Alaska is one of the premier sport fishing destinations in the world, and many thousands of visitors arrive each year to enjoy the fishing adventure of a lifetime. There are endless rivers and streams within driving distance of Anchorage, and with easy road access to explore using your AVIS rental vehicle.

While many come to explore the pristine waters in search of gigantic rainbow trout or Arctic char, the majority of traveling sportsmen are targeting Alaska’s most famous resource, salmon. Every summer, several species of Pacific salmon return to the exact river systems where they were born, to spawn the next generation. Beginning in May and usually running through the early fall, waves of Chinook (King), Coho (Silver), Sockeye, and Pink salmon make their runs from the ocean into the fresh water, and Alaska is suddenly transformed into a fisherman’s paradise.

Plan ahead to clean, store, and freeze fish.

These fish provide a critical source of nutrition for native wildlife and humans alike, and Alaskan salmon is a delicacy you’ll want to bring home with you. However, if home is a long way from where you landed your fish, then it will need to be meticulously cared for to make the journey. Be sure to plan (before you get to the river) how you will clean, store, and freeze fish.

By following a few simple guidelines, your salmon filets can last up to a year or more, and you can preserve the quality, texture, and scrumptious flavor until you are ready to prepare it for eating. It’s worth the effort to think ahead and do it right.

Keep the fish cool.

These fish spend their lives in extremely cold water, and keeping them as cool as possible from the moment you reel them in, until you’re ready to put them in the oven or on the grill, is the most important thing to keep in mind. It all starts the moment you bring your fish to hand! If at all possible, keep the fish alive and in the water on a stringer, river basket, or in a live well, until you are ready to leave. Try to prevent any unnecessary bruising of the flesh by not allowing it to flop around in the bottom of a boat, or on a rocky shore.

When you are ready to leave, it’s time to clean the fish. After dispatching the fish, use a sharp filet knife to make an incision near the anal opening and slice forward to just below the gills. Try not to cut too deeply to keep from cutting into the intestines or organs. Spread the fish open and remove the entrails, and also remove any dark lines of membrane or tissue along the backbone with something not sharp, like a spoon, if possible. Many specialty filet knives have one built into the end of the knife handle for just this purpose.

Discard the guts properly, and wash the fish out with cool running water to remove any residual mucus membranes or waist, and then pat the flesh dry. It is usually easiest at this point to also remove the head and gills and leave just the cleaned out body of the fish. Cleaning the fish this way immediately after removing them from the water will help safeguard the flavor.

If you’ve planned well, you will have a large cooler full of ice waiting in the back of your AVIS rental vehicle to put the fish directly on ice, and keep it well chilled until you reach your next destination.

Air is the enemy when freezing fish.

If you are going to freeze the fish yourself for storage or transport, there are a few ways to do it that will insure a good result: vacuum sealing; wrapping in freezer paper and sealing in plastic freezer bags; or ice glazing. All three of these methods have the same objective in mind, to prevent any long-term exposure to air. Air is the enemy when freezing fish for storage.

Vacuum sealing is the simplest method of getting a good airtight seal and putting the fish directly into the freezer, but if you don’t have access to a good sealing machine then you’ll have to use another method. Many people find that using freezer paper to tightly wrap the filets is both easy and durable, and after wrapping them, place them in Ziploc freezer bags and squeeze out as much of the air as possible before sealing. It works extremely well.

Ice glazing is a popular method to freeze fish. Repeatedly dipping the whole filets or fish body in fresh water, then place it on parchment paper to keep it from sticking to anything around it, and place it into a deep freezer. After it freezes completely, you will then need to repeat the process several times until you have a glaze of ice that is about 1/4” thick. Then place the frozen fish into a freezer bag for final storage.

The other option, if you are staying in Anchorage, is to drop your fish off at one of many commercial fish processing businesses in town. They will freeze your fish, vacuum seal it, and even package it in specially insulated boxes for the flight home.

Unlimited Alaskan fishing opportunities await with just a short drive through breathtaking landscapes. Reserve your rental car or SUV from AVIS, and you’ll soon be on your way to the adventure of a lifetime.

Do you have a favorite recipe for preparing your frozen fish? Share it on our Facebook page or Twitter to help out other traveling fishermen and women enjoy their fish haul!

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