Can You Freeze A Whole Fish Before You Clean And Gut It? 


Fishing is a sport that requires a lot of patience. You sit in the boat all day and wait for a fish to bite the lure or bait. Once you have hooked a fish, you need the patience to reel it in without breaking the line or pulling the fish off. 

Now that you have caught the fish, there are two options: catch and release or catch and keep. Catch and release is rather simple; unhook your caught fish, take your prize photo to document the catch, and release the fish back into the water. 

Catch and keep involves many more steps. You need to have a cooler of ice to keep your fish fresh or keep the fish alive in a bucket or container. Dead fish will only last a few hours before becoming rancid. Placing your fish in a cooler full of ice can extend those few hours.

After a long day of fishing, your main goal is to sit and relax. If you chose to catch and keep the fish, you still need to gut and clean the fish. 

Is there a way to freeze the fish whole before gutting it? Can you freeze the fish overnight and gut it the next day? 

You can freeze a whole fish, guts and all. However, it is best to bleed the fish before placing it on ice. Draining the blood will avoid any discoloration of the meat. 

The best thing to do is bleed the fish right after catching it. Once the fish has been properly bled, it can remain on ice for 24-48 hours. Once you make it home, your whole fish can remain in the fridge for 2-3 days. 

When you bleed the fish, be sure to cut behind the gills from top to bottom. This will sever the main blood vessels allowing the fish to drain quickly. Blood should immediately start draining from the cut. It will take about two minutes before the fish is fully drained. 

A fish that has had its blood drained can last for a few months in the freezer but it’s better to just go back and gut and filet the fish sooner rather than later. This way you don’t have to gut the fish and filet it the next time you want to cook some. 

To see the most popular fishing gadgets just click here. 

Should You Gut A Fish Right Away? 

When you finally get home from fishing, you just want to relax. Part of your relaxing does not typically include gutting the fish. Is it that important to start gutting the fish as soon as possible?

 If it can last on ice and in the fridge for a few days, would it be okay to wait? 

Gutting your fish should be done as soon as possible. The insides of the fish will begin to rot and deteriorate which will spoil the overall integrity of the fish. 

You can also leave the fish in the freezer, however, it is best to gut the fish while somewhat still frozen. Once the fish begins to thaw, its insides begin to decompose. 

The decomposing guts will seep into the fish meat rendering it inedible. 

Can You Cook A Fish With Guts In It?

If you are a bit squeamish when it comes to removing the guts of the fish, is it better to just leave them in? Is it safe to leave the guts in the fish and eat them? 

Is it possible to cook the fish and then remove the guts afterward before eating? 

It is best to remove the guts from a fish immediately. Often the inside of fish is hosting parasites and other unwanted bacteria. The FDA recommends removing the fishs’ guts, kidneys, liver, and head as well. 

Also, it is best to trim away the fat and skin of the fish. While you can freeze a fish with all the guts still inside, it is best to remove them first to avoid any different flavoring when cooking. 

What Can Fish Guts Be Used For? 

After gutting, cleaning, and cooking your fish, you are left with several different parts of a fish to dispose of. Some people will just throw the carcasses back in the river.  This is not a good idea since it can aid in pollution and the growth of algae. 

If you try to throw the remains away outside, they can cause some rather unpleasant rotting smells. 

Here are a few ideas for your fish guts. 

Use As Fertilizer 

If you have taken your fish home to gut it, you can use the remains as fertilizer for your garden. Fish guts contain nutrients that are great in promoting plant growth. 

If you are at a campsite when gutting your fish, be sure to bag the remains in an air-tight container or make sure they are tightly sealed. The stench on the car ride home could be overwhelming if the fish remains are not properly contained. 

It would be a good idea to double or even triple bag the fish guts.  

Use In Different Recipes

You can end up using the fish bones as a fish broth. You can also add the head to the broth as well. Be sure to wash the fish thoroughly to remove any unwanted parts. 

Place them in a pot and let them simmer for a minimum of a half-hour. Another use for the fish heads and bones is fish stock. You can add this to rice and other dishes for a fishy flavor. 

Many cultures consider the head the best part of the fish for dinner. As far as the guts are concerned when cooking, it is best to just use them as fertilizer in the ground instead of an ingredient in a recipe. 

Bury The Remains

If you are gutting the fish at a campsite, the best option is to bury the fish remains. There is no use throwing it away as the garbage will smell rancid within a few hours. Be sure to bury the fish remains deep enough to not be found by wandering animals. 

Final Thoughts 

Fishing is a great pastime to be enjoyed by all, as long as you have the patience to wait for a fish. Once the fish is caught, you can make a tasty dinner of it. 

Be sure to follow the guidelines for properly freezing, bleeding, gutting, and cleaning the fish to ensure a delicious, safe, and healthy dinner. 

Eating bad fish can cause a myriad of health problems. It is best to follow the guidelines to avoid any health concerns from eating bad fish. 

Hannah R.

Hey, I'm Hannah and I'm the founder of Get Eatin'.

Recent Posts