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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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2  
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
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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

5 Answers 5

After you kill and gut the fish, then clean it (wash it and scale it, if it needs scaling.) I don't know what you mean by "bleeding" a fish: I only ever gut it. After doing this, you do not actually need to put it in the cooler. You can leave it out for a couple hours, it will not spoil. This has been my experience - I've done this, and then cooked the fish when arrived at home later. If you stick it on ice, it will preserve even longer, so no worries there.

EDIT: someone mentioned that fresh fish will spoil if left outside even for a short period of time in South Georgia. Should probably be aware of this. I can't say whether it's true or not: my experience is entirely in the dry desert southwest and Rocky Mountains.

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There is no reason to kill, bleed and gut the fish immediately. The ideal way to preserve freshness is to keep the fish alive as long as possible. Depending on your situation this is best accomplished via a livewell (found in most recreational fishing boats), if fishing from shore, a traditional fish stringer or a wire basket are your best bets. Once you are done fishing, then you can clean the fish entirely.

Examples:

Liveswells:

http://www.cabelas.com/catalog/browse/livewells-aerators/_/N-1100640/Ns-CATEGORY_SEQ_104434380?WTz_l=Unknown%3Bcat104743980

Stringer:

http://www.berkley-fishing.com/Berkley®-Fish-Stringer/

Basket:

http://www.berkley-fishing.com/Berkley®-Floating-Wire-Basket---15in/1285980,default,pd.html

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I fish daily in a kayak and have caught and eaten thousands of fish from snapper to mackerel to wahoo. I throw them in the hull of the kayak with no ice and continue to fish, sometimes for several hours. Been doing this for years and have never had an issue.

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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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you don't actually need to keep it cold. A fresh fish won't spoil even if you leave it outside for a few hours. –  Michael Martinez Aug 5 at 16:47
    
@MichaelMartinez -- That is definitely not true in south Georgia. –  Russell Steen Aug 6 at 14:23
    
You're probably right about warm humid climates. I don't know, my experience is in the desert southwest. –  Michael Martinez Aug 6 at 16:45

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

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