If you’ve traveled from afar to fish the waters around Ketchikan, shipping some of that Salmon and Halibut home is probably high on your priority list. First of all, if you came during the summer and Salmon’s peak season, you’ll probably have lots of fish you’d like to keep.
Second of all, you will likely have requests for some fresh, wild-caught Salmon from friends and family.
Sharing your wild-caught Salmon upon your return is one of the biggest pleasures of fishing in Ketchikan.
However, getting your catch from Alaska back home without spoiling does require a little planning and extra expense.
There’s nothing worse than getting home just to find all of those beautiful filets spoiled by the heat.
Continue reading for a brief summary on how you can get your catch home from Alaska in one piece so you can savor the unique flavors of wild-caught Salmon and Halibut long after you visit.
Fileting – Ketchikan fishing charters will often clean your catch for you…
The first step will be to gut and clean your fish. Many charters take care of this as part of your trip. While not required, we strongly recommend tipping the captain and/or crew for their efforts. It’s standard to tip 15-20% (…like at a restaurant) for good service.
Generally speaking, the filets will weigh about half of the total fish.
Besides having it done on the boat or doing it yourself, you can also take your Salmon and Halibut to a local seafood packaging company. There are several around Ketchikan who can clean your fish and cut the filets into serving size portions.
These full-service companies don’t just clean and filet your fish – they also can help with all other preparations for getting your fish home. To find a good fish packing company, ask your charter captain, your resort/hotel or any seafood market around Ketchikan. Many fish lodges will prepare fish on site.
After fileting, you will need to seal, freeze and prepare your catch for the trip home…
Once the fish is cleaned and you have your filets, the next step will be to prepare your fish for the trip home.
Pretty much everyone agrees that vacuum sealing your fish is the best way to ensure long-term freshness and safe travels home. Besides keeping them frozen, removing all of the air from the packaging is the most critical step for maintaining freshness. Many visiting fishermen will bring their own vacuum sealers. However, sealing 25 or 50 pounds of filets can be a time consuming endeavor – you’re on vacation after all!
A professional packing company will use 5 mill or stronger polyethylene vacuum pack bags.
After vacuum sealing, you will want to freeze your fish. The faster it freezes, the better your fish will taste and look when you thaw and eat it well into the future.
Professional packing companies will “flash” freeze fish in a freezer up to -40 degrees Fahrenheit and then store them in a commercial freezer until you’re ready to go. These companies charge per the pound (approx. $1 to $1.50) to vacuum pack and/or freeze your fish.
Once they are sealed and frozen, your fish will need to be packed in an insulated box or cooler for transport home
Now that you’ve taken care of the fish, you need to have a container that will keep them cold and not leak. These boxes are typically available at a fishing lodge or outdoor store, but a professional packing company will have them as well.
The four main types of packing boxes include:
- Two-Piece Wax Box – The most common box for transporting fish. Typically available in a 25- or 50-pound capacity. They are also the least expensive since they come with little to no insulation. If your return trip is longer than 8-10 hours, it’s strongly recommended you find additional insulation.
- Foam Box – Ideal for longer-term transport (24+ hours). If you’re checking in your fish with the airline, you will need to have an outer cardboard box, which helps protect the foam box if it’s dropped.
- Plastic cooler – A good Igloo cooler is also a safe option, but also weighs the most. Check with your airline or shipping company though to ensure they’re okay transporting this type of “box.”
- CF-60 Box – This is probably the mack-daddy of fish transporting boxes, and is approved for use on the airlines. These boxes hold 50 pounds of fish and come with a double wall, non-waxed cardboard with a foil or bubble liner sandwiched in between the walls.
As far as refrigerant, it’s up to you and depends on your box. If you didn’t freeze your fish, then you will definitely need to have Igloo ice packs or dry ice to keep your fish cold. For the average trip, frozen fish should keep, but if you want to play it extra safe, putting your frozen fish on ice packs or dry ice will ensure your fish make it home unspoiled.
After it’s all ready to go, just choose your method for getting your fish home.
If you’re working with a fish packaging company, they will often times be set up with FedEx or UPS to ship your fish directly to your home. While this can be a little costly (approx. $100 – $275 depending on how much you’re sending), it can be well worth it.
Another option is to transport your fish as checked luggage with your airline. It’s vitally important you check with your airline for guidelines before arriving for your flight. Check out this article from USA Today for some extra tips on packaging your fish for transport as checked luggage.
Many packing companies offer courier service to the Anchorage International Airport while the airport offers freezer storage for a nominal fee, which is ideal if you still have a few more days on your trip.
While you can clean, filet, seal, freeze and package your fish as explained above, having it done professionally will save you time and ensure it is properly sealed and ready for the long journey home.
Many patrons of Ketchikan fishing charters travel from throughout the U.S., even the world, for some our fishing. Getting their catch back home to share with family and friends is a high priority.
If you’re visiting Ketchikan and looking for an exciting fishing experience, Oasis Alaska Charters can not only help you reel in a good catch, they can also help you get that catch home. Visit http://www.oasisalaskacharters.com/ today for more information or available dates.
Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service