How Long Does Fresh Fish Last?

All kinds of fish or shellfish are a wonderful source of minerals such as calcium, iron, trace elements such as iodine, as well as vitamins.

Furthermore, the high amount of fatty acids is very beneficial to our dietary needs for essential fatty acids, ie. Omega-3 and 6, which can even help lower cholesterol levels.

Fresh caught fish also makes a delicious meal, but it is important to know how to store your fish to maintain the best flavor and texture for eating.

Whether you are catching it yourself, or bringing it home from a fishmonger, you might be wondering how long fresh caught or raw fish lasts. 

With an increase in demand for fresh seafood and extended shelf life, consumers want to know how to best store their fish.

No matter if it is salmon, tuna, red snapper or another type of fish, the below information will pertain to all types of fish.

How Long Does Fresh Caught or Raw Fish or Shellfish Last?

Fresh or raw fish can last 2-3 days in the fridge if kept on ice and wrapped well. If not using ice, place in the coldest part of your fridge to preserve the texture and flavor as much as possible. You can also freeze fresh fish and keep it frozen for up to 1 year.

Fresh caught fish

According to Ashie, fresh caught fish and shellfish are prone to perish due to their biological makeup.

Stored in the fridge, the shelf life of fish and shellfish is limited because of enzymes and microbial activity that cause spoilage.

What to Do With Fresh Caught Fish or Shellfish?

If you catch fish yourself, you will need to clean the fish. This should be done as soon as possible or between 24-36 hours.

The fish needs to be bled and gutted, including removing the organs. This is important because it will avoid discoloration of the meat. Neither do you want blood to thicken inside the fish.

Once cleaned, place the filet back on the ice, covering it as much as possible. It is also important to make sure that the ice doesn’t melt before you can use the fish.

For the best flavor, you should clean and prepare the fish as soon as you can.

However, if you are not able to gut or cook it the same day, you can store whole fresh fish in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours.

Best Way to Store Fresh Caught Fish After Catching

There are some important basics when it comes to storing your fresh fish if you are not planning to eat it right away. Fish can spoil very quickly if not stored properly.

For fish that you have caught fresh, the best way to maintain flavor and texture is to keep the fish on ice in a cooler.

Crushed ice is preferable to cubes, as it can completely surround the fish and keep it colder because there is more surface area in contact with the ice directly.

It is important to put your fish on ice as soon as you can after catching it or buying it. This way the flesh stays firmer, and the taste will be as fresh as possible.

How Long Can Fresh Caught Fish Last on Ice?

According to Regenstein, using ice to keep fish cold is the most important method of preservation.

Unfortunately, ice only slows down microbial activity – it cannot stop it. Bacteria are still going to be attracted to fish even while it is kept cold.

Ideally the fish should be kept around 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Generally, you will want to have twice as much ice as you have fish. For example, if you have 1 pound of fish, you will want 2 pounds of ice for storing it.

The fish can last for 24-48 hours on ice or chilled, prior to being cleaned. This is the best way to transport the fish as well.

How Long Can Fresh Caught Snapper Last in the Fridge?

Once it has been cleaned and gutted, fresh or raw fish can last for 2-3 days in the refrigerator on crushed ice.

Alternatively, if you don’t have crushed ice, you can place the fish in the back of the fridge where it is coldest.

The bigger the fish or filet, the longer it will keep in the fridge. Additionally, leaner fish will keep better than fatty fish, such as trout.

After 3 days the fish will begin to deteriorate and lose the ideal flavor and texture. It will also be prone to bacteria growth and over time become unsafe to eat.

If you see any signs of discoloration or bad smell, make sure to discard the fish.

What is the Best Way to Store Fresh Caught Fish and Shellfish in the Refrigerator

Follow these instructions for the best way to store fish in the fridge for a few days. This works for whole fresh caught fish as well as store bought filets or shellfish.

If catching your fish fresh, make sure it is bled and gutted first, then wash and dry the fish with a clean cloth or paper towels.

Make sure to wrap the fish in plastic wrap or waxed paper. If you purchased it from the store, you will skip the cleaning step and just keep it in the original package or wrapping.

Then place the fish over some ice cubes in the bottom of a bowl. You can also place a bag of ice cubes on top of the fish to keep it extra cold.

This will help slow down the deterioration process. If the ice melts, make sure to replace it.

If, however, you want to preserve your fish for longer than a few days, you will need to freeze it.

How Long Does Fresh Caught Fish Last in the Freezer?

Freezing fish is a very common way of storing it for a long time. Fish can be frozen for up to 1 year at a time.

Follow the instructions below for the recommended method of freezing fish. The same is true for all types of fish.

Room temperatureIce/CoolerFridgeFreezer
2 hours24-36 hours2-3 days1 year

How to Freeze Fresh Caught Fish?

First clean the fish well, dry it off, and place in a freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it closed.

Frozen Fish

Although it is possible to freeze a whole fish without cleaning it, it is not recommended as then you will have to deal with the organs when the fish is thawed out.

Unfortunately, the organs will decompose very quickly, which has a negative effect on the flavor.

When freezing a fresh caught fish, it is best to clean the big fish first, and then divide it out into smaller portions.

That way, you can take out only the amount you want to eat at a time. Also remember to label your fish with the date it was frozen and the type of fish it was.

This way you can avoid any confusion later on if you have multiple types of frozen fish or other foods that could be confused with each other.

Another method of freezing fish is to use a food vacuum sealer to seal the fish. This helps prevent the fish from losing flavor as it removes all the air from the package as it is sealed.

How to Thaw Frozen Fish:

If you have frozen fish you want to cook, discovering the best way to thaw frozen fish is crucial for maintaining its quality. Be sure to put it in the refrigerator the night before you want to use it, as this method is considered the best way to thaw frozen fish safely and effectively.

Also, do not thaw fish at room temperature as this can degrade the texture and flavor of the fish, as well as be a breeding ground for bacteria over a long period. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your fish remains delicious and safe to eat.

How Long Can You Keep Raw Salmon Unrefrigerated?

If you have raw salmon out of the fridge, it should not be left out for more than 2 hours.

Generally, any type of fresh food should be always covered in order to protect against bacteria. After 2 hours, the food should be wrapped and put in the fridge to remain fresh.

How Long Can You Keep Smoked Salmon or Fish at Room Temperature?

Smoked salmon or other types of smoked fish will last much longer than fresh. This is because the smoking process preserves it.

It also depends on how it is packaged. Vacuum sealed smoked salmon will last longer.

If unopened, vacuum sealed smoked salmon keeps at room temperature until the expiration date on the package. Keep it in a dark and dry place until ready to use.

Once opened, it can last for up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator if kept in the coldest section.

It can also be frozen if you aren’t going to eat it all right away. Signs of spoil to look out for are discoloration or dull surface areas, off smell, or bad taste. If you notice any of these signs, it is time to throw away the smoked salmon.

Final Considerations

Overall, all types of fish and shellfish are a delicious part of a balanced diet and one that is easy to prepare for a quick dinner. Just make sure to keep your fish refrigerated or on ice and as cold as possible, and use it within 2-3 days.

If you know that you won’t have time to cook the fish within that time, just carefully wrap it up and place it in the freezer to save for a later date.

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