Fishing with Terry Williams King

By: Terry Williams King, Photography by: Terry Williams King and Jo Lomax

fishing with terry williams king Straight onto salt ice so the flesh doesn’t start to break down. fishing with terry williams king
fishing with terry williams king Cleaning and filleting a fish that’s been on ice will be a lot easier. fishing with terry williams king
fishing with terry williams king Caring for the catch means it’ll taste better — simple. fishing with terry williams king

Many fishermen return after a day that was hardly worth the effort despite catching loads of good fish. Terry Williams King has a rant about how to properly care for the catch so it will stay fresh and make good eating.

Now, this rant is probably coming a bit late for some, but take note for next time you're out fishing.

It has amazed me how many fishermen have come back with their catch in poor condition this summer. I've seen some catches almost written off. It really is a shame to see the hard work go to waste, as it takes very little effort to make sure it's in premium condition come eating time - and the difference is significant. I'm not sure whether it's a lack of understanding about the importance and effects of getting it right or apathy or the excitement of getting the line out again as fast as humanly possible...just to reel in another fish to be improperly stored, and thus, ruined.

Simply salt ice

Icing your catch takes little to no effort, and there are other options if you don't want to buy a bag of salt ice. You can always use frozen bottles of water, for example, although salt ice would be by far the best solution to preserving your catch.

Almost immediately after a fish is killed the flesh starts to break down. Chilling the fish reduces the rate at which this occurs. When filleting, it's easy to tell if a fish has been chilled down or not. The flesh of a chilled fish is firm, as the fat content remains to bind the flesh. It will be easier to clean in this state and will often have a sweeter taste, rather than being a bit bitter. A fish that has not been chilled will be harder to fillet, the flesh will be loose and flaky and sometimes congealed closer to the backbone.

Fish have a number of enzymes and bacteria, allowing it to break down its prey, but once the fish has died the bacteria will start to consume the fish itself.

Pre-cleaning care

First, if you're going to keep it, kill it humanely by iki-ing the fish. Iki is the process by which a spike or sharp object is inserted into the brain. The death is instant and the fish will not suffer. The spot to kill most table fish is just behind the eye, where there is a small soft spot just towards the dorsal. Insert a spike on a slight angle towards the eye. For gurnard and kingfish the iki should be placed between the eyes and forced straight down. The fish should give a slight twitch and the job is done.

Now, ideally place the fish in ice slurry. Slurries should be made of salt ice and a small amount of sea water, turning into what would look like a very lumpy thickshake. The slurry will be extremely cold and immediately chill the body temperature of the fish, helping to stop the meat drying and spoiling. It's important to use salt ice and salt water, as fresh water and fresh-water ice holds bacteria and will not last anywhere near as long as salt ice. If salt ice is not available, use fresh water ice left in the bag, double your quantity and cover your catch with ice layered on the bottom and the top.
If you plan on leaving your fish overnight, remove from  the slurry and cover with salt flake ice in a good chilly bin - ideally you should not leave your fish in the slurry any longer than 10 to 12 hours. For the cost  of around $5 for a bag of salt ice, it will make a world of difference to your catch  and the flavour.

Right, rant over. Next month let's talk big autumn snapper, shallows and lures.

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