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How to Save Your Catch After a Successful Ice Fishing Trip

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When it comes to saving your freshly fetched fish, following the proper preservation tactics is imperative for retaining the integrity of your catch. As you're going ice fishing this winter, it's important to keep these steps in the back of your mind to ensure your fish can last through the long run.

Step 1: Place Ice at the Bottom of a Cooler

When you prepare your cooler to bring along on your fishing journey, the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center recommended placing 3 to 4 inches of crushed ice at the bottom. This will not only keep your fish fresh as you continue your journey, but it will also allow harmful bacteria on the fish's surface to drain to the bottom of the ice.

Step 2: Remove from Cooler as Soon as Possible

While crushed ice can keep the fish safe for a short period of time, its effects don't last very long, so be sure to preserve your catch as soon as you make it home to ensure it remains safe from toxic buildup.

Step 3: Prepare Fish Before Freezing

Cut, filet, gut or scale your fish before you freeze it. In-Fisherman magazine reported that this will prevent the fish from decaying and spoiling while frozen.

Step 4: Wash Cuts in Cold Water

Gather your filets and wash them in cool water, removing any dirt or grime from the cut before you place it in the freezer. 

Step 5: Freeze on Sheet Until Solid

Line your cuts on an oven sheet, keeping the pieces separate so you can easily remove them when they've frozen. Depending on the type of fish you choose, it may take between two and five hours, so keep an eye on the freezer.

Step 6: Move to Vacuum Sealer Bag

Once the cuts are solid, place individual pieces in a plastic vacuum sealer bag and prepare for sealing.

Step 7: Remove Air to Create Seal

Using your vacuum sealer, remove the air from the bag to further extend the shelf life of your catch. 

Step 8: Keep Fresh for up to 2 Years

Voila! You've successfully preserved the bounty from your ice fishing adventure. Depending on the type of fish you caught and sealed, it may last between 1 1/2 to two years.

Don't forget to review the three things to know about vacuum sealing your catch!