (immediately after catching/killing them)? Does bleeding them expose them to bacteria/infection/etc. that would be mitigated if I did wait until I got back home? Thanks again! –  TicketMonster Nov 6 '13 at 11:30
I guess that depends how you're going to transport them. If you bleed them and then move them, you'll need to keep the dirt off, and probably keep them cool, too. –  Don Branson Nov 6 '13 at 16:20
Thanks again, @DonBranson (+1) - yes I'd be placing the fish directly into a cooler full of ice. Would that keep my fish "safe" after bleeding them? –  TicketMonster Nov 6 '13 at 16:31
That should be fine. I'm not a doctor or microbiologist or anything, though. :) Besides, you're cooking the fish later, and that should kill anything that does grow on it. –  Don Branson Nov 6 '13 at 16:34
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2 Answers 2

It depends on what you have access to.

If you have plenty of cooling, then gut, bleed, and ice immediately. However only do this if you can keep it cold. This requires a LOT of ice because you have to have enough ice to bring the fish down to near freezing and keep it there.

If you cannot keep the fish cold then you want to keep it alive. There are many methods for this from the basic stringer, to live well, and live nets. The basic concept is the same.

I will mention that you have to take care with nets and stringers. Other fish/animals may like the meal you've tied up for them. ;)

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I suggest keeping it alive in a keep net. That way all of your problems disappear.

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