Louisiana’s anglers are accustomed to abundant catches of bass, bream, sac-a-lait and various saltwater fish. A common problem, however, is improper handling of fish intended for the table.
Quickly ice down fish. This sounds elementary, but there are those who get swept up in the thrill of catching fish and forget this important step. Fish should be placed on ice immediately upon being caught. Be sure you have ample ice before leaving the dock.
Take full advantage of your ice. This means pouring the ice out of the bag and making sure there is a layer of ice above and below the fish.
Fish placed in an ice/water slurry chill faster than those placed on ice alone. Leave water in your ice chest as long as an adequate amount of ice stays in the water. Water temperatures will stay at or near 32 degrees Fahrenheit and help keep fish cool.
Another technique effective in keeping fish fresh on hot days or for extended periods is to gut the fish and pack the body cavities with ice. That chills the fish faster.
Caution: It is illegal to fillet saltwater finfish before returning to the dock. This means that those with camps in the marshes and swamps must keep their fish intact, though gutting is allowed. For the purpose of consumption at sea aboard the harvesting vessel, a person shall have no more than two pounds of finfish parts per person on board the vessel, provided that the vessel is equipped to cook such finfish and such finfish does not exceed applicable bag limits. Bank and surf anglers often use stringers and live baskets to hold their catch. If using a stringer, put the stringer through the jaw tissue and not the gills.
Those using baskets should be aware that overcrowded fish can easily die. Anglers with live wells on their boats also should be aware of this danger.
A bit of attention to details will ensure that fish stay fresh longer and taste better when cooked. It may take a few more minutes, but the result will be a more enjoyable and memorable trip.