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Thread: Keeping Your Copper River Reds Fresh

  1. #1
    Member BakInAlaska's Avatar
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    Default Keeping Your Copper River Reds Fresh

    I have over the years tried many different ways to keep the fish I catch dip netting properly cared for while hanging off a small ledge in the canyon. I have used the 5 fish on a stringer (cut and bled) and laid each stringer in a small eddy (if one is available), or partially fill a small trash can (rough neck) with water and or a large cooler.

    Each method has it's draw backs since we are limited by the dip site we are fishing but over the years it seems the best method is still the stringer in the river method. Sometimes when the fish are running three to a dip, the permit gets filled quickly and we are off the rock before we have lunch and then there are the slower times where you catch just enough fish each hour to not throw your net in the water and walk away but it takes all day. So keeping your fish fresh is more important. I cannot count the number of times I have seen folks just whack their fish on the head, throw them on the banks or in the grass crawling with flies and I shudder as the quality is less then pristine for such a delicious specimen.

    So, for all the folks that are not lucky enough to have a boat to float while dipping, what is your preferred method to caring for your fish while out in the field?

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    Disorient, gill, stringer back in the water at the minimum. If there's no ice, you have no choice but to use the river to cool them. Transport them as fast as possible and keep them cool. Keep them whole until you can get them on ice. Fish live in the water, sitting in cold water whole isn't doing anything the fish hasn't done it's whole life. Opening it up and exposing the flesh is another story. If you fillet, bag it and set it back in the water.

    Then pack with ice as bagged fillets or unbagged whole spread out as soon as possible. If I'm keeping whole I'll gut, behead and stuff the belly with ice. When they're on ice, I try to keep them from touching for best cooling possible. If they are touching, you can see the discoloration on the skin after a few hours. If they're fillets, zip loc bag them and same arrangement with ice in cooler as whole. Keep the cooler drain open and tilt during transport or storage to let the water drain. If it's going to be awhile and your ice will be melting, keep drain closed, use trash bag or zip loc bags and leave them in the cooler with the ice water.



    If the fish aren't kept cold enough, you will know by the flesh because it will begin to gape (separate, like when it's cooked and flakes). Best thing you can do is keep it cold as fast as you can and keep it at that temperature until storage.

    Two things that make the price of quality fish go up. The quality of the fish (obviously, but you can't be selective so it's out of your control) and secondly is the storage and handling process. Temperature, exposure, bruising, etc.

    Just my 2 cents!

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    Member Gerberman's Avatar
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    I gill every fish, put on rope stringer and let it go back into the river to keep cool, and bleed out. If I have a pack out I will sometimes fillet just before I leave the river and put in plastic bag then in back pack, get to truck and put bag on ice and cover with ice.

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    Member Grayling Slayer's Avatar
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    I bought a cheap chest freezer off craigslist just for Valdez and Chitina. I fill it full before leaving town and have plenty of ice and cold storage for fish.

    We clip the gills and let them bleed out on the stringer. In the boat they go from the stringer to an ice filled action packer. Within 6 hours I try to make sure they are filleted. Place fillets in 1 gallon ziplock bags and into freezer with a layer of ice between each layer of fish. The freezer is not turned on.

    Back home, to freeze I wrap each fillet in plastic wrap before placing in the vac bags. The plastic wrap really seems to keep the fish fresh longer.

  5. #5

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    Here's our routine that works well for us. Of course we are on a boat, so we have several options.

    If we are in the fish heavy, we will simply toss them in coolers after a good couple of bonks. We generally bring a 120 quart and a few 48 quart coolers which helps keep the fish separated in the boat between permits. If the fishing is slower, we have scuba diving bags with clips that we hang from the boat to keep the fish in the water. We can usually put about 20 reds in one bag, and these work well from shore or rocks as well. We haven't gilled them in the past, so I plan to do that this year to see if I notice any difference.

    We usually have one of the 48 quarter coolers filled to the brim with ice. When it's slow we will gut and head fish on site and pack on ice while some of us are still dipping. It's nice getting back to the launch and not having to mess with fish.

    We take all of our fish home with only head, guts and kidney's taken out. We do all of our filleting at home under clean water. My opinion is the less exposed flesh around a silt filled area, the better. When we are at home, we generally have between 105-135 fish for my family as well as my brother and my folks. Everybody else that comes with us takes their fish home to deal with. My brother will wash fish and bring them to me, I do all the filleting, my dad double wraps in saran wrap and stacks them in the freezer with spacers every 3 layers of fish. The next day we will pull them from the freezer and vacuum seal them. We've gotten much better long term results by freezing first, then vacuum sealing the next day.

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    Member Grayling Slayer's Avatar
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    One more idea. For freezer storage I have a bunch of flat cardboard boxes about the size of pizza delivery boxes that I put the vac bags in. Keeps the freezer much more organized and you can just label the front of the the box. Parmanent maker on fish slimed plastic bags no more.

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    Member BakInAlaska's Avatar
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    Wrapping the fillet in Saran wrap of other plastic wrap first seems to be one method that quite a few folks use and I like the idea of freezing them first and then vacuum seal them. A lot less juice in the vacuum sealer that way.

    Thanks for the notes..

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    Member Vince's Avatar
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    Well done both banks and boat..now days only from a boat.. wack it, bleed it clip it and stack it. Clean only head and gut, then pack on ice for trip home.. fillet it when home. They will last longer on ice that way ( learned commercial fishing in the 80's) as well less chance of river silt getting into the meat, leave gut membranes in place . I carry a 180 qt cooler it will pack 15 bags of ice and i will loose maybe 1/2 bag to melt over weekend that way..layer fish ice, ..
    When i get home i buy more ice and put into rubbbermade tubs with water for cleaning.. i use a scrub brush (stiff) to scale and remove rest of blood line.. about 7 fish per tote


    I leave skin on and rib bones in with membrane, I'll remove it at cooking time.. for big meals 2 fillets per vac seal meat to meat... prevents pin bones from poking through and preserves better, with skin side out... for single fillets i lay a piece of parchment paper over the meat then seal it..again..pin bone protection and another layer from direct freezer burn....

    Another tip is..always cut the vac bag to thaw.. we put them in vaccum then freeze them and break the cells down.. taking the vac OFF for thaw seems to keep them leaking out all the moisture



    I will bone, skin, and prep at the time i cook them..for me it seems i prepare a nicer fresher looking fish.. please the eye first, and the stomach will follow

    Sent from my Xoom using Tapatalk

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    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    I'll bonk, gill and clip right at catch... depends on the location I'm in but I usually put them in a wet game bag that I keep watered down with cold water. About 10 in a sack and I haul them to the cooler at the top of the bluff and ice them down.

    Not crazy about putting fish back in the water after I take them out....saw a buddy lose a whole stringer once. Thought he was going in to get them.

    I filet at home and usually haul them home whole. Usually have them done the same 24hr period they're caught though.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

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    Initially I put them in the Copper River. Then I like to take batches of fish back to O'Brien Creek and put the stringers in the ice cold water of O'Brien Creek (much colder than the Copper River) to cool down before gutting and beheading. That water is also crystal clear so I like to rinse the gutted fish there also.

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    Member fk 107's Avatar
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    Dippin from a boat. We bonk, gill/clip and put in a large rubbermaid with river water. Once we are done fishing or during slow times we gut but leave heads on. (makes the fillet job easier) We then pack them on ice in coolers and bring them home to fillet. I always seem to do a better job filleting in the back yard with tunes and a brew! I have filleted everything down there and rinsed in the copper before but that was in my rookie copper river years. Terrible on the meat with all that silt! I vacuum about 10 reds and smoke 20. (depending on supplement). I pressure cook and can the smoked and it will last years. Add a Jalapeno slice to the jars and its always a party favorite!
    "One Last Cast"

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    Member killer instinct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fk 107 View Post
    Dippin from a boat. We bonk, gill/clip and put in a large rubbermaid with river water. Once we are done fishing or during slow times we gut but leave heads on. (makes the fillet job easier) We then pack them on ice in coolers and bring them home to fillet. I always seem to do a better job filleting in the back yard with tunes and a brew! I have filleted everything down there and rinsed in the copper before but that was in my rookie copper river years. Terrible on the meat with all that silt! !
    Quote Originally Posted by Vince View Post
    Well done both banks and boat..now days only from a boat.. wack it, bleed it clip it and stack it. Clean only head and gut, then pack on ice for trip home..
    Quote Originally Posted by Jerod View Post
    We take all of our fish home with only head, guts and kidney's taken out. We do all of our filleting at home under clean water. My opinion is the less exposed flesh around a silt filled area, the better. .
    This is how we do our also. Fling into boat, bonk, gill/clip, throw (gently!) into a rubbermaid container. Mark down on paper before getting to bank, then pull out a table & gut fish. Then put on ice packed down good with multiple layers of ice for the ride home. We set up an assembly line and process fish in the driveway & vacuum seal. We let no moisture touch the inside of the fillet. Multiple times we've watched other people fillet their fish at the bank and wash them in the silty water, then piling them up all together in a big bag and thrown in a cooler. We cringe and turn away....

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