Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

Tracks and Tales: OK, Fish

By Steve Anderson

“Come on out with your fins up or I am coming in after you!”  To date, I have never had any fish come out with their fins up, but I have “come in after” lots of them.  The statement above has caused several of my partners to chuckle.  None, however, have had me committed.
Once caught, the angler has a life-and-death decision to make for that particular fish.  Sometimes, that decision is based upon the law, which can vary by both species and location.  At other times, it is solely on personal preferences of the taste, and the biology of the water being fished (we hope).  In the end, I have never been able to figure out how to eat a fish without killing it, and that preference has been fatal for many of them that were fooled into biting on my line.
It is critical that the fisherman make the decision to harvest a fish or release it as soon after it is caught as possible.  If it is to be released, the duration and handling technique can make a huge difference in its survival.  These same factors are important to the quality of the meat if you are going to harvest, clean, and eat the fish!
Once I decide to eat a fish, I make every effort to keep that fish alive and healthy right up until I clean it.  This is accomplished by using a live well in a boat (changing the water frequently), and a floating wire basket.  As the fish begin to show signs of stress, I stop and clean them immediately.  I find that their meat deteriorates very rapidly after they die.  Here are the techniques I use for cleaning fish and keeping it fresh:
•    Instant death is accomplished by making a single cut through its brain.
•    The fish is filleted quickly and the fillets placed into clean, ice-cold water.  (I believe the lake water is a very poor substitute- adding bacteria).
•    The fillets are then kept on ice until I get home.  Rinse them thoroughly in cold water, then soak and rinse until the meat is clear and white.
•    Any fillets to be frozen are kept in cold, clean water.  Air exposure ruins the meat.
This month and next represent the best time for anglers here in southeast Iowa to invite a fish to lunch.  In large part, this is caused by each species taking its turn to come up and spawn.  In the fish world, it is the males that make the nests and then guard them until the eggs hatch, making them most vulnerable to us anglers.  Hopefully, the water levels and turbidity will now settle down and each and every one of you will be able to finally settle down.  
The Washington County Conservation Board has been managing properties offering a variety of fishing opportunities for 50 years now.  These opportunities vary river accesses along the Skunk River to several bodies of water up to 15 acres and fully stocked and managed to maximize angling recreation.  Some are easily accessed and some much more remote.  We have maps in our office that we would love to share in the hope that you can get out and enjoy them!