Sport-caught fish has the potential to be the highest quality fish taken from the sea. Because fish are caught one at a time (or two or three at a time when the fishing is hot!), attention can be given to each fish to ensure that it’s properly cared for. By following these simple procedures, you can ensure your fish is of the highest quality:
1. Bonk your fish as soon as you land it. One clean hit between the eyes should be enough. Keeping the fish supported in the net is one way to keep a fish under control. A fish flipping around can easily be bruised, and meat on the shoulder of the fish can be easily bruised by a stray blow from the club.
2. Bleed your fish. As soon as you have bonked the fish, use your bait knife to cut through the gill rakers on one side of the fish. By only cutting one side of the fish, blood pressure will stay high, thereby allowing all of the blood to pump out of the fish. This is an absolutely crucial step often missed by sport fishers.
Why should you do this step? Blood is acidic, and if left in the fish, it will begin to degrade the meat.
3. Once all the blood is out of the fish, it is a good idea to gut the fish. This is particularly true of Coho (silver) salmon as the stomach acid will leach out of the stomach and begin to affect the meat.
4. Keep your catch on ice (or ice and salt water slurry) to maintain optimal freshness.