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    With the rising costs of meat and cheese protein foods, consumers have become increasingly interested in fish as a source of dietary protein. Freshly caught fish spoil easily and need to be properly preserved. The four most popular methods of fish preservation are freezing, canning, smoking, and pickling. This publication describes each method briefly.

    Top quality fresh fish are essential for fish preservation. Of all flesh foods, fish is the most susceptible to tissue decomposition, development of rancidity, and microbial spoilage. Keep freshly caught fish alive as long as possible. A metal link bag will permit fish to remain alive longer in the water than a stringer. Spoilage and slime-producing bacteria are present on every fish and multiply rapidly on a dead fish held in warm surface water.

    Fish begin to deteriorate as soon as they leave the water. To delay spoilage, clean the fish as soon as possible. Thorough cleaning of the body cavity and chilling of the fish will prevent spoilage. Fish spoilage occurs rapidly at summer temperatures; spoilage is slowed down as freezing temperatures are approached.


    This is the simplest, most convenient, and most highly recommended method of fish preservation. A good quality frozen product requires the following:

    • Careful handling of the fish after catching.
    • Wrapping material or method that is airtight and prevents freezer burn and the development of undesirable flavors.
    • A freezer storage temperature of 0° F or lower.

    To Freeze Fish

    Remove the guts and thoroughly clean the fish soon after catching.

    Prepare the fish as you would for table use. Cut large fish into steaks or fillets. Freeze small fish whole.

    Wrap the fish in heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic type film, or heavy-duty freezer bags. Separate layers of fish with two thicknesses of packaging material for easier thawing. Store at 0° F or lower. When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator.

    Small fish, such as sunfish and panfish, 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 store infreezer.

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