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Posted on Jul 3, 2007 in
Fish Management 101



By Steve Black

  • Ice down whole fish immediately, bled, gutted or not.  You can gut, clean and rinse your catch after things calm down.  Proper fish handling in advance will help prevent cross contamination from punctured intestine waste and increase shelf life.
  • Ice is an often overlooked essential to hold your fish in the right zone.  You spent top dollar on your boat and equipment, so why go cheap on the ice?  Keep fish ice and food ice separate to avoid any cross contamination.
  • Keep raw fish away from raw vegetables, salads or cooked food to prevent cross contamination.
  • Dedicate one knife for filleting.  After trying several knives over the years, I have found the Forschner 10” Sandwich knife to hold up the best.  It’s serrated and very sharp helping it to keep its edge a long time without being sharpened.  Add a run on a sharpening steel every now and then and to extend its life and bring back the sharp edge.
  • Sharks have a primitive kidney/waste system that maintain a high proportion of nitrogen compounds in their blood.  The first sign of these compounds breaking down is the smell of ammonia.  Sharks require a lot of attention to detail in their handling.  Gut, rinse & ice down as soon as it is safe to do so making sure to fill the body cavity as well.  Sharks also have a slow dying Central Nervous System and are a perfect example of the 24 hour aging suggestion before butchering to yield better quality steaks.
  • Fish with high oil content are prone to spoil quicker and are more sensitive to temperature abuse.  Ice them down quickly.
  • Do not throw fish or overload coolers that can lead to broken skin, removed scales or bruised flesh that will then lead to early spoilage.
  • Avoid using harbor water on the way back to port to rinse or clean any fish.  Wait to use a source of fresh water.  It is for this same reason to not start your ice maker until you are out to sea and have fresh sea water to draw from.
  • Keep plenty of Paper towels and Ziplock Bags on board to dry off and store fillets for the evening meal or fillets dedicated for home.
  • Remember Sharks, Tunas and Swordfish are all capable of heating their blood and muscle tissues, so chill them ASAP after the fight is over.
  • Fish that feed in the upper water column are more likely to be sushi grade fish that do not need to be cooked well done.  Yellowtail, Albacore, Bluefin & Yellowfin should be served rare, whereas bottom-feeding fish are more likely to carry parasites and require thorough cooking.
  • Chill all Tuna before the traditional celebratory sashimi feast.  Your catch just came from 65 degree water, and 65 degree Tombo doesn’t go down real smooth unless you’re a 300 # Mako.  Pickled Ginger, Soy Sauce and Wasabi are popular sides, but don’t overlook Eel Sauce and Seaweed Salad (Wakame) as well which can be found in most specialty markets.
  • If possible, a 24 hour “Aging Period” will allow your fish to completely expire, relaxing the muscles providing higher quality, shiny, smooth fillets or steaks.
  • Fish do not have tough connective tissue that needs to be broken down.  Quick preparation such as Grilling, Frying and Searing, work best.  No matter how you decide to cook your fish, resist the urge to poke or prod it.  Once a piece of fish is on the grill, or in the pan, leave it alone.  Moving it too soon will result in the fish sticking.  Let it cook awhile and it will come away on its own and once the thickest section flakes pull apart, it’s done.
  • Cooking fish on the bone will provide a moister final cooked product.  Cut a fish into steaks or preparing them whole will give you favorable results.  You can get bone in chops from Swordfish, Tuna and don’t overlook Cobia Ribs for the BBQ.
  • Large bottom fish can often provide scallop size cheek meat morsels.  Don’t overlook the cheeks.

Cooking Tips


  • Breading 101-Forget Flour, Egg, Bread Crumbs.  Mix the Flour and Eggs together to make a batter, eliminating one step and getting it done quicker with less mess.  Put the Batter and Breadcrumbs in separate Ziplock Bags before leaving the dock and you can easily bread fish onboard anytime.
  • The Best fish Taco Sauce.  50% Mayonnaise, 50% Sour Cream, Salt, Pepper and Chipotle…Done!
  • Gourmet Tartar Sauce…Add Chopped, Marinated Artichoke Hearts and Pepperonicinis - a light, nutritious dinner….with heat.