Best Way To Keep a Trout Fresh While Fishing?
A trout keeps best alive and in the water. The next best option is an ice cold slurry.
The best way to store your recent catch really depends on how and where you are fishing. When fishing within a short walk of the parking lot, it is best to get your catch into a cooler or icebox as quickly as possible.
Do not leave them flapping around on the shore, slowly dying and drying out in the sun. It ruins the eating quality and is certainly not kind to the fish.
I like to store any fish I catch in a salt ice slurry. Such a mixture of ice and water quickly lowers the temperature of the trout and slows down any decomposition but the slurry is warm enough to prevent the skin from actually freezing.
Another great option is to bury them in a big of ice cubes and then close the lid. A trout can be stored for several days on ice, but I personally like to eat them much sooner.
Consider only keeping fish towards the end of your fishing trip.
Fish keep best in the river, and walking and carrying fish is a bit of a pain.
When I do plan on keeping a few fish, I try to only keep them towards the end of the trip. If I am planning to spend the whole day fishing, I will not start considering keeping a fish or two until late in the afternoon.
That way, I minimize the amount of time the trout is out of the water. By using this method, I do run the risk of blanking, and coming home empty handed, but there is always a next time.
I also know some fishermen who have a couple of honey holes close to the road where they are nearly guaranteed a catch. So they practice catch and release all day, before stopping in at the honey hole to catch a fish or two for dinner.
How to handle fish caught on the river?
Imagine this, you are 5 miles from the car, and you just gill hooked a fat plump trout. It probably will not survive so keeping it is the best solution. So, what is the best way to protect the eating quality of the fish?
I start by gutting the fish right away, the guts contain a lot of bacteria which can speed up the deterioration of the flesh.
I then wrap the fish in a wet cotton dish towel and place the wrapped fish into a plastic bag which I will then store in my pack.
A cotton Dish Towel (Tea towel) works well, because they pack down small, but absorbs and holds onto water very well. They are a good way to keep a trout moist and relatively cool while it is being carried home.
I put it in a plastic bag to prevent the slime and juices from the trout oozing throughout my pack. I once carried a pacific salmon home in my pack, and even 10 years later I have not been able to entirely remove the blood stains.
I do not know exactly how long a trout will keep wrapped in a wet towel, but certainly still seem fresh even 4 or 5 hours later. Still best practice to put it onto ice or into a fridge as soon as possible.
Is storing dead fish in the river a good idea?
From time to time, I see anglers store their catch by laying it in the river. They might store it in a mesh bag or thread some cord through its gill then secure it in place with a rock.
Will, the problem with this technique is that the fish might not always be there when you get back.
Scavenging animals and even light fingered anglers are not uncommon. Some light rope and a couple of rocks is no obstacle for a hungry Raccoon.
Also, while stream water might seem clean, it is where the trout live. It is still full of bacteria, which will likely start breaking down the fish if left alone for too long.
This is still a better idea than leaving it up on the bank to roast in the sun and to get fly blown.
What is the best way to keep a fish alive while wading? Stringers vs keep bags.
If you are not walking too far while fishing, there are several ways to keep a fish alive while in the water.
I will cover stringers first, which is basically a piece of cord, rope, or chain that gets threaded through the jaw or gills of the fish which hold them in place.
The fish are then allowed to swim around attached to the stringer. The use of stringers does raise ethical questions.
Is it humane to leave a fish struggling with a string through its jaw? I am not going to answer that question here, because I personally use live baits at times which can also be seen as morally questionable.
I always like to give any fish I plan on keeping a quick and nearly instant death. I see no need to make them suffer or to leave them to slowly suffocate or struggle.
Mesh keep bags
Nylon mesh keep bags are a slightly more humane option to keep fish alive for longer, it is a mesh bag that is designed to hold fish.
If positioned in an area with sufficient current, fish can usually be kept alive for a reasonable period of time. Sometimes they even appear to be healthy enough to release. It is important to remember that the bigger the fish, the larger a keep bag needs to be to hold them.
Now, if you are extremely mobile, a keep bag is probably not going to be a good option simply due to the awkwardness of moving one with a fish inside.