In short, yes, you can freeze fresh fish and if you’re not planning on eating the fish within a couple of days of your catch, this might be a good idea for you. Fresh fish has a short shelf life and can only last for a couple of days before it begins to go bad. If you intend to keep your catches around and fill the dinner table for weeks to come, freezing your fresh fish might be the best option for you.
Freezing fresh fish is a little bit more difficult than one might think. While you can easily and effectively put the fish in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer, you’re sacrificing the taste and texture of your catch. You need to employ the proper method of freezing your fish in order to preserve the taste of it when you defrost. Don’t let the freezing process ruin your catch, freeze your fresh fish properly and supply a delicious meal every time.
How Long Does Frozen Fish Last?
By freezing your fish, you’re vastly expanding the shelf life of your catch. Fish can last unfrozen for a couple of days before they begin to go bad. If you properly freeze your fish, you could be looking at anywhere up to six months before the fish begins to go bad. Though you might see significantly shorter shelf lives if you improperly freeze the fresh fish. We will talk about how to properly freeze the fish to avoid decreasing the shelf life soon.
While most fish can last up to six months frozen, some fattier fish will only remain good for about three. These fish include Salmon and Trout which tend to carry much more fat than most other species of fish. Other fish like Bluefish or Herrings have even shorter freezer lives and should be your priority meal. Once you’ve caught these fish, begin the freezing process and plan your menu soon so you don’t waste your catches.
How to Freeze Your Fresh Fish
On the Boat
Start the freezing process the second you catch the fish. You want to make sure that the fish is thrown on ice as soon as possible as to avoid damage and bruises which can significantly decrease the taste and texture of the meat. If the fish is flopping around on the hard surface of the deck, quickly transport it into your ice box and store it for the remainder of the trip.
Water is not your friend in the fresh fish freezing process. If the fish is submerged in water, the taste will quickly dissipate and you’ll be left with a bland dinner that relies on the spices. Have a way for water to escape from your ice box so that it all doesn’t melt and submerge the fish. Keep replenishing ice to keep the fish cool and covered.
Back at Home
Once you get back home with the fish either from the trip or the market, it’s time to clean it and gut it. You’ll want to make sure there’s no muck or dirt left on the outside and that all insides are properly removed – they won’t last as long in the freezer and could end up spoiling the fish rather quickly. Keep your fish on ice during this process as room temperature is enough to ruin the fish.
Now comes the freezing part – the issue that many fishers struggle with. It’s pivotal that you get this process correct as you don’t want to end up with a freezer full of rotten meat. There are three recommended ways to freeze your fish with vacuum sealing as the most effective. If you want your fish to last, you’ll need to purchase a vacuum sealer. If you’re constantly bringing home fish from expeditions or the market, this tool will prove to be invaluable.
By vacuum sealing your fish and tossing it in the freezer, you’re removing pockets of air that can destroy the meat, even when frozen. If you properly vacuum seal your fish, you’re looking at the longest lasting frozen fresh fish. The second best method is glazing. This is the process of dipping the fish in water, freezing it, and repeating until there’s a quarter-inch of ice around the whole fish. This process will keep your fish fresh for up to six months but will decrease the taste as water tends to do.
The final method which is still effective, but not nearly as beneficial as the other two, is double wrapping it. First, wrap it up in plastic wrap to prevent as much air as possible from touching the fish. Next, place that wrapped fish into a freezer bag and push out as much air as you can. Place that bag in the freezer and it should be good to go. Fattier fish like Bluefish and Herring require a glaze-vacuum combo and even then they don’t hold up as long.
Choosing the right method of freezing can allow you to keep your fish fresh for as long as possible. Without the proper freezing techniques, you might be looking at mere weeks before your fish goes bad. We highly recommend buying a vacuum sealer as this is the best way to keep your fish frozen and the only way for certain species.
How to Defrost Frozen Fish
The defrosting process is just as important as the freezing process. If you defrost incorrectly, you could deplete the taste, ruin the texture, or even introduce harmful bacteria to the fish which will make you sick. Fish are used to cooler waters and thus should not be defrosted at room temperature. If you leave it out and let it thaw or microwave it, you’re damaging the fish and allowing bacteria to grow which can be bad for you.
Gradually thaw it out using cold water from the tap for 15-20 minutes. This will allow the fish to thaw while remaining cold enough that nothing can begin to grow on your fish. Putting it in the fridge will be effective as well but can dry out the fish which won’t taste as good on the plate. Treat your fish properly and you’ll have a delicious and filling meal.