Mastering the cold fish

I’m guessing your patience with my fishing stories is wearing thin, so I’ll boil yesterday afternoon’s trip right down. I caught one striper, and Kevin and Bob both caught two (their limit), and then some (which they released). By a fluke, Bob also caught a fluke.

The huge fish that I fought for a good five minutes, and brought right up to the boat, escaped when the knot I had tied, attaching hook to leader, came unknotted just as Kevin was reaching into the fish’s mouth to bring it aboard. He actually touched my fish, the one that got away, and estimated it at forty inches. Losing it just about killed me, and I will tie better knots in future.

That was the only bad part. The good parts were a beautiful evening, a sunset over Barnstable Harbor, hit after hit as fish went for our live-lined mackerel, and, at the end of the evening, a massive striped bass top-feeding frenzy that attracted all boats from miles around (and had everyone emptying their tackle boxes trying to figure out what they’d bite on).

But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about. I’m here to tell you that I have come up with a brilliant fishing innovation. An innovation that saves resources and money. An innovation that I predict will become standard practice among fisherman, once they read about it here, on Starving off the Land. Perhaps they will even name it after me. The Haspel Method.

The problem it solves is the problem of ice. When you go out fishing, you always have to bring it. Quite a bit of it, usually. You put bags of it in the cooler and head out. If you catch no fish, you don’t open the bags. Sometimes, on those fishless days, you can put the ice back in the freezer when you get home. Sometimes it’s too melted to be recoverable.

If you do catch a fish, you open the bags. Sometimes, you end up using twenty pounds of ice to ice down the 14-inch schoolie bluefish that proved to be your only catch of the day. It’s only the multi-fish trips that feel like they aren’t a grand waste of ice.

Last year, we tried to keep ice on hand at all times, but there were inevitably days when we forgot to replenish our supply and had to pay top dollar for ten pounds at the only store that’s open at five in the morning. I didn’t keep track of how much we spent on ice over the course of the season, but I’m guessing it was into three figures.

Not this year, though.

This year, I bought about forty of those little eight-ounce bottles of water, and we keep them in the basement freezer. We dump them in the cooler when we go out, and just add a little seawater when we catch our first fish. The fish cool down beautifully, and we re-freeze the bottles when we get home.

As a bonus, we always have an emergency supply of fresh water on the boat.

Okay, I realize I’m probably not the first fisherman to do this. I didn’t Google it because I didn’t want to know just how many people have done it before. I don’t need to be told that it’s already named after someone else – the Schneiderman Method, or the MacGregor Technique. And if you’ve been doing it for years, you can just smile smugly as you refrain from lording it over me in the comments.

For my part, I plan to live out my life believing I have made a significant contribution to the sport of fishing.

11 people are having a conversation about “Mastering the cold fish

  1. That’s a good idea. I bet it would work for keeping anything cold in a cooler, like for camping. Good idea, Tamar. I like the Haspel Method.

  2. Paula – Well, that’s one thumbs-up! Thanks.

    NorCal – I like the way you think. Although I wonder what someone who knows me, but didn’t happen to read this post, might imagine “Haspelling the ice chest” to mean. It’s certainly not cleaning it. It might possibly be locating it. More likely, though, it’s breaking it.

  3. You need three knots….

    the Palomar, the modified Albrecht for braid to leader and the dropper loop.
    Everything else is just for fun…
    If you want another neat one for poppers use an Repala

  4. Question… why aren’t you bleeding those fish? Noticed one of the pics has a pretty bloody Fillet and the cooler pic shows no blood so I am curious why your not bleeding them…

  5. Dont the bottles end up stinking of fish? It must be inevitable, I guess, but the bottle labels in the pic must soak up the fishy stinkiness (to use the technical term) and be imposible to remove…

  6. JF – Thanks for the knots! And, yes, we ought to be bleeding the fish. I’ll talk to the Vice President in Charge of Fish Bleeding.

    Javier – The labels come off in pretty short order, and then you just have to rinse the bottles when you rinse the cooler. There’s usually a little of the fishy stinkiness, but we seem to be keeping it to a minimum.

    • Rinsing the bottles… Yes, my abilty to miss the blingingly onbvious is legendary… I still remember the time when me and my girlfriend (we are so made for each other) spent 10min discussing how we were going to cross a river whose water level was too high only to give up and then realise we were standing beside the bridge. Bridge whose existence we were aware of as we walk over it about 4 times a week….
      Think I’ll go and hide 🙂

  7. Just Googled for The Haspel Method, and it led me right back here. You’re in!

    No one else seems to have used this phrase before. Nor, by the way, was there yet a Haspel Effect, Haspel Syndrome, or Haspel’s Disease. But several physicists and physicians named Haspel seem to be doing research in promising fields. So you may want to quick stake your claim there, too. At least for “The Haspel Effect.”

    Any trouble with those bottles breaking and leaking when they freeze and expand? Or are there certain brands or sizes that don’t seem to have that problem? If so, I might have to get some, just for keeping in the car during the early spring and late fall when there’s that risk. (Less important for your application, but something I’ve wondered about otherwise.)

    • Al, nice to know I can count on you to do my research for me! What’s your phone number, again?

      Before we froze all the bottles, we did just one to see if it would expand and break. It didn’t. While some of the bottles seem to have become misshapen after the repeated freezing and thawing, they are all, so far, intact.

  8. We do that for camping at festivals! The available water is frequently a long way away and usually labelled ‘not for drinking. Boil before use’ etc.

    Plastic milk cartons (6 UK pints) washed out and then sterilised with a tablet, mostly filled with tap water (do not over fill!! the voice of experience), lid on loosely and freeze. They keep the cooler cold for a good 36 hours and when you need water to drink, out one comes!!! Ready chilled drinking water …. its much cheaper than those freezer blocks … and as you say, the drinking water comes in useful.

    The challenge is having enough space in the freezer at the right time to freeze the bottles …. Hmmm….

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