How Long Can You Keep Fish On Ice Before They Go Bad?

catfish under water

When you go fishing and you catch a fish, you most likely don’t want to head back to the shore as this might be your first catch. This means that you have to properly store the fish on ice until you clean and properly store it.

In keeping the fish on ice, you have to know how long the fish can last on ice before it eventually goes bad. In this article therefore we will be considering how long your fish can last on ice before it spoils.

So, let’s get started.

How Long Can You Keep Fish On Ice Before They Go Bad?

If you have an ungutted fish, then you can keep it on ice for a period of two days before it eventually goes bad. Usually, the general recommendation is that you don’t leave it on ice for more than a day. If you have gutted your fish, however, then it can use up to five days on the ice.

If the fish is ungutted, it cannot last more than two days before it starts losing its flavour and goes bad. You have to bear in mind that keeping a fish on ice and freezing it are two completely different things. Keeping it on ice will only keep it cool and slow down the process of spoilage. This will not freeze it.

You must also be aware that keeping a fish frozen before gutting it is not something ideal to do. This means that if you have a two-day fishing trip planned, you can put the fish you caught on the first day in a cooler filled with ice. Then, you can wait till the second day and gut your fish all at once.

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Do You Need To Gut Your Fish Immediately?

The general rule of thumb is that once you catch a fish, you should bleed and gut it as humanly possible you can. This is especially if you don’t have ice. If you don’t have ice, you have to do it right away. The fish should be able to maintain good condition for about four to six hours under a shade.

If you do not have ice on your boat, your best bet will be to keep the fish alive and well till you can get back to the shore. Once you are at the shore, you can decide to put the fish on ice for about two days before gutting it. A gutted fish can last for up to five days whereas an ungutted fish will start going bad after two days.

You must bear in mind that fish guts have bacteria that multiply easily and can leach into the rest of the fish and this is why leaving an un-gutted fish on ice for too long is not recommended. Keeping your fish alive will therefore be a good resort in this case as it will help maintain the fresh condition of your fish.

How Can You Preserve Your Fish With Ice?

dead fish

Once again, we must remind you that you can only do this for two days, however, preserving fish with ice is not so difficult. The first thing to do will be to clean your fish which means that you have to remove the guts and every other internal organ.

You can also decide to remove the scales of the fish at this point although it is not all that necessary. Just keep in mind that when you gut your fish, it will last for longer than when you do not gut it at all. if you do not gut the fish, the best thing to do will be to put it in a thick bed of ice.

If you can, however, gut your fish before putting it on ice, then, you can also fill the inside which is the open cavity region with more ice. The thing is that the more ice in the surroundings and inside of your fish, the longer it will be able to last.

If you have crushed ice, that will be great as it is the best kind of ice to work with. This is because it can be easily packed and spread around the fish. Keeping your fish cold is ideal and crushed ice can help maintain that freshness. Other forms of ice do not offer this kind of protection for your fish.

If you don’t have crushed ice, you can decide to settle for cubed ice. You can fill your cooler with cubed ice and then pack some of the cubed ice in a Ziploc bag and use it to surround your fish. You must also make sure you have extra Ziploc bags and ice. You must bear in mind that with cubed ice, you can store only a few fish.

You can also work with a bowl and cling wrap. You will have to dry the fish and place a slightly wet towel at the bottom of the bowl. Then, you can place the fish on the bottom. You will have to then wrap the top of the bowl with the cling wrap and place the bowl in a cooler that has been filled with cubed ice. Drying the fish is very important as it will help remove any form of bacteria in the dirty water.

What If There Is No Ice Available To Keep Fish? 

If you are unable to get ice, there are a couple of things that you can do to help maintain the good condition of your fish. So, let’s consider some of those things.

  • You can keep the fish alive in a live well. You can work with a few buckets so that the fish don’t have issues with overcrowding. You have to be observant as the water can get too hot. In this instance, what you are to do is to either release the fish or keep them on ice. Once you are set to leave your fishing terrain, you have to keep the fish in a cooler. Transporting a live fish is not very easy to do.
  • Another alternative that you can consider is peat moss. You would have to stun the fish and clean it. You must also soak the moss in cold water. Then squeeze out the water from the moss. You have to spread the moss on paper and then stuff the fish with the moss. Ensure that the fish are well apart from each other. This should also help your fish not to go bad.
  • Working with a stringer is also another good alternative. You can keep the fish on a stringer although this means that you have to keep a close eye on the fish. You have to be very observant so that nothing goes wrong. You also have to be cautious with your boat speed as it can cause some form of damage.

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So, your fish staying on the ice for extended periods will depend on the condition of the fish. If you do not want to gut your fish right away, keeping it alive will be the best practice. An ungutted fish can last for too long even if you keep it on ice, so keeping the fish alive is ideal.

We have been able to consider how long your fish can last on ice, what could make it last for longer, and some alternatives to ice that you can work with. Read through and stay informed.

Written by Justin Michaels

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