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6 Easy Ways to Keep Fish Fresh While Fishing

6 Easy Ways to Keep Fish Fresh While Fishing

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Are you planning a fishing trip? Do you want to learn how to keep your captured fish fresh while fishing? Or perhaps you would like to learn an alternative method to the one you are using currently. Read on to find out how to keep fish fresh while fishing.

There are six ways to keep fish fresh while you are fishing, whether they are dead or alive

  • Make use of a stringer
  • Build a floating fish pen basket
  • Use a live fish well
  • Make a D.I.Y. live bait box to keep a fish alive
  • Use shaved ice to keep Fish fresh after being bled
  • Saltwater and ice blocks

If you plan to eat the fish that you catch on your fishing excursion, you should know how to keep it fresh for the time you are out catching more fish and the time it takes to get the fish home and prepared for eating or freezing. Let’s find out how to keep your fish fresh while fishing.

How to Keep Fish Alive and Fresh While Fishing 

To keep your catches alive while you continue to fish, you should use one of these four methods:

  • Put the fish on a stringer and place it back in the water
  • Put the Fish in a floating wire mesh basket/holding pen
  • Put the fish in a live well that can accommodate all your Fish
  • Put the fish in a cooler/live bait box containing water and ice

1 – Using a Stringer

Freshly Caught Perch On A Stringer

There are two ways to keep a fish alive using a stringer. The first way is by tying the rope to the side of the boat or kayak and then feeding the stringer needle through the Fish’s gills and out the mouth. Secure the rest of the rope to the boat or kayak. This method is thought to be inhumane.

The more humane alternative is to poke the stringer needle through the Fish’s bottom lip and out the mouth. This method is friendlier to the Fish because the rope of the stringer is not obstructing the Fish’s gills, allowing it to still filter oxygen out of the water, giving it a better chance of staying alive till you have finished fishing.

The following is a simple D.I.Y. upgrade as an alternative to tying both ends to the boat. You will need:

  • 1 x 7-inch length of P.V.C. that is 1 inch in diameter
  • 1 x drill bit that has a diameter that is 2 mm larger than the diameter of your stringer needle
  • 1 x drill
  • 1 x tape measure

Step 1. Drill a hole 2 inches from the left of the pipe.

Step 2. Drill a hole almost one inch from the right of the pipe.

Step 3. Feed the stringer needle through the hole on the left.

Step 4. Feed the stringer needle through the hole on the right so that both ends of the rope face you.

Step 5. Take the stringer needle and feed it into the open end on the right-hand side of the pipe, going lengthwise.

Step 6. Remove the slack out of the rope to secure the stringer needle in place.

Using this method of securing the end of your stringer, you can easily add Fish to it without hassling with any knots. This method makes life much easier if you wear fish handling gloves or your hands are wet.

2 – Using a Floating Holding Pen

Freshly Caught Fish In A Floating Holding Pen

There are two main types of holding pens when using a floating fish holding pen: a floating weir mesh basket or a floating fish basket. One type without a lid and another with a lid. Regardless of which one you have, you use it almost the same way.

Depending on the type of floating fish holding pen you have, you can either unhook the Fish and drop it into the holding pen if it has no lid or if your holding pen does have a lid on it, you open the lid and drop the Fish in and make sure that the lid is securely closed.

3 – Using a Live Well

Freshly Caught Perch

When using a live fish well, you only start pumping water into the well once you have caught a fish so that the water doesn’t get stagnant.

Some people pre-fill their well with treated water that has air pumped into it; however, it’s more popular to use the water from whichever body of water the fish is coming from because the water doesn’t need to be treated and isn’t going to harm the Fish.

After catching a fish, you have to wait until the well is at least half full to ensure that the Fish has enough water above and below it to avoid too much stress on the Fish.

Once there is a fish in the well, you have to turn the aerator and the recirculating pump on so that there is always oxygenated water moving through the Fish’s gills. Furthermore, you have to completely replace the water in the well every five minutes to prevent ammonia levels from building up in the water.

If there are more than five Fish in the well, you have to switch the recirculating pump off and switch the water replacement pump onto the manual setting to constantly replace the water in the well. 

This is a crucial step because when Fish start to get stressed, they begin to urinate excessively, causing the ammonia levels in the water to skyrocket to the point where it is toxic.

Be sure not to turn off the aeration pump because even though the water in the well is constantly being replaced, it doesn’t have sufficient oxygen, so having so many Fish in the well exhausts the supply of oxygen in the water.

If any fish you catch are cut or bleeding, treat with G-juice directly onto the wound before adding it to the well. The G-juice is going to cause the blood to clot as well as close the injury almost immediately.

Additionally, G-juice is used to remove ammonia and chlorine from the water in the well. It also relapses the Fish’s slime coating while adding electrolytes to the water.

4 – With a Live Bait Box

Commercial Fishing Live Well

The live bait box method is essentially a D.I.Y. version of a live fish well. As the name suggests, a live bait box predominantly stores the Fish you intend to use as bait; however, this method can be adapted to accommodate larger Fish instead. 

This method is mainly used by people fishing from the pier or the shore and sometimes even people using a boat when fishing on a river or lake if the boat doesn’t have a live fish well.

The following are the materials you are going to need to make your D.I.Y. live bait box:

  • 1 x hand saw or circular saw
  • 1 x large bucket
  • 1 x 7-inch P.V.C. pipe
  • 1 x drill
  • 1 x pack of drywall screws
  • 1 x pack of ¼ inch screws
  • 1 x drill bit with the same diameter as the screws
  • 1 x 1-foot length of rope
  • 1 x large ice cooler or large black Sterilite tub with handles on with sides that can accommodate 2 or 3 medium-sized fish with space to move
  • 1 x dolly large enough to fit on the ice cooler sideways
  • 2 x strong bungee cord with hooks on both sides
  • 3 x battery-powered air pumps with as many air stones
  • 3 x batteries
  • 4 x wooden planks
  • 7 x P.C.S. pipe supporters

Step 1. If the dolly you have bought doesn’t have a flat surface to place the cooler on, you have to measure and then cut the planks of wood to the correct length for the width of the dolly.

Step 2. Lay all of the planks across the dolly to see if they can cover the length of it or if they should be staggered. Having full coverage is ideal; however, having the planks staggered does still do the job of keeping the cooler stable enough. 

Step 3. Make one mark on each side of every plank where you want the screws to go.

Step 4. Pre-drill holes through the planks of wood into the dolly to prevent the wood from splitting when fastening the planks with screws.

Step 5. Use a screwdriver or drill to fasten the wood planks to the dolly.

Step 6. Determine where you want the cooler to be positioned, and then find the center of the cooler.

Step 7. Make markings on each side of the dolly that line up with the center of the cooler. This is where you will mount two of the P.C.S. pipe supports (one on each side).

Step 8. Pre-drill the holes in the dolly and mount the two P.C.S. pipe supports.

Step 9. Tack the bungee cord and fold it in half, then take the looped side and put it through the handle of the ice cooler. Feed the two loose ends through the bungee cord loop and then hook them onto the P.C.S. pipe support (repeat this on the other side).

Step 10. Fasten three of the P.C.S. pipe supports onto the back of the ice cooler two inches from the top.

Step 11. Mount the aeration units and then drill a single 30 mm above each, making sure that the holes go through to the other side of the ice cooler.

Step 12. Connect each of the pipes that came with the aerators to each unit. Then feed the three pipes through each of the holes and connect the other ends to the airstones making sure that they are on the bottom or as close to the cooler as possible.

Step 13. Choose one of the shorter ends of the dolly (this will now be the front). Mount the last two P.C.S. pipe holders onto the front of the dolly on both the left and right-hand sides.

Step 14. Feed the rope through the P.V.C. pipe, ensuring that both sides are even. You can then either tie an overhand knot using both pieces of rope or tie a knot on both sides of the P.V.C. pipe to prevent it from sliding.

Step 15. Tie one of the loose ends of the rope to the left P.C.S. pipe holder and one to the right.

How to Keep Fish Fresh After Being Bled

There are two ways to keep your catch fresh after you have bled them properly.

1 – The Shaved Ice Method

Freshly Caught Salmon In Shaved Ice

This method is a reasonably straightforward process. Place a layer of crushed ice on the bottom of your cooler box, then lay the Fish you have just bled on top of the ice, then cover it with another layer of crushed ice. Make sure that the fish has ice on all sides and is completely covered.

You can repeat this until you have caught the amount of Fish you want or until the cooler box is full. Be sure that the last layer of ice on top is thick enough to cover the Fish completely.

2 – The Salt Water Ice Slurry Method

This method is more straightforward than the previous one. Pour a bag of ice into a cooler box of saltwater and add your freshly bled catch to the slurry.

Alternatively, you can use things such as bottles of water, water balloons, and gel packs that have spent the night in the freezer. (Make sure to use a protective sleeve on the gel pack to prevent a puncture.)

Final Thoughts

We have discovered how to keep an already bled fish fresh using the ice chip method or the saltwater ice slurry method. We have learned how to keep Fish alive and fresh while fishing using the stringer method, the live Fish well, the floating fish pen, and the live bait box method.

We have also learned how to make a D.I.Y. live bait box capable of holding large Fish while keeping them alive and how to make a simple upgrade to a stringer that allows you to add Fish easily, without the need to tie or untie any knots.


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