Everyone who fishes away from a pond in the back yard eventually has to deal with the problem of keeping the catch fresh. A long day of fishing in warm weather makes the need even more evident. No one wants to return home and open a cooler full of foul smelling fish. You not only have lost some great eating, but you have wasted a day. You may have ruined a cooler.
Avoiding this catastrophe is not too difficult if you plan ahead. Unless you know that you are going to be practicing catch and release fishing, you will have to keep you fish fresh until you can either eat them or freeze them for later. To do this, take along the equipment and materials to care for the fish.
Once caught, fish will survive only a short time out of water. In the warm or hot sun, these fish will spoil very quickly. This two bits of information lead to understanding how to keep the daily catch fresh.
Your first option and best way to start is to have a way to keep the fish alive. A stringer is one option if you are not going to be fishing for hours and hours. For salt water fishing, you will need to consider the violence of the surf if you are fishing from the shore or in shallow water. Heavy pounding waves may kill your fish by their force or churn the debris in the water so badly that the water is unfit for the fish to breathe.
In calmer water or for an hour or two of fishing at a time, a stringer may be a good option for many types of fish. Sharks, which have to swim to breathe, will not survive long on stringers or excessively small containers.
Whether fishing from the shore or from a boat, a good live box is probably the best option for keeping fish alive while you continue to enjoy your sport. The best size of this box will depend on what you are catching. A live box or well needs to be able have circulating water to keep the oxygen levels high enough for the fish to live. If you are fishing from the shore, you will need a long piece of rope or cable so that the box can be pushed into water deep enough to completely submerge it.
With a stringer or live box, you still need to keep an eye on the fish. If you note that any of the fish have died when adding new fish to the catch, it is time to take other measures to keep those fish from perishing. Generally, this is not a really big problem, but you still need to exercise caution.
At the end of the fishing day, if you are not staying within a few hundred yards of the beach, you need to be prepared to ready he fish to travel home. Without a live box or stringer, you will want to begin the process as you catch the fish. At this point, various people take slightly different approaches but arrive at the same result. The fish have to be iced down to stay fresh.
You do not actually have to kill the fish to do this. Since fish are cold-blooded, just putting them on ice will lower their body temperature and cause them to become motionless. If you choose to kill the fish, you do not have to clean them right away. The main thing is to use plenty of ice. You want to have a layer of ice followed by a layer of fish until all of the fish are in the cooler and under ice.
If you do not have to have a three day trip home, you will not need dry ice. In fact, dry ice can give the fish burns if you are not cautious with it. It can give you burns if you do not know how to handle it properly. For longer trips, dry ice may be a good option, but you will want to check it at least daily and more often is better on hot days.
For most people, if a place is available, cleaning the fish at the end of the fishing day is a good choice. Even taking the next step to prepare the fish in the way you will want to use it is not a bad idea. You may want to cut steaks or fillets and ice these. If you have stored your fish on ice during the day, use fresh ice for the cleaned fish. That way when you arrive home you can either cook the fish or bag it for the freezer.