Maintaining the delicate flavor of your freshly caught fish is mostly a matter of avoiding spoilage, as well as preserving it in such a way that is easy on the nose. There are many ways various cultures have perfected to maintain the quality of a catch and prepare it into a delicious meal. Here are some easy tips to help you:
1. Avoid hard surfaces when landing a fish to prevent bruising. Washing the fish is an immediate priority; use a hose or bucket to rinse off any slime and possible bacteria. Water from nearby marinas, industrial or municipal discharges should never be used. To ensure your safety, potable water is the best bet.
2. To prevent the fish from deteriorating, it should be chilled not more than an hour after being caught. Planning out your method in advance could help you achieve proper icing with low-cost equipment. A well chilled cooler, with a three inch layer of ice on the bottom will serve well enough. A pound of fish should be covered with a pound of ice. Chlorinated water is a great solution for the final rinsing.
3. The fish should be cleaned as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the tissues are sterile, but the scales contain a variety of bacteria. It is a good idea to avoid rough treatment when cleaning the fish, as flesh wounds may allow that bacteria to spread. Gut the fish by cutting the belly as to leave no blood or viscera within the body. Be careful not to soak your fish fillets for too long in water, a this may reduce texture and flavor.
4. If properly cleaned, the nutritional value and quality of the meat can be kept for up to five days. Be sure to wash your hands before touching the cleaned fish. There are many ways to cook the various types of fish, but there is a golden rule to be aware of: whole or not, cook ten minutes for every inch of the fish. Make that fifteen minutes for foil enclosed fish or if sauce baking. When cooking frozen fish, double the time.
It is a good rule-of-thumb to allow for extra time when baking fish in aluminum foil, allowing the heat to fully penetrate; an extra five minutes for fresh fish and an extra ten minutes for frozen. If you plan on thawing the fish before cooking, let it thaw out overnight in the refrigerator or run cold water over it while keeping it wrapped. Never use water at room temperature for thawing. Be careful when cooking with thawed-out frozen fish as it's easy to ruin it by making it mushy or dry.
Now that you know the basics of cleaning and preparing fresh fish, the only thing to do is go out and catch some! A whole lifetime can be spent exploring the culinary arts regarding fish, and you are just getting started. Bon appetite!