By Bernie Keefe

It’s Wednesday after work, you get the green light to go fishing with your buddies on the weekend. After sneaking out to the garage, organizing and inventorying your gear the whole evening disappears, walking back into the house you realize everyone went to bed. Thursday evening is spent packing food, clothes and personal gear then rechecking your fishing gear to make sure nothing is forgotten. After a sleepless night and the SLOWEST day at work you’ve ever encountered, your off.

After fighting traffic for a little while the highway opens up, you feel the work week slide off your shoulders and it quietly disappears. Arriving at the lake just before dark, set up camp then spend time getting the gear ready for tomorrow. Then off to another sleepless night excited to see what tomorrow brings.

It’s still a little dark out as you back the boat down the ramp. The early bite is good and a couple fish for dinner sounds appealing. Throw them in the live well, and fish till around 5. After getting the boat back to camp, clean fish (they’re kind of mushy) cook them up. Fresh fish for dinner, but they just don’t taste as good as you thought they should. Here is a couple of tips to help take care of your catch so it tastes better. Hunters are very careful with their meat cooling it down, keeping dirt and flies off of it. etc. We need to be just as careful with our fish.

  1. After catching a “keeper” slit its throat then throw them in the live well for a few minutes. This will bleed the fish and keep the lactic acid from building up in the fish’s meat.
  2. As soon as its dead put the fish under ice in a cooler. This will keep your catch firm and cool for a great meal.
  3. After cleaning the fish rinse it under fresh water very thoroughly. It helps remove excess bacteria that will start breaking down the fish.
  4. Pat the fish down with paper towels, put them in plastic bags and keep them under ice. (Keeping items under ice is always cooler then throwing them on top.)

While out on the ice we have a different set of challenges. It is no fun trying to fillet “fish sickles.” My way around this is to bleed the fish as soon as we catch it. Then throw them in a cooler. Some people choose to make a live well on the ice. They will keep your catch fresh and cold all day. Either way you choose to do this the goal is to get the best tasting fish as possible.

With all the planning we take to go on a trip. A little planning to keep our catch fresh is not very hard. Keep a couple extra trash bags in your gear, this will help keep the cooler clean. Fresh fish is always better then frozen fish. While we encourage selective harvest on size here is another thought. Why not keep just enough for dinner? If you are looking for new recipes please check out my recipe page at