Do you ever think to yourself—especially after about the second fish of the day: “Wouldn’t it be great if these guys weren’t slicked over with slime?” No matter how much you rinse each fish off before hitting the cleaning table, it’s still there. Rather amazing really. The slime is actually a substance called glyco-protein mixed with water and is produced by the skin cells of the fish in what is evidently an inexhaustible supply, which is important as it’s a critical protective layer for the fish.
However, for our purposes, there are a lot of products designed to assist the grappling of slimy fish during the cleaning process. Most are special gloves that work okay for a bit, but if you are filleting more than a couple fish the gloves become saturated rather quickly and are much less affective.
Well, special products aside, there is a way to reduce the slime on your catch before cleaning. Say, for instance, that you have a half-dozen red salmon to fillet. Just leave them in the cooler you brought them home in, fill it with water until the fish are completely covered and then add two cups of vinegar. Let it sit for about 20 minutes, rinse the fish and fillet.
When an old fisherman I know first told me about this I thought, “Obviously this old guy is having some fun at my expense.” But I chewed on it for a while and figured I might as well try it out; after all, vinegar is inexpensive. We brought four silvers home a few days later and covered them in water with the two cups of vinegar and waited 20 minutes. Dumped the water out of the cooler, rinsed the fish quickly and sure enough, no slime. It was amazing; handling the salmon it was as if they had a fine layer of sandpaper on their skin.
The old fisherman had assured me it would not change the flavor in any way but the proof would be in the eating. Grilled a couple of good-sized chunks of the vinegar-treated salmon steaks that night and once again, he was right; they tasted great. And it doesn’t matter if they have just been bled and left in the round or if they have been gutted, they still taste the same. The freezer life also seems unchanged. It’s a win all the way around as far as I am concerned. Give it try!