|After so many years of doing this, I just assume most folks know about bringing home their catch. Certain things are just assumed. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. Just this week alone, I think I received at least 2 dozen e-mails asking me about how to get their fish home.
Don’t get me wrong! The questions are great questions. It’s my own fault for being surprised!
For you veteran Baja anglers, you just assume that fish is going home with you, but for many first timers, families, couples, etc. fishing the Baja is a new experience.
So, let’s do a primer!
Bringing home good quality fish means taking care of it as soon as it’s out’ve the water and on the deck. Dispatch the fish as quickly as possible. Keep in mind, as soon as your fish is dead, it’s already deteriorating. Like any type of food, cold helps arrest deterioration a.k.a. spoilage!
So, get it in the box, ice chest or other container and off the deck and out of the sun, unless you want it cooked and spoiled right before your eyes! Nothing like blazing Baja sun to turn your fish to mush. In the box, make sure there’s ice and keep it as cold as possible.
In most cases, your captain or deckhand won’t have time to start cleaning it on the spot, but the colder you can keep your fish, the better. Ice is the key. In the major fishing tourist destinations, ice is a given. Usually. But it’s always a good question to ask your operator. Also, is it included in the price of your trip? Many outlying areas may not have ice. Find out! If not, do your best to keep your catch cool.
Usually, once back at the beach or dock, your catch is cleaned. Get it bagged and cold and on ice again as soon as possible. So often I see anglers wander away to take photos and high-five each other and not pay attention to their fillets…which might just sit in the sun on a cleaning table…cooking! Get the fish on ice. If you can get it vacuum sealed, it’s a plus.
As soon as you can, if you’re staying in one spot for awhile, get your catch in the freezer. Again, a good question to ask if whether your lodging or charter operators have freezing facilities. Don’t assume! It’s Mexico. Better to be certain.
Now, getting your catch home…
Let’s get this right out. Generally speaking, there’s no way to ship your fish home. This is not Alaska or Canada. Unless you want to pay and arm-and-leg and get your fish on your doorstep melted and stinky a week late, don’t even consider mailing it.
The best and cheapest way is to bring your fish home in an ice chest as a piece of luggage. Everyone does it. Extra baggage is usually 25-50 dollars. A bargain. Most airlines have a limit of 50 pounds per piece before they charge you for an over-weight piece. Check with your airlines.
There is no dry ice. The airlines will also not permit you to put ice in the cooler either as it will melt and when your ice chest tumbles along the conveyor belt, you’re gonna piss off a lot of people when it leaks fish water on their luggage.
So, this is why it’s important that your filets be frozen. Believe me, if you don’t keep opening and closing the lids, your fish can last 24-48 hours in an ice chest!
Usually a 35-42 qt. chest holds will weigh about 50 pounds when filled with fillets. Don’t forget, chests with wheels will weigh more so you won’t be able to put as much fish in the chest if you’re trying to be exactly 50 pounds.
Don’t use Styrofoam chests. They get crushed when smacked by other luggage and make a mess! Don’t cheap out either and put it in a cardboard box as I’ve seen some guys try it. Not a great idea to stick extra fish in your personal luggage either! The airlines frown on it and you might have trouble getting the stink out of your clothes if the fish starts melting.
I’ve seen some anglers try to use the insulated boxes that they use in Alaska. They don’t work as well down here. In Mexico, ice chests might sit on the 100+ degree tarmac or in a hot luggage room before being loaded.
Although lighter in weight, insulated boxes don’t hold up like they do in Alaska or Canad. Up there, the ambient temperature is not very warm and the boxes can be kept out or stored in cooler places. Mexico is a cooker!
Many companies make some great soft-sided ice chests now that work incredibly well and are made for hot weather. Worth looking into and they weigh less than conventional coolers.
If you have extra room, stuff your dirty fishing clothes around the packs or crushed newspaper for extra insulation. Bring some duct tape to seal it up or a packing strap.
When you get home, get your fish in your home freezer and get the barbecue ready to go!