During an emergency, refrigeration may be unavailable due to a power outage. Your best option for keeping your catch fresh, particularly fish, is to ice them.
You can keep fresh and gutted fish on ice for up to five days, three if they are filleted. Ungutted fish will last for 24 to 48 hours on ice. Frozen fish can be stored for 3 to six months.
It’s very important to properly package and store the fish to prevent spoilage and to extend their shelf-life.
How To Keep The Fish On Ice
The most important thing to do before icing the fish is to make sure the fish is clean by removing the blood and the guts. This prevents spoilage and any unpleasant odors.
Bleeding And Gutting
This is preparation for fish storage. Removing the blood allows the fish to cool down. It also eliminates any opportunity for microorganisms to thrive, which leads to spoilage. Spoiled blood will contaminate everything and leave an unpleasant odor and taste to the fish meat.
Gutting is also important because the fish’s digestive tract houses very active microorganisms that cause spoilage.
Wait for fifteen to thirty minutes after catching the fish before you prepare it. This should be enough time to make it feel exhausted and to bleed out. Lay the fish on a firm and flat surface. Pierce its eye with a sharp object, like an ice pick. This should stab the bran and kill it.
Cut behind the gills to bleed the arteries. Flip the fish over and do the same to the other side. It’s better to do this on slanted or elevated surface to let the blood drip into a container. Dunk the fish into a pail of cold water for thirty seconds to drain the blood.
Scale the fish and wash off the inedible skin. Cut off the fins and the tail. Slide your knife into the vent of the fish and then cut towards the neck. The vent is the lowest portion at the underside. Don’t cut in too deeply because you might puncture the intestines and cause bacteria to spread.
To gut the fish, spread the stomach open to access the guts and entrails. Open the cut around two to six inches. Take out all the organs and discard them accordingly. Scoop out the kidneys with a spoon. Rinse under running and cold water and you’re ready to store them on ice.
For more information, watch this video:
Prepare The Container
Any container that’s large and deep enough to store the fish is good enough, but it’s ideal to use an ice chest or insulated food container. These have temperature retention properties to make your ice last longer so that you won’t have to replace it frequently.
Another thing to prepare is a metal rack that will place the fish just above the ice cubes or crushed ice at the bottom. If a cooling rack is unavailable, you can use any other container. Pierce enough holes at the bottom to let the cool air through. Put the holed container on top of the ice.
As much as possible, avoid the fish from overlapping. Place them on the rack with enough space from one another. Another recommended way is to individually wrap the fish in plastics. Just make sure to pat dry them first before placing inside the bags.
Use crushed ice because they will distribute the coldness better. You can also move around the crushed ice to ensure that it covers every cubic inch at the bottom of the ice chest. As much as possible, avoid using block ice or ice cubes. They’re not as effective in targeting every surface area of the fish.
The crushed ice will melt at a faster rate than block ice or ice cubes. To delay the melting period, avoid unnecessarily opening the ice chest to keep the cold air inside. Just check the ice chest every three to five hours in order to drain the water at the bottom. Water will melt the ice so it’s important to get rid of it as frequently as possible. It may also serve as the breeding ground for microorganisms.
A more convenient way to drain the water is to purchase an ice chest with a drain at the bottom. You can uncover or unscrew the drain to let the water out. Otherwise, you need to take out the fish rack and tilt the container to its side to drain the fluids. Make sure to keep everything as clean as possible.