Saturday, March 28, 2015

Survival Fishing: 6: Preserving and Pan-Dressing


To preserve your catch, you must keep it either alive or cool. If the water itself is cool, you can put your fish on a stringer (either a chain with clips, or just a polypropylene rope with a threading tool), or you could use a wire basket.

Check your catch often, wherever you are keeping them. Any dead fish should be transferred to an ice-filled cooler if you have one. Dead fish spoil rapidly, especially if they are left in water.

Larger fish should be killed as soon as they are caught. Use a heavy stick to strike the fish across the back of the head, because their flesh can bruise if they are left to flop around in a boat. Gut the fish as quickly as possible, and put the fish on ice if you have any. In any case, fish should generally be cooked not long after they are caught.


Most panfish are too small to be filleted, and in any case filleting tends to waste meat. Besides that, the flavor and the nutritional value of most kinds of fish are improved if they are cooked with the skin and bones. The scales, fins, and guts need to be removed.

Scaling of fish is normally done with a plastic or metal scaler, but a dull knife or a spoon can be used. Wet the fish, hold the fish by its tail, and scrape off the scales by working from tail to head. Scaling should be done outdoors, because scales can make quite a mess. Or you can do the job in the sink, but you will need to be careful.

Slice along one side of the dorsal fin, make another cut on the other side, and then pull out the fin.

Cut along both sides of the anal fin, and remove it by pulling it toward the tail.

Generally the head and tail are removed, but this tends to waste some meat, and the flesh close to the tail is often considered the tastiest.

The fish can then be cooked by any means desired. Boiling or steaming, though, is often the most practical, and the liquid can be saved as a soup.


Bullheads should be killed with a hammer before cleaning them. For skinning you need a sharp filleting knife and a set of skinning pliers, or perhaps just ordinary wide-jawed pliers. Be sure to avoid the sharp pectoral and dorsal spines throughout the cleaning process.

Make a cut through the skin behind the pectoral fin on one side of the fish, and then over the top of the head and down to the other pectoral fin.

Split the skin down the back, going from head to tail, and cutting close to one side of the dorsal fin.

Split the skin on the other side of the dorsal fin, and connect this cut to the one you just made.

Hold the fish around the head with one hand, and with your other hand grip the skin on one side tightly with pliers and pull the toward the tail. The skin on that side should come off in 1 or 2 pieces. Do the same on the other side.

Cut the flesh off with your filleting knife. If you cut around the rib cage, you can avoid all the bones. Also cut away and discard all dark red flesh along the lateral line, because the meat here tends to concentrate toxins, and in any case it may have an unpleasant taste.

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