LOOKING AFTER YOUR CATCH- Tips From Balgowan Fishing Charters To Ensure Quality Eating Fish

On Balgowan Fishing Charters, ensuring our customers take home the best quality eating fish possible, is something we pride ourselves on.

Catching these fish is always great fun, with the thrill of feeling the fight and seeing the many varieties of fish we catch come out of the blue, for some, is the main reason they go fishing.

For many the biggest thrill is enjoying the beautiful taste of some of the best eating fish Australia to offer

Therefore, ensuring that the fish are looked after from the moment they come out of the water is seriously important to that flavour enjoyed. Whether it be that night or even many months later if looked after appropriately.

Looking after fish starts by handling them correctly, with minimal pressure against the flesh. Inexperienced people will grab the fish and strangle them, squeezing their hands around the body. This can bruise the flesh so not ideal, but the key point is to get them into the ice slurry asap.

This is the reason our experienced crew handle the fish from the hook to the eski as much as possible on Balgowan Fishing Charters.


The sooner you can get that fish into an ice slurry, the better the quality of the flesh later.

The theory is that as a fish dies its flesh deteriorates. By allowing a fish to die slowly at higher than ideal temperatures, the flesh deteriorates quicker than it would otherwise if looked after properly.

After fish are caught, spoilage starts rapidly, and rigor mortis is responsible for changes in the fish and this deterioration leads to undesirable changes in appearance, texture, odour and most importantly flavour.

Ideally you want this rigor mortis process to happen at temperatures as close to zero as possible for best quality.

Hence for best quality fish this deterioration process can be minimized by proper handling and the immediate lowering of temperature to as close to zero as possible. Then holding the catch at zero through this rigor mortis phase.

Close to zero as possible will increase long term shelf life, compared to temperatures say 2-5 degrees, which could be an eski with not enough ice. Best done using an ice slurry. An ice slurry using salt water and lots of ice is the best way to achieve this quality fish flesh.


Some species of fish it is critical to bleed asap after being caught to improve taste.

After a fish has fought its way to the boat it has built up lactic acid and sent large amounts of blood to its muscles.

By bleeding as soon as possible once the fish is in the boat, you can remove as much of this blood and lactic acid. Producing far better-quality fish to eat

Bleeding is generally done by cutting the gills and or the main artery running where the gills connect at the base of the head.

Sharks also bleed well by cutting through the main artery near the tail. Taking care not to cut it completely off for measuring reasons. Gutting asap and removing the stomach contents and blood line close to the spine. A great way is then to force a deck hose at the rear of the stomach cavity forcing blood out of the cut tail section until it runs clear.

Always try to remove as much of the blood from the fish as possible before putting in your “clean” eski, with your other catch, particularly sharks.

Of course, a fish is not going to be happy about you trying to cut through its gills to achieve this quality. Hence killing the fish by spiking its brain is not only the most humane way of putting the fish out of its misery, but it also makes it easier to handle.

This traditional Japanese method of brain spiking IKI JIME, is said to give significant improvements in flesh quality for several reasons. The location in a fish to do this effectively varies amongst fish species so understanding this is crucial.

Holding a struggling 5-10kg snapper or morwong whilst trying to bleed can be a dangerous job. So not only does the instant kill make your job easier but stops the brain from sending signals to the body, excreting hormones detrimental to quality.

Also, a struggling fish will bruise itself jumping around on the boat floor or in the eski so this instant kill has many benefits.

Of course, as soon as this bleeding process is done getting it into an ice slurry is critical


The quality of frozen fish very much depends on the initial quality and why it is so important to look after you catch asap.

Fresh fish is a highly perishable food with generally a short shelf life in the fridge environment of 5-7 days.

Any fish you do not intend on eating within a few days after catching, getting it into the freezer asap is better for long term freezer shelf life.

Ensuring your freezer is working at its best also can make a big difference to the shelf life of your fish. Most freezers should maintain temperatures of around -18 degrees C. If your freezer is running at temperatures higher than this bacterial growth potential increases, reducing shelf life.

This shelf life varies with fish of variable fat content with fatty fish at -18 degrees up to 4 months and your non fatty fish like the very popular table fish King George Whiting Balgowan Fishing Charters target, 9 months can be achieved with good quality still.

Fast freezing fish is a much better way to freeze fish and improve the long-term quality. This has to do with smaller ice crystals being formed within the flesh, and hence less texture damage from the formation and thawing of these crystals. Not all of us have access to some of the commercial equipment used in industry, but there are things we can do to speed up the freezing process in your domestic freezers.

Lay the packed fillets flat and not on top of each other in your freezer, then try to resist or minimize opening your freezer till they are frozen. Generally, the lower in the freezer the better.

Cryovac/ vacuum sealing your fish is a great way of ensuring the quality / freezer shelf life is improved. This method ensures the fillets are nearly as good as fresh when defrosted by removing as much of the air and moisture around the fish whilst frozen.

Remember to always defrost all frozen fish slowly in the fridge to limit bacteria build up and best to defrost removed from the bag on a plate.


Fish coming from your fridge or freezer too often by inexperienced people, can be spoilt as already mentioned if not looked after, which leads to poor tasting smelly experiences.

They may have been left too long in fridge or freezer.

They may not have been looked after prior to freezing.

They may not have been sealed properly before freezing.

The appliance may not be working well and warmer than recommended.

The power may have gone off once or twice for a period long enough to allow the fish to partially defrost and refreeze.

All these things can lead to spoilage of your prized catch.

Indications of poor-quality defrosted fish fillets are:

-Obvious ice crystals within the flesh indicate an initial slow freezing process or maybe a refreeze

-Dull flesh that looks dry and sometimes freezer burnt

-An odour that is far from fresh as it should be, they suggest like a melon or cucumber.

Any or all the above indications with your fish fillets are a suggestion that they will be far from what they should/ could have been and should not be eaten.

When looking at a whole fresh fish and trying to determine how fresh it is. Things to look at to be confident it is fresh and been looked after are:

-a bulging clear eye with a bright black pupil

– gills bright red

-bright iridescent pigmentation in the colour on the skin

-firm flesh that bounces back if touched with all scales intact

Fish without any of these indications will usually result in a disappointing meal.

Hence, look after your catch and enjoy what our oceans have to offer.

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