How To Choose Fresh Fish

The first time I went fishing was with my Uncle Karl. Yes, that was his name. I was just 6 years old and he took me in his ancient 3-wheel (again, yes 3-wheel) delivery truck to a small little stream called Schmutter nearby my home in Augburg, Bavaria. To this day, this same stream is filled with great trout and sometimes a pike will show up too. Fishing with Uncle Karl brings back great childhood memories. However, the most vivid is having to put a live worm on the fish hook – simply dreadful.  Uncle Karl kept the worms in a small box and when he opened it, the smell was nauseating …. to the point of gagging. OOOOF! I was determined, though, not to embarrass myself, so I endured.  I put the worm on the hook, took the fishing rod and threw the line in the water. Ten minutes later I caught a beautiful rainbow trout and four more later that same day.


We went home with about 10 fresh fish and had a great meal that evening. There is nothing like fresh fish straight from the stream. These days, though some people still fish, most buy their fish from the market.  This is why it is very important to know the signs of fresh fish because old fish can cause serious health problems, including disruption of your digestive system. In restaurants it’s hard to tell if the fish is fresh.  The exception is if the fish smells really bad.


However when you are buying fish in the market, there are seven very specific and effective ways to test if the fish is fresh. 


  1.   The flesh should be firm to the touch and bounce back.


  1.   The color should be bright and shiny. Dull, dark, dried sections on the flesh and skin indicate old fish.


  1.   The skin should be moist and not cracked.


  1.   Scales should be firmly attached to the skin.


  1.   When buying a whole fish ( head on) the eyes should be clear and the gills inside red and shiny. Grey inside means the fish is old.


  1.   Smell the fish.  If the fish smell is strong and pungent, the fish is bad. There will be, of course, a mild “fishy” smell, but it should never be pungent. Also remember salt water fish has a stronger smell than fresh water fish.


  1.   The same criteria is true for shellfish. Look for fresh clean colors, no slimy surface. Live shellfish should “react”…. meaning if the are slightly open they should close when touched. And final thought on the issue: NEVER  buy opened oysters or mussels.





Spread the love