Handle Sport Caught Fish Safely: From Stream to Table
Safe handling of fish is important to reduce your risk of foodborne illness and to produce a quality meal.
of 1 pound of crushed ice for
each 2 pounds of fish.
Handling your catch of the day begins with cleaning, icing, or freezing the fish as soon as possible. Fish begin to deteriorate as soon as they leave the water. Monitored live wells or mesh baskets kept underwater keep fish alive longer than stringers.
Ice is the key to fresh tasting fish. Pack cleaned fish in a cooler of 1 pound of crushed ice for each 2 pounds of fish.
Fish held at refrigeration temperatures of 40° F or lower may have a shelf life up to 3 days depending on refrigerator temperature and original fish quality.
Freezing is the most highly recommended method to preserve fish. A good quality frozen product requires:
- careful handling of the fish after catching
- removal of the guts and thorough cleaning of the fish soon after catching
- wrapping material that is airtight and prevents freezer burn
- a freezer storage temperature of 0° F or lower.
Small fish or small servings of fish can be frozen in ice. Place the fish in a shallow pan or water-tight container. Cover with ice water and place in the freezer until frozen (8-12 hours). Remove block from container, wrap and freeze.
Label the package with the type of fish, number of fish or fillets and the date.
The safest way to thaw fish is in the refrigerator for 12–24 hours. Fish can be thawed in the microwave on defrost, allowing 5–7 minutes for 1 pound of frozen fillets, depending on microwave power and amount of fish. Plan to cook immediately after thawing. Do not thaw fish at room temperature.
Never refreeze fish.
- What Contaminants are in Minnesota Fish?
- Preserving Fish Safely: Canning, Freezing, Pickling
- Get Rid of Fishy Tasting Fish
- Canning Meat, Fish, Poultry, and Wild Game in Minnesota
- Catch of the Day: Fish (205 KB PDF)
- Beyond Fish Sticks (189 KB PDF)
Peer reviewed by Kathy Brandt 2015