A Great Catch!
How To Keep A Fish

The catching part is relatively easy. Even the totally inexperienced, with a little coaching from captain or crew, can boat a hefty halibut from Cook Inlet's bountiful waters. Salmon catching is somewhat less certain. Most visiting fishers, regardless of the fish they catch, find themselves wondering "what do I do now?"

Seafood processors, most of whom are located on the Spit, have the instant hassle-free answer. In fact, some charter operators make it even easier by delivering your fish to the packer where you pick it up a short while later, (the process takes about half an hour) vacuum-packed, flash-frozen, ready to fly home as luggage or air freight on ahead. Even more convenient, you can have the processor arrange to fly your fish home at some future date.

But let's say you caught your prize on your own and want to get it home the same way. You'd like to have it appear on your table in, say, Arkansas, delectable with a little less expenditure for processing and shipping. It's harder but doable.

The main rule is COOL –VERY, VERY COOL.

Don't cart it around on the fender of your rental car like a dead deer, showing it off for the benefit of fellow fishers. The minute it hits the beach or boat, BLEED, GUT and ICE IT. (Of course, if you have a potential derby winner, hold that knife.) Slit the gills. For salmon, slit the fish from anus to throat and remove all viscera. (Halibut guts are all in one neat little pocket, so they're very easy to clean.) DON'T WASH. The slime helps preserve it. (Wash before cooking of course.) Just above freezing, 33 degrees, is ideal for keeping fish fresh, and fresh is absolutely the best way to keep it if at all possible. At this temperature it stays good for three days.

EAT IMMEDIATELY. If you are staying at a bed and breakfast, see if your host will let you flash fry a few fillets. Wash and trim. (Skin unless you're going to cook on a barbecue.) Heat butter to almost smoking in a skillet, dredge fillets in Cajun spices (available at the grocery), or seasoned cracker meal. Fry for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Tartar sauce (also available at the grocery) alongside is nice. Serve your host some. If you're camping out, cook it the same way over your fire.

TO TRANSPORT you'll want to buy an insulated "wetlock" waxed cardboard leakproof box unless you have an ice chest. Use blue gel ice if you plan to fly the fish; airlines don't allow dry ice. Your bed and breakfast host probably has freezer space if you're staying on for awhile and you can also find freezers at some airports.

More detailed information on seafood preservation is available at the Homer Public Library on Pioneer Avenue (235-3180) and from the University of Alaska Marine Advisory Program which publishes pamphlets on many aspects of fishing, including safe handling of the catch. Phone 235-5643.

This guide brought to you by The Homer Tribune. Publisher: Jane M. Pascall. Voice (907)235-3714, Fax (907)235-3716 E-mail: info@homertribune.com, 601 E. Pioneer Ave., Suite 109, Homer, AK 99603.

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