7 posts in this topic

I have a question for the more "seasoned" fellers here.

With a newborn on the way (any day now) and even more limited opportunites to get out this fall and even into the spring I want to take advantage of my chances. I'm hoping to get about 100 lbs of fresh this fall and freeze it for use at AI or even in the spring at Okie. My concern is that I'll be leaving in the middle of the night or arriving at a time when fresh will not be available or non-existent so I want to have a backup and not be tied down to a baitshop for when I can fish.

So here is the real question of the post:

How would you do it? I don't have a big enough freezer to just throw two flats in, it would have to be broken up and packed some how.

Here is what I did for a vacation trip to SC late spring where bunker as bait is hard to find over 3". I went to Kool Ice and picked up the fresh off the trucks and iced and salted for the ride home, that afternoon I vacuum packed the bunks with salt in the bags and then tried to freeze it. I overloaded the freezer and half the bait never completely froze...but that is beside the point since this time I'd only do 50lbs at a time making sure it was frozen right good before buying more. I packed the frozen packs in my 130qt coolers and kept the ice on it heavy the entire week, I still caught sharks (my target) on old bait the last night 10 days later. I don't think the success on sharks is indicative of what I could have done on Stripers or Drum. The vacuum packing was great for freezing it but as it thawed there was no where for the juices to go unless I emptied it from the bag and by the end of the week maybe 2 out of five fish were still firm. If I do vacuum pack again I will have to open the bag as soon as it starts to thaw and then pack in ice as I would normally do for fresh.

Any drawbacks to this method or do any of you sharpies have a great method of preserving fresh over the winter for leaner times?

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Your method should be fine. If you keep it packed tight in the cooler it will stay frozen for quite awhile.

Yes, as it thaws, treat it like fresh and layer it with ice. By no means should you keep it in the bag after thawing, unless you use it right away (or soon enuf).

I packed a freezer full early fall and used the last of it three weeks ago. Still nice and firm.

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Ben, I have a chest freezer that I use for fish in general. Any chance you would have room for one in the garage? It is a life saver for 50 lbs of fresh shark, bait or anything else "fishy".

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I do have a chest freezer in the garage but it is smallish and why the flats need to get broken down to be frozen.

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I was told by an ol' timer to cut the belly out before freezing or if you plan on keeping em' on ice for a while. He said that the stomach acids and stuff will cause the fish to break down faster and they get mushey. He also cut the bunker into chunks prior to freezing. Easier to bait up if its still a little frozen.

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Yeah, makes sense to get rid of the belly and chunk it up.

But man, that's a lot of work.....

But you never know what size you will need later.

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Cutting out the belly does wonders. I've done it for a few years now. I also put about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per three fish then vacuum pack them. If the bunker are FRESH when you do it, they don't get mushy. I have used them for up to 6 months and they are usually firmer than the "fresh" you get from most bait shops. I still don't think they work as well as fresh though.

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