Toward the end of summer 2014 we had a private class with group called the Fish Camp Company. Seems they all love to fish and had many varieties for us to cook; they came here looking for new recipes and ideas. Having been fishing in the past with folks who seemed to use “fishing” more for the excuse to drink beer, and because of past experiences when we were gifted slightly under par specimens, we were fighting our skepticism.
So imagine our delight that the seafood the Fish Camp Company brought in to us was the best we could hope for. Why? Because their seafood was perfect examples of themselves, we learned, because they had been properly handled and cared for from catch to arrival at in our kitchen. We enjoy meeting folks that honor the circle of life that they become part of when they embark on a fishing trip, or clam dig, or go crabbing, and even the smoking of their catch.
So to close the circle on this, we asked John if he might write up his rules for fishing to ensure good results! He did and we have nothing more to add–great job, John! And thank you for sharing your delightful fish and this valuable information!!
This is John and his story.
“CATCH A FISH, CARE FOR A FISH, EAT A QUALITY FISH”
Just about everyone savors a freshly caught fish from the ocean. But, too often, the fisher diminishes or destroys the superb quality of a fresh fish by failing to take proper care of it from the time it is caught until it is placed on the grill, the frying pan or in the oven.
Here is the process I follow from the moment the fish is harvested in salt water until it is consumed:
- Take along a generous supply of ice.
- As soon as the fish is netted, stun it and bleed it. Bleeding the fish enhances the flavor and prolongs its ability to be frozen for many months.
- Immediately put the stunned and bled fish on ice in a cooler or the boat’s fish box.
- Before returning to port or a boat launch, fill a five gallon bucket or two with fresh, clean salt water.
- Clean or filet the catch and rinse it immediately in the clean salt water, not fresh water.
- Place the cleaned or filleted fish in a waterproof food grade plastic bag.
- Immediately cover the fish in ice. Do not allow water from melted ice to touch the fish flesh.
- Keep the fish iced or refrigerated as close to freezing as possible until consumed (if it is to be consumed within a few days of harvest).
- If the fish is to be frozen, cut into desired portions and wrap in several layers of food grade plastic wrap. Then, wrap the fish again. Essentially, double the wrapping process. This method is much less expensive than vacuum packing and it does not fail to hold a seal like some vacuum bags.
- Place the wrapped fish portions on a large cookie sheet and put in the coldest part of your freezer so that each portion freezes individually as quickly as possible.
- Once frozen, keep frozen at -10F if possible. (Keep a thermometer in your freezer to keep track.)
- When it is time to thaw and consume a meal of fish, take the frozen portion out of the freezer a day before it is to be used and let it thaw slowly in the coldest part of your refrigerator. It will thaw sufficiently in about 24-30 hours.
- When ready to cook, remove the fish from its wrapper. Cook your favorite way and enjoy. It will be as good as it can be.
It might seem like the process outlined above is excessive, but it is not. A freshly caught fish is a treasure in today’s world. Special care is essential if you want to enjoy the best that fish can be. The extra effort is rewarded. Fish that has been cared for properly and iced from the moment of capture is unbeatable when eaten fresh. And, if wrapped and frozen properly, and then thawed slowly under refrigeration, the thawed fish will also reward you with the exceptional taste and nutrition of one of nature’s finest meals.
John D. Hough
Bainbridge Island, Washington