Preserving Your Trout
Inside the Outdoors, May 1
, 2015

Not many anglers I’ve talked to will eat their trout immediately. Surprisingly, many ‘sportsmen’ will toss them in the freezer and let them be until fall and then chuck them. Why even keep them is beyond me. Yet, too many times do I hear of this happening.

One thing that I have noticed during my many years of fishing is that any fish, not only trout, will acquire freezer burn if not packaged properly.

I should hope I don’t have to make mention of this, but please gut the fish after killing it and not before. That includes decapitating the creature. Some people like the head remaining on the fish. Don’t know why, but I’ve seen it served that way. Clean the fish as soon as possible after catching. Pennsylvania prohibits doing so at state and county parks, so you will have to wait until you get home. Clean the flesh in cold water and dry with some sort of towel. After that, it’s ready for the preservation steps.

Many years ago, upon catching a pike, I let it sit in my refrigerator two weeks before cutting it up. I had never caught such a big fish before, so I really didn’t know what to do with it since it is such a boney fish. Finally, I figured it out and cut my catch into steaks and then proceeded from there.

Here is the trick I utilize for storage of freshly caught trout, bluegill, pike or whatever species I wish to select over long periods of time.

Get a zip lock bag suitable for the size of flesh you are storing. Fill the bags one-half to three-quarters with water. Deposit the fish into the bag and zip it closed. Carefully set it on a paper towel in the freezer. The reason for the paper towel is to permit easy removal in case the moisture dribbled down the sides and stuck to the metal in the compartment.

Upon taking out the section of fish you want to eat, set the bag in a bowl and let it sit on one of the shelves in the refrigerator. I prefer a cold, slow thaw over a quick one. I always heard it was best, so I subscribe to that idea.

When fish is completely defrosted, take it out of the bag and fry, boil or broil it. I’ve never grilled anything, but that may be a great approach, as well. Toss out the bag.

To see what other people do, I did the usual, went online to see what others recommend.

From comes this bit of advice. “Any air that touches your fish will destroy it. It’s that simple. So you must prevent air from contacting the fish by vacuum-sealing it, glazing it or wrapping it tightly – this is in order of preference.”

Hank Shaw suggested getting a mechanical device to properly freeze fish. The fish and seafood cooking expert stated, “If you catch a lot of fish or buy lots of fresh fish from the market, buy a vacuum sealer. They’re worth every penny.

An alternative would be ‘glazing.’ “Dip the fish in cold water,” he said, “and put them on a sheet pan in the freezer. Let the water freeze, then repeat the process several more times to get a one-quarter inch thick ice glaze on the fish. You can then put your glazed fish in plastic bags for storage.”

Shaw emphasized, “When you thaw your frozen fish, do it gradually either in the fridge or in cold water. Never put them in the microwave. Thawing at room temperature is also a bad idea.”

There are other ways to preserve fish. The University of Minnesota Extension website goes into detail as to carrying out each process.

Trout can be canned. “Fish is a low acid food and can be processed safely only at temperatures reached in a pressure canner.”

Smoking is a very popular way to preserve trout. “Certain steps in the brining and smoking process require careful attention. Use correct amount of salt in the brine for a given amount of fish. The temperature during brining must be no higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.”

It went on to state, “There should be uniform heat treatment of all fish in the smoking chamber. Use freshly caught, dressed fish, whole or filleted. Wash fish thoroughly.”

According to the University’s website, “Pickling is an easy method of preserving fish.” I have never eaten pickled trout, but pickled pike – a wonderful treat!

Pickled fish must be stored in the refrigerator as the same temperature for smoking, the website stated, and must be used within four to six weeks.

Learn more about ‘Preserving Fish Safely’ by logging onto the University of Minnesota Extension website.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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