Proper freezing of fish preserves quality

Take the time to preserve your fish catch properly to get that taste-like-fresh quality months later.

Autumn anglers often look for ways to guarantee a few good fish dinners as the season changes to the winter months. One way to extend your ability to enjoy eating fish is to freeze your catch. When properly done, freezing preserves the quality and nutritive value of the fish. Nearly all species of fish can be frozen, but it is important to use low storage temperatures and Bluegill image: Courtesy Michigan Sea Grantairtight, vapor proof packaging.

In recent years, vacuum packaging equipment has become readily available for use in the home kitchen. This specialized equipment, with its sealable freezer bags, allows air to be drawn from the bags before they are sealed. Extracting the air helps prevent the development of off-flavors, which is known as lipid oxidation. Extracting the air also helps prevent freezer burn by preventing moisture from leaving the package once the fish is frozen. If vacuum packaging is not used, products such as aluminum foil, thick plastic freezer bags, and freezer papers may be used.

Frozen fish may also be glazed with ice to seal in moisture and prevent air from reaching the fish. These ice coatings should be at least one-eighth inch thick. Over time, though, the coating can evaporate and the frozen fish can be exposed to air. Never freeze fish in a milk carton with water. The fish will take days to freeze and will be compressed as the ice forms in the carton, compromising the quality.

When storing fish, the colder the temperature the better. A freezer should be set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, and lake whitefish can be stored at 0 F for three months and maintain its fresh taste. Maximum storage of these fatty fish is nine months. For lean fish such as northern pike, bluegill, bass, walleye, and perch the taste-like-fresh quality will be maintained for six months with maximum storage being 12 months.

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