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How to Keep Trout Fresh While Fishing

When catching trout to keep, one of the most common questions that come up is, “how do you keep trout fresh after catching it?“. After all, you might have a long hike or drive ahead of you before you can make it home. The fresher it is, the better it will taste. So, what’s the answer?

The best way to keep trout fresh while fishing is to kill it swiftly and keep it cool. Wrapping the trout in vegetation such as grass or plants from the stream will help keep the temperature down. The guts will spoil the fish faster than the heat, so it’s important to gut it as soon as you can.

But what if you’re going to be out fishing longer? What equipment can help keep trout cool? Let’s take a further look.

Where to keep trout after catching it

While fishing, you can store trout in a cooler, plastic bag, or any container that will help reduce its body temperature. The colder the better.

Even though you can try to keep trout alive in a container, it’s better to kill and gut it as the decay and digestive process from the organs can set in quickly.

How to kill trout quickly

Killing a trout quickly and humanely can be done in many ways. A common method is to use a knife and insert it into the trout’s brain, right behind the eyes. After that, you can gut it before placing it in the cooler.

Keep in mind to gut trout in the same body of water you fished it from. Clean it where you found it.

For more on how to kill and clean trout, check out the video below.

If for some reason you can’t kill or gut your catch (like if you’re using someone else’s boat), then keeping the trout on ice will still keep it fresh. Ideally, they should be gutted within 10 hours.

Equipment to help keep trout fresh

To make sure you have the tastiest trout possible, they should be dressed and cleaned while out on the stream or lake. Depending on how long you’re gone fishing, some pieces of equipment can help make this process easy and keep the trout cool.

  • Fishing stringer
  • Cooler
  • Knife
  • Ice

Remember, these items are optional. Pick and choose the ones you think could help you keep your trout fresher longer, depending on how you’re fishing.

While on a boat

Trout spoil quickly, especially in the warmer seasons, and it can get hot on boats.

The best way to keep trout fresh while on a boat is to use a cooler. You can use either ice or water from the stream or lake.

Also, try to keep the cooler in the shade and add some cover in it if possible. By shading the cooler and the water, you should be able to reduce the temperature drastically.

While wading

Most times, keeping trout while wading involves using a stringer. Although, if you didn’t pack one and are feeling resourceful, you can use a small tree branch.

When wading, it can be tough to keep a cooler with you. But, although they can be a bit pricey, a good solution is to bring a backpack cooler with ice (check out this backpack cooler on Amazon).

You can also use a fish bag, but stringers still work better if you’re covering a large area. However, if the water is warm, you might want to avoid using a stringer altogether.

Either way, it’s hard to go wrong. However, keep an eye on your catch! Trout have been known to get stolen by predators. Watch out for hawks and other fish-lovers.

While on the shore

If you can fish for trout along the shore, it will probably be worth it. You’re likely going to have plenty of trees for shade and can gut and clean trout right on the bank.

Also, keeping a cooler next to you on the shore is much easier than if you’re wading.

Pro tip: grass makes for a great insulator, so once you clean the trout, try bundling it with some leaves to keep the temperature down.

Once you get home, you can prepare it for the fridge. Wash it in cold water and dry with clean cloths or paper towels. Next, wrap the trout in any kitchen-grade wrap (aluminum foil, wax paper, etc) and store it for up to two days.

Remember, properly gutting a draining trout sooner will help it stay fresh longer and prevent its digestive system from ruining the meat. Dispose of the guts where you caught the fish, and let nature take care of the rest.

Related questions:

Will putting trout on ice kill them?

No, putting trout on ice won’t kill them, although they might go into shock. Many times, they’ll continue living for a while, which stresses the meat. For this reason, most prefer to kill and gut the trout before storing it.

How long will fresh trout keep in the fridge?

Depending on the temperature, and how soon it was cooled, trout will stay good in the fridge for up to several days. If you’re not planning on cooking it soon, it should be moved to the freezer for up to three months.