I'm looking for the easiest way to cook or preserve fish at the river or lakeside with as minimal preparation or cooking involved so they can be eaten later. Mainly trout, pike or walleye. Ideally I could find a way to cook/pickle them almost instantly without having to gut them (I'm inexperienced in this regard) and then refrigerate them once home.

I'm not concerned about taste too much, just keeping the fish safe to eat. My idea was to clean, remove the head, tail and scales, wash them again and just throw them into a thermos with hot water, salt and vinegar and leave them for a few hours to cook thoroughly, then refrigerate them.

The water I would be fishing in is not the cleanest however (Amstel river in The Netherlands), so I'm still concerned about health and safety. I think it might be necessary to also do a rudimentary fileting (i.e just chop off everything except the edible meat) and then throw the meat into a thermos. However as I'm not experienced with gutting this would be a very unskilled effort I'm not sure this is risk-proof.

So I thought I'd ask to see if anyone knows of the right way to approach this, I'm sure there must be a quick, simple if inelegant/unappetizing way to preserve a fish at the riverside. Surely there's a survival technique that can get a fish from water to fridge/plate with as minimal effort and risk as possible?

Many thanks

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    Pretty sure you want to remove the guts - but then it's pretty easy to pick. You could even buy a whole fish at a grocery store to check it out before hand if you want. – Francky_V Dec 17 '16 at 14:48
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    Are you asking to do the cooking or preserving while at the river itself? – Ken Graham Dec 17 '16 at 15:33
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    Do not worry about your experience with cleaning fish. The more you clean, the better you get. Are you willing to try salting the fish? Salting is an old method of preserving food. – B540Glenn Dec 17 '16 at 17:55
  • @KenGraham I would prefer to as it's more expedient and I think safer than waiting until I get home seeing as I won't be able to ice it. Thanks – CG Smith Dec 18 '16 at 8:47
  • @B540Glenn Yes I think I'll try practice dressing the fish more and just do that. I'm still not 100% that I can keep it fresh/safe until I get home as I won't be able to ice it. Salting is intriguing, is there any rudimentary salting method that can be done at the riverside? Thanks – CG Smith Dec 18 '16 at 8:48


Before refrigeration salt was the primary means of preserving fish. As you mention in your question filleting them is a a good first step, they should also be dried to reduce the amount of salt needed.

But what you really want

Keep them alive, until you get home to clean, and freeze or refrigerate them. There are several solutions listed in When to kill and bleed a fish If you keep them healthy enough, and put them in the freezer still alive, they could be really fresh when you defrost them Fish can live for prolonged periods on stringers

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    Check to make sure it is legal to prepare the fish at he river bank. Where I live, it is against the law to possess fish at the fishing location where you can not identify the species or length. – B540Glenn Dec 18 '16 at 18:03
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    Filtering? I was always told the best way to keep a fish fresh is gut and keep whole. The flesh will dry out quicker if you fillet them. That said if your salting your fish this is what you want to happen – user2766 Dec 20 '16 at 8:56
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    @Liam thanks for posting How do I gut a fish? your comment about gutting and keeping whole falls between my two options. I offered filleting & salt to preserve (keep from spoiling, not to keep fresh). A live fish is always going to be fresher than a gutted fish. – James Jenkins Dec 20 '16 at 13:58
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    Sorry to beat you to is @JamesJenkins! :) Would gratefully recieve any comments to that Q&A though. I kinda just put it together this am – user2766 Dec 20 '16 at 13:59
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    @Liam looks fine to me as is, you got my votes – James Jenkins Dec 20 '16 at 14:02

How long are you staying by the riverside?

If this a day trip, you don't need to do any special preservation methods. You can put them on a stringer and keep them in the river until you are ready to go home. If you are concerned about the cleanliness of the river, you don't need gut them immediately. Keeping them in a creel or a bucket of water in the shade is fine.

Personally, I have gone fishing for a day and kept the fish in bucket of cool water. And cleaned them after getting back from the lake/river without any ill effects.

If you want to gut and fillet the fish, keep them out of the sun and cool.

If this is longer than one day, salting or drying the fish would work. But I would suggest a different approach altogether. Cook them up and eat them immediately! Fresh fish is a great meal.

As an aside, if you are concerned with the cleanliness of the river water, are you sure that you want to eat the fish that you get out of it?

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