Fish handling safety & storage

fish freezing tips Fish safety fish storage fish storage tips food safety How long will fish keep for? ice packs for fish

Fish market

When buying or catching fish it is essential that proper handling and storage are used to reduce the risk of food-borne illness and ensure it is kept in top quality. Here are some great tips and guidelines to follow to ensure food safety when handling fish.

How to get your fresh fish home in top condition

Fish in esky

Fresh or frozen fish should be purchased just before leaving the market so it is not exposed to unsafe temperatures for very long. It should be placed in a plastic bag to prevent any leakage from contaminating any other foods. Bring an esky or chilly bin with some frozen Thermogard in it along to store the fish in while traveling home. To maintain the quality of the fish, it needs to be kept at a temperature under 4°C. Do not allow the fish to sit in a hot vehicle for any length of time. After purchasing it should be taken home and refrigerated as soon as possible. Thermogard Ice packs are a great option to keep your fish cool as they stay frozen for longer than bagged ice and they are reusable and won’t leak!

Cooking fish

When cooking and serving fish, the meat must be handled properly to prevent contamination. Use a different platter and cooking utensils for cooked fish than what was used for the raw fish, unless they have been properly cleaned and dried after exposure to the raw fish. Be sure the raw fish does not come in contact with foods that have already been cooked or foods that do not require cooking before being consumed, such as raw vegetables and fruit.

If taking cooked fish to be served at another location, be sure to pack the fish so it maintains the proper temperatures. If you are keeping it hot, it should maintain at least a 60°C temperature and if it is cold, it must be kept at or below 4°C.

fisherman catching fish

Handling Fisherman's Catch 

Keeping your daily catch safe from bacteria can be a challenge unless you are ice fishing. See the tips below for warm weather fish handling.

  • Try to keep the fish alive until done fishing and ready to take them in to clean and store properly.
  • If the fish cannot be kept alive, be sure to store them at a temperature below 4°C. Storing them in an esky or chilly bin with plenty of frozen Thermogard ice packs will keep them cold you are ready to clean and store properly.
  • When cleaning the fish, be careful not to contaminate the meat when removing the stomach and intestine contents. If the meat does become contaminated, wash it immediately with cold water.
  • After cleaning, put it in an esky or chilly bin with some Thermogard Ice Packs to keep it cold (under 4°C) until you are ready to prepare it.
  • When cooking the fish, be sure it is cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 62°C.

Make sure your Thermogard Ice Packs are thoroughly cleaned with warm soapy water after each use. Once dry put them back in the freezer so they are ready for next time you want to use them.

How long will fish keep for?

Refrigerating | Freezing | Freezing Tips

Properly preparing fresh fish for storage will allow it to be stored for a longer period of time and maintain its quality. Fresh caught fish should be gutted and cleaned as soon as possible and then stored at the proper temperature until ready to cook. For the best flavour and quality, fish should be prepared for eating within 24 hours of catching but if stored properly it is safe to keep refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.

Fresh caught or market fresh fish should be stored at a temperature 4°C or below and cooked fish should be kept at a temperature 60°C or higher to keep it outside of the temperature zone in which bacteria, that causes food borne illness, grows quickly. The danger temperature zone is a range between 4°C and 60°C. Raw fish can be stored in a refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Leftover cooked fish can be stored for up to 3 or 4 days. If raw or cooked fish is not going to be used within the recommended time, it should be frozen to prevent it from perishing.


<fish in refrigerator


Raw fish can be stored safely in a refrigerator at 4°C or lower for 2 to 3 days. Oily fish will store longer than lean fish and whole fish will store better than steaks and fillets. There are several factors listed below that will have an affect on how well the fish will store.

  • The amount of time that market fresh fish can be refrigerated will depend on:
    • If it was stored properly after it was caught, before it got to the market.
    • How fresh the fish was when purchased.
    • Whether or not the fish was stored properly on ice at the market.
    • The temperatures it is exposed to in transporting from the store to home refrigeration.
    • The type of packaging used.
  • The amount of time that fresh caught fish can be refrigerated will depend on:
    • How the fish was handled after being caught.
    • How long it was kept alive.
    • Whether or not it was bruised from flopping around on the bottom of the boat or on the dock.
    • If there was any damage done to its skin.
    • How soon it was cleaned and if it was cleaned properly.

Follow the instructions below to store fresh fish in the refrigerator properly.

  1. Remove the fish from the wrapper or bag. Thoroughly rinse the fish in cold water.
  2. Pat it dry with a paper towel.
  3. Line a plate or pan with a double layer of paper towels and place the fish on the towels.
  4. Cover them tightly with plastic wrap and place in the coldest part of the refrigerator, the top shelf in the back.
  5. Be sure the fish is tightly wrapped so that if there are any juices from the raw fish, they will not come in contact with any other food.

Cooked Fish Leftovers 

Cooked leftovers should be cooled and refrigerated as soon as possible, limiting the amount of time the fish is exposed to room temperatures. Never leave the fish at room temperature for more than two hours. Store it in a shallow covered container to allow the fish to cool to the proper temperature more quickly. Cooked fish can be stored for up to 2 to 3 days.

  1. Make sure the edges of your plastic bag are clean and dry or the shrink packaging machine may not seal it very well.
  2. Do not package more than you need for one serving in each bag. This will allow the fish to freeze more quickly and is convenient for when you go to use it.
  3. When placing in the freezer, do not stack a lot of packages together in one area. Try to spread them out in the freezer so they will freeze quicker. Once they are frozen, they can be stacked neatly on top of each other.

When using one of these freezing methods, be sure to mark the packages with contents and the date so you can be certain of how long it has been stored in the freezer and what it contains.

Be sure all wrapped packages are sealed tightly and any fish frozen in ice is completely covered with ice to prevent ice crystals from forming on the fish. Ice crystals form because moisture has been drawn out of the fish, causing it to become freezer burned. Freezer burned areas of the fish become distasteful and tough or dried out. Store bought frozen fish should be left in the original package and place in the freezer as soon as possible. For extra protection place the store bought package in a freezer bag before placing in the freezer.

Storage Tips:

  • Be sure fish is cleaned properly before storing.
  • When storing in a refrigerator, be sure the temperature is 4°C or less.
  • Do not allow cooked fish to sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Be sure all packages are marked with the content and the date it was frozen.
  • Wrapping individual pieces of fish in plastic wrap and then placing in a freezer bag will allow you to take out only the number servings you need to prepare.
  • Freeze fresh fish as soon as possible to maintain the best quality.
  • Store frozen fish in a freezer unit to obtain maximum storage time.
  • Thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator or in cold water, changing every 30 minutes. NEVER thaw fish at room temperature.

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