Getting mackerel in the winter gets costly and even sometimes during the summer so here is my solution to the problem. I always ask the skippers I fish with for the last hour of the trip in the summer to be used for some mackerel fishing so I have plenty to take home for not only to eat but to build my bait stocks.
Fortunately I have my own personal chest freezer for our fish stocks not only for our meals and we eat fish at least three times a week, the freezer is also divided off for bait mackerel and squid. Now most people will tell you freezing mackerel just doesn’t work and when I see big bundles of frozen mackerel on a skippers boat then you know that lot is pretty worthless apart from what the skipper will charge you for it.
The solution is to Vacuum Pack the fish and that is all fish, edible and bait. Prepare your fish idealy same day as the catch, mackerel just gut them and leave the fish whole with head on. Fish for the table, prepare it how you want to eat it and in the portion sizes you want. Don’t just freeze down whole fish unless that is all going to be eaten on the day you will be de-frosting it.
Mackerel as bait do the same vacuum pack and freeze down what you need to use, however as it’s bait, de-frosting and re-freezing is not an issue but don’t break the vacuum seal on the bag until you’re ready to use it. A small domestic vac machine starts around £35.00 and a 5m roll of the bag tube is about £5.00 at the time of this post. I paid £80 for mine and I use it for meats and veg as well as fish, even vac pac fresh nuts and they last ages.
I put two mackerel per bag and as the vac bag roll is such that you can cut what size you want to I would normally get 3/4 bags per metre so the cost of vacuum sealing is approx 35p per two fish. May be cheaper on smaller fish so it’s not an expensive project or really time consuming to do. You will see when you de-frost and open the bag the fish has stayed firm and as fresh as when you caught it, oh and it’s lost virtually no flavour either.
Fish frozen like this will last indefinately in a good freezer, fish I keep for the table is all eaten within a couple months of catch and then I have to drag myself out on another trip to catch more ! shame eh. Bait fish I do get through it quickly too as I supply bait for our crew when we are out winter fishing but they do assist in the catching of it obviously. So if you want fresh tasting fish and bait all year round then get Vac packing.
I have a short video planned to show just how quick and easy this is to do but for the time being these images will confirm this post.
Bass fillets ready for the table. Click to enlarge, Esc to close
Bait fish mackerel. Click to enlarge, Esc to close