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Processing & Shipping Your Caught Fish

How to safely transport your fish home

If a half-day, full-day or overnight fishing trip is on your San Diego wish list, seasoned local charter crews make processing and transporting your catch a breeze. Just make sure you clear some space in your freezer before leaving home!

By: Todd Bluechel

No, You Can't Just Put the Fish in Your Suitcase!

The rich fishing grounds off San Diego attract anglers from around the world, here to chase Yellowtail, Bluefin and other big game fish. But no matter what you catch, you'll want to make plans for the optimal way to take it home with you.

Processing

At the beginning of each trip, you'll receive a metal ringlet with numbered tags attached. After you catch a fish, the deckhands will attach one of these tags onto the fish's gill plate as a marker for your haul.

Once you return to shore, fish are offloaded and transferred to a processor of your choosing. There are three expert local processors to choose from: 5-Star Processing, Sportsman’s Seafood or Fisherman’s Processing.

Once you choose a processor, they'll need to know:

  • Name and contact information
  • How you would like your fish processed (filleted, smoked, made into jerky or a combination of the three)
  • How you would like your fish cut (steaks, fillets or a combination)
  • Skin left on or removed
  • If you would like to keep the fish bellies or collars
  • How much fish to put into each pack (typically 1.5 pounds of fillets per pack is enough for 2 dinner portions)
  • Pack thickness (3 or 5 ml)
  • When you would like to pick up the fish at the processing facility or have it taken to the airport

After your fish are processed, vacuum sealed and labeled, they’ll be placed inside the processor’s large freezer until you pick them up. Local fishermen may not want all their fish frozen, opting to keep a few fillets on ice for a dinner party. But when visiting from out of town and flying home, there are a few additional options to consider:

  • Southwest Airlines or Alaskan Airlines cargo are often the most economical ways to ship your fillets home even if you’re not flying with either airline. Overnight services including FedEx and UPS are also available. They’re more expensive, but they’ll deliver directly to your home.
  • If you’re checking in a cooler full of fish for your flight home, make sure you’ve weighted the cooler with gel packs and fish together, and remember to check each airline’s weight limits and fees. Dry ice is not allowed on any flight, so pack your fish with enough frozen gel packs to make sure they’ll remain frozen for your entire trip home. Lastly, bring along a roll of duct tape and seal the lid just prior to checking your cooler so as to reduce any cold air from leaking out or warm air from getting in.
  • It’s a good idea to plan well in advance, so call your preferred processor, discuss your situation and learn what options will work best for you.

If your epic day on the water produces a haul too big handle, San Diego is home to America’s only sustainable fishing charity, Fish. Food. Feel Good. (F3G). F3G collects sport-caught fish and distributes it to charities for free. If you have extra fish you don’t want, F3G will pick it up from the landing and make sure it gets distributed to feed the homeless, jobless, elderly, disabled or military veterans. Contact F3G for more details.


Find more here on fishing in San Diego!

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