Harts Hints - Handling the Catch

by Andrew Hart

You've don't it! You've landed what you were after and a good size fish it is too! Finally, you can take home something for the table. You can't wait to show off your catch and then enjoy a tasty and nutritious meal. You've done the hard work! Or have you?

If you are somebody who fishes for a feed, then handling you catch is very important. It can mean the difference between a successful dinner, or one that you would rather forget. Remember, it doesn't matter who cooks it, if what your catch tastes good you're a hero, but if it tastes bad, then guess who's to blame.

The first two hours after you have landed your dinner can mean the difference between a tasteless piece of flesh or a meal that rivals the top seafood restaurants.

Killing your catch
In the age of catch and release, writing the above heading seems a bit odd. But, killing what you catch is absolutely justifiable, if nothing goes to waste. Once you have a fish in the net, then it is important that you kill it straight away. A swift blow to the head is usually a good technique.

Another method is used by the Japanese on tuna; they use a screw driver and pierce the fishes brain, killing it instantly.

After you have killed your catch, if possible you should guy or fillet it straight away. However, this is not usually done because once you've caught one, you want to catch another one. Therefore, the ting to do is bleed your fish.

Always have some ice on hand so that you can place your dead, bled fish into coll surroundings. Try and lay the fish flat, so that it won't become out of shape. An interesting tip is that placing your fish on ice a few hours can actually make its eating qualities improve. The chilling means that the flesh will not part when being cooked.

Fillet or Gut?
Whether you should fillet or gut your catch is up to you. Smaller fish are probably better off gutted, while larger specimens can easily be filleted or skinned, then even cut into steaks or cutlets.

When gutting a fish, be very thorough about removing all traces of blood. The gills and guts are easy to get out, but the fish's kidney, which is the blood line running up the length of the back bone can take a little longer. Take tour time when gutting a fish, and try not to miss anything.

Filleting a fish requires the right knife for the job. The better the fillet knife, the easier the job becomes. Make sure your knife id firstly sharp, and secondly one which has a bit of length and flex. Spend money on a good knife and you won't regret it. Fillets are best skinned.

If the fish you are going to eat is a salt water species, try and keep it out of freshwater. It is best cleaned in the water it was caught in.

Fish will keep in a refrigerator for several days. Therefore, placing them in the fridge is better than freezing them if you're planning on easting them soon after they have been caught. Simply place the fish on a plate and cover with cling wrap.

When freezing your catch, it pays to wrap it in air tight plastic so the flesh won't develop freezer burn. Wrap up only enough for a meal because, once thawed, fish should not be refrozen.         

Try and thaw fish as slowly as possible; so avoid the microwave. The best thing to do is take your meal out of the freezer some hours before you plan on cooking it. Then just sit the catch in a cool spot, and let thaw. This will create a tastier meal.

Happy eating!

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