Cleaning fish, frozen or thawed?

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Horsager's picture
Horsager
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Cleaning fish, frozen or thawed?

 I've always just waited for them to thaw.  An evening in an above freezing garage usually does it and then I whip through them in the am.  I've tried cleaning them frozen but with an electric I always end up cutting through the backbone as the frozen flesh doesn't provide the necessary "feel" to do things right.  How about you guys that use a standard knife?  Can you fillet fish frozen or do you need to let them thaw?

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I've always thawed them. Never even tried them frozen. Usually thaw them in a bucket of water for a few hours. Unfortunately they fit in the bucket with room to spare this year.

Education will tell you a tomato is a fruit, while wisdom will tell you not to put it in a fruit salad.

Bowhuntin
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I try not to let them freeze in the first place. Keep them in a pail in the fish house and transport them in a warm vehicle in the same pail with some snow on top to keep them fresh.

If you have a frozen northern pike the best thing to do with them is take them in the house and put them in a sink full of warm water and let them thaw that way.

(Ok, so I had a smile on my face when I typed that last part!)

throwinglead
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Joined: Friday, March 18, 2005 - 2:06pm

I always let them thaw. when I used a regular knife I wouldn't even think of attempting it until they were thawed and with my electric now, if they are froze I end up making mush of them or cuting through the skin making more work than necessary. I have the luxury of a heated shop to let them sit in for a couple of hours and they are usually good to go then.

With northerns I never worry, seems like they never die. Came home fishing one morning and left some out in the garage, came back that evening, atleast 10 hours later, and no kidding here, one was still flapping his gills and living. They were not in water either, just laying in a cardboard box!! Stubborn they are!!!

 

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 I usually will drill and extra hole and put each of the fish on a stringer down that hole and tied off to whatever.  They also make those livewell nets that go down a hole.  Then on the way home put the fish in a bucket with some water and a lid.  Fish are usually still alive when I get home.

 

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I just don't let them freeze.  keep them in a bucket in the ice house and clean them while still fresh & even alive right when I get home.  easier to clean that way and then they don't taste like mud either.  when they freeze & thaw before cleaning it crystalizes & damages the cell structure and mixes the blood & other body fluids into the meat.

I shake my head every time I see perch bricks laying outside on the ice.  Just toss em in a bucket right beside you.

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Trying to filet a frozen fish is like trying pee into a 40mph wind.  It doesn't work to well.

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Joined: Tuesday, February 3, 2004 - 12:00am

Frozen solid sucks, but with pike I will often let them lay on the ice until the outside layer (slime) freezes and them take the fillets off. I usually wait to skin the fillets and debone until I get home though.

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Joined: Friday, October 31, 2003 - 12:00am

I like to fillet them when they're 1/2 frozen, but I don't run an electric knife.


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My wife gets a little disturbed when I put them in the sink. Make sure you run some bleach down the drain afterwards!

Bowhuntin Said:
I try not to let them freeze in the first place. Keep them in a pail in the fish house and transport them in a warm vehicle in the same pail with some snow on top to keep them fresh.

If you have a frozen northern pike the best thing to do with them is take them in the house and put them in a sink full of warm water and let them thaw that way.

(Ok, so I had a smile on my face when I typed that last part!)

Education will tell you a tomato is a fruit, while wisdom will tell you not to put it in a fruit salad.

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Joined: Monday, November 7, 2005 - 8:55am

Why freeze them in the first place? I do as MSA does. Just throw them in a bucket. or even on the floor of the house.

usually in a perfect row like this. haha

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Another great thing to do when this ice is a little thicker is to drill through the ice until the auger tip just puts a small hole through the bottom of the ice.  It will fill with water and the fish cant get out.

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Joined: Tuesday, July 14, 2009 - 11:53pm

A sharp knife and not froze solid but just enough to make them firm.   

 

 

 

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I personally don't like putting them in a bucket of water as I have a hard time holding onto slimey/slippery fish while I'm cleaning them.  Throw them on the ice or in an empty bucket and don't let them get frozen solid. 

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I agree with half frozen; unless I intend to keep the rib meat, which isn't all that often.

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Joined: Friday, May 4, 2007 - 7:41am

Yep, I saw through the spine when frozem too. Ugh.
As close to frozen as possible, even in summer I sometimes ice them overnight, clean em next morning - with hot coffee and a surgeon's refreshed mind (aka not buzzed) ha ha!

 

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Given my druthers, I prefer not to freeze them in the first place.  However, that's not possible all the time, so in those instances, I thaw them out before putting the knife to'em.

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I take a cooler with, summer and winter. By the way, we get coolers in at work every week and have, at times, thrown dozens at a time into the dumpster. Let me know if you want coolers for fish or bait, I can hook you locals up with any size between 48 qt and tiny lunch coolers. Never mind the fact they were used to ship hazardous waste soil samples. Ha!

 

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 I also try not to let mine freeze.  I like cleaning them when their not quite done kicking yet.  Now that I have a cleaning station in my garage, I enjoy the heck out of cleaning fish.  Make a mess and wash it down when your down.  

Hardwaterman
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Horsager Said:
 I've always just waited for them to thaw.  An evening in an above freezing garage usually does it and then I whip through them in the am.  I've tried cleaning them frozen but with an electric I always end up cutting through the backbone as the frozen flesh doesn't provide the necessary "feel" to do things right.  How about you guys that use a standard knife?  Can you fillet fish frozen or do you need to let them thaw?

Clay since most are not answering your question, the only one I can give you is it really depends on the fish size and type. With a quality steel knife I can fillet out 20" walleye and under, 4-5 lb pike as well in regards to getting the fillet seperated from the body. Perch,crappie and bluegill I do not fillet frozen.

The key as you would understand is in the quality of the tool. I have three fillet knives that I use and only one of them is suited for frozen fish.

In my lifetime I have seen fence row to fence row farming and the return of CRP and game to the landscape.Now we face again the prosepect of fence row to fence row again! Sportsman are our own worst enemy in that we fail to look forward and focus to much on the now!

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I have butchered them frozen and tried to thaw them. The best method I found is to fill a pail 1/2 fill of water and set it out on the ice. When really cold I have to break the ice. There are many times that the fish will still be alive when I clean them at the end of the night.

Bowhuntin
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fullrut Said:
My wife gets a little disturbed when I put them in the sink. Make sure you run some bleach down the drain afterwards!

Bowhuntin Said:
I try not to let them freeze in the first place. Keep them in a pail in the fish house and transport them in a warm vehicle in the same pail with some snow on top to keep them fresh.

If you have a frozen northern pike the best thing to do with them is take them in the house and put them in a sink full of warm water and let them thaw that way.

(Ok, so I had a smile on my face when I typed that last part!)

HA HA, exactly! I've never been brave enough to try it myself, but a friend did about 20 years ago. His wife was a little pissed when he came home drunk, then the slimy northern in the sink put her over the edge! Don't try this yourself, leave it to the professionals!

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 I was wondering if frozen with a good knife, maybe a guy could come in from the top and peel around the ribs real easy.  It sounds like "thawed" is the preferred method, in which case I'll stick to the electric.

Some good suggestions here.  I like the livewell ice-hole idea except that I'd have a wet hand just when I'm ready to leave.

This moment is a paradox, it's the oldest you've ever been as well as the youngest you'll ever be.



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Horsager Said:
 I was wondering if frozen with a good knife, maybe a guy could come in from the top and peel around the ribs real easy.  It sounds like "thawed" is the preferred method, in which case I'll stick to the electric.

Some good suggestions here.  I like the livewell ice-hole idea except that I'd have a wet hand just when I'm ready to leave.

Put your catch on a short stringer.  I've done this in the past when we had to fish outside and it worked pretty well.  The fish tend to keep the hole ice free and when you're done, you just lift and place in the bucket. 

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I just catch/release because I love the planet and all its creatures - who are just as important as me and my family. I don't know how you guys can be so cold hearted! I hope some day you guys get caught and fileted you big doodoo heads.

Randy Rainbow
Offhisrocker, CA

 

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I caught a fish one time


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Swanson Said:
I caught a fish one time

NOBODY believes that!

This moment is a paradox, it's the oldest you've ever been as well as the youngest you'll ever be.



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Joined: Monday, July 26, 2010 - 3:56pm

Horsager, good knife does no good on a frozen fish, at least my experience. You will end up with skin on the fillet as there doesn't seem to be a variant with textures, so the knife ends up not following the skin like with a normal fillet.  Also, trying to hold onto the fillet for cutting the rib bones out, the contact point becomes mush.

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Joined: Sunday, April 26, 2009 - 1:37pm

Freezing before cleaning really effects the flavor of the meat as well.  freezing the meat alone is fine, but when it's frozen whole with all the other fluids, organs, and dark meat it blends the flavors of the bad with the good.