How to Preserve Your ‘Big Catch’ Using Dry Ice with Captain George Mitchell
Captain George Mitchell here. I’m a professional angler for Yamaha and, like most anglers, I believe there’s no such thing as a bad day on the water. Although, it is fun if you catch a few fish to bring home for dinner. If you’re not close to home and need to freeze your catch for transport, these tips can get your lake perch, redfish, trout and other favorites from the water to the grill in just-caught condition.
After a successful day of fishing, I use Penguin Brand™ Dry Ice to help preserve and transport my prize-winning catch. Using Penguin Brand Dry Ice helps eliminate the build-up of bacteria and prevents ice crystalline from forming on the fish – thus eliminating that “mushy” texture that can occur from thawing or refreezing with normal ‘wet’ ice.
Trust me, it’s a whole lot easier to preserve fish than it is to catch ‘em. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A pair of safety gloves
- A 15 – 20 pound package of Penguin Brand Dry Ice
- Newspaper or packing paper
- A small knife or other sharp tool
- A 50 to 100 quart cooler (plastic or Styrofoam)
- A vacuum-sealable plastic bag
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Clean and fillet your catch using normal methods, setting aside the sections of fish you want to preserve. Once your catch is cleaned, place and store it in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag.
There are several vacuum-sealing systems on the market for fish, but you can also utilize any plastic zipper-style freezer bags and a bucket of water to remove the air from the package. Simply place your catch in the plastic zipper-style freezer bag, zip the top shut while leaving a small portion of one corner unzipped to release air. Now place the fish and bag bottom-first into the water, slowly submerging the rest of the bag until you get to the open corner. As you submerge the bag, water pressure will push the air inside out of the open corner, allowing you to remove all the air, seal the corner and have a vacuum-sealed product ready for freezing.
Step 2: Place the sealed bag(s) of fish on the bottom of your empty cooler. Lay them flat without overlapping, if possible. It is fine if overlapping occurs, but those areas will take longer to freeze.
Step 3: Using your knife or a sharp tool, poke 10-15 holes in the newspaper or packing paper for insulation. Poking holes in the paper will allow the dry ice vapors to penetrate the insulation and freeze the fish.
Step 4: To freeze your catch, place the dry ice on top of the catch with an insulating material (newspaper or packing paper) in between the dry ice and your fish. Doing so will prevent superficial freezer burn.
If you just want to keep your fish cold instead of frozen during transport, the dry ice should be at the bottom of the cooler with your catch on top and insulating paper in between. You can also wrap dry ice in the newspaper, but be sure to put on your safety gloves first.
Step 5: Dry ice is colder than normal ‘wet’ ice, with an average temperature around -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit (-78.5 degrees Celsius). As a result, it will quickly freeze your fish – in most cases, the fish will freeze within a half-hour. As a rule, 15 – 20 pounds of dry ice will keep your catch frozen for 24 hours in a 50 – 100 quart cooler, depending on the quality of the cooler.
Speaking of coolers – not all are created equal. Thin-walled Styrofoam coolers do not provide much insulation, often don’t hold a seal well and can easily crack or break. Thick-walled (two to four inches) Styrofoam coolers are more efficient for transporting your catch. Also, make sure that there isn’t water or other liquids in the cooler that could impact the freezing or storage process. Remember, you put dry ice on top of the fish to freeze it, and underneath the fish to refrigerate it.
I hope that you’ll find these tips helpful the next time you’re out fishing for your dinner. Enjoy our beautiful lakes and waterways and the bounty that they provide to anglers everywhere – here’s to good times and great fishing.
– Captain George Mitchell