Fish Is Best Right After It Is Caught

Boy fishing
Source: Household Arts for Home and School, Vol. II (1920) by Anna Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

When I buy fish, I always try to select ones that look “fresh.” But I often find it difficult to determine whether a fish is fresh. According to The Healthy Fish, when buying fish at the grocery store:

  1. Check the Texture. The meat of the fish should be firm, moist and freshly cut without any dry spots. …

  2. Beware of Strong Fishy Smells. …

  3. The Eyes are the Window to the Freshest Fish. .

That advice is similar to advice from a hundred years ago. Here’s what it said in a 1920 home economics textbook:

Fish has always been used in place of meat (Fig. 209). In general it has much the same composition and food value as meat and is as easily digested. In most localities it is cheaper than meat. Fish is always at its best when used just after it is caught (Fig. 210). However, great quantities are frozen and are kept for long periods of time.

fish
Source: Arts for Home and School, Vol. II (1920) by Anna Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

Fish spoils very easily and needs to be cooked or put into storage at once. If you live near the sea coast or near lakes or rivers where fish is caught, you should have no difficulty in getting fresh fish, but if you do not, you should be careful when buying to select fish with firm flesh, pinkish gills, and bright eyes; it should not have an offensive odor. If the fish is frozen, it should be cooked immediately on thawing it out. Unless good fresh fish can be bought it is more satisfactory to use salt fish or the canned product. 

Arts for Home and School, Vol. II (1920) by Anna Cooley and Wilhelmina Spohr

21 thoughts on “Fish Is Best Right After It Is Caught

  1. A lot of the fishermen around here swear that the way to freeze fish is in water. Most of them prefer not to freeze it at all, as the texture changes, but there’s less change if water’s used.

  2. Since we live near the sea coast we have an abundant supply of fresh fish, which we have often. Lucky us! But I also love canned sardines and smoked salmon. And what would life be like in the summer without fish and chips eaten outside by the sea? I agree that fish is always best cooked right after it is caught. Once while we were on Cape Cod a man gave us a bluefish he had just caught. It was the only time we ever had it and it was delicious!

    1. “And what would life be like in the summer without fish and chips eaten outside by the sea?”

      Several years ago the entire family went to Homer Alaska. One of the strong memories of that was all of the cod in all the local eateries. And we brought cod home as well.

      As a kid we ate rivers full of trout, and while I’ve regained my taste for them as an adult I’ve never been a fanatic about them. I feel differently about cod. My wife, on the other hand, reached a cod limit on the trip.

      On a related note, I once went to Oakland, CA, on an off season business trip and a colleague ordered fried mussels and calamari at the bar for us to share for dinner. Absolutely incredible.

      1. It’s interesting how your family ate so much trout that you tired of as a child – while others consider it a special food. It reminds me of how my family raised lots of strawberries in our garden when I was a child, and I often got tired of strawberries by the end of the season.

        1. It wasn’t until I was well into my adult years that I realized that people considered trout somewhat of a delicacy, and I was really surprised at that. That’s probably the majority view of natives around here, however.

          Having said that, I’ve regained my taste for them, although my long suffering spouse only barely tolerates them. We actually had them last night. . .caught yesterday.

  3. It is best when just caught, and as I catch them during the summer fishing season, I try to eat the ones I catch that very day.

    This reminds me of the Swift phrase:

    “They say fish should swim thrice. . . first it should swim in the sea (do you mind me?) then it should swim in butter, and at last, sirrah, it should swim in good claret.”

  4. The eyes are key. I used to work in a restaurant that served trout au bleu and my job was to go to the well in the garden, scoop up a trout in the net and without overhandling it, I had to stun it with a clunk on the head with a wooden dowel. Yup.

  5. I choose to buy frozen unless we are at the lake then we just go fishing for grilling and frying. The fresh fish department in stores are to smelly for me.🙊

    1. It sounds wonderful to cook freshly caught fish when at the lake. It brings back memories of our family eating freshly caught fish when camping years ago.

  6. While I will buy frozen shrimp, I always like to buy my fish fresh. We have been lucky to always live close to the water where I know the fish I will be eating was caught a few hours before I bought it.

    1. You are lucky to live near the water. There are lots of fresh fish in stores here, but since I live far from the ocean, I often wonder just how fresh they really are.

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