Shipping fish from Alaska requires having a plan in place to ensure you have all of the materials required and a good understanding of the amount of time that will be required to get your fish to your destination.
The average time a person will be traveling to their destination will range from 10- to 24 hours. You need to make sure that your packaging materials are going to provide your fish with adequate protection and refrigerant to maintain either a frozen or refrigerator environment.
There is nothing positive about arriving back at your destination to find your fish is bruised or thawed out, or even worse, spoiled. These scenarios are common but can be avoided if you understand how to properly prepare your fish for transporting.
Planning your trip requires time and money, and one of the most important topics to discuss with the lodge, guide or location you are visiting is making sure you understand how you will be cleaning, packaging and freezing your daily catch and how you will be transporting it.
Most fishing lodges will offer fish cleaning and vacuum-packaging as well as a container and a refrigerant product you can purchase to transport your fish. The most common method for preparing your fish for transporting is to clean the fish thoroughly each day, vacuum-pack it in smaller sizes and freeze it. Removing the air is the most important step you can take for both the individual vacuum-packs and your transport box.
There are many types of products available to transport your fresh or frozen fish. Most of these containers are available at fishing lodges and retailers, but again, don’t assume they will be available; you should confirm the product will be available when you arrive at your destination. Most major retailers and the popular sporting goods stores in Alaska are well stocked with these boxes. If you are in the lower 48 and wish to obtain these boxes for use at home, you can order them online through Sportsman’s Warehouse and have them shipped to you.
The most common types of containers used for shipping fish from Alaska are a two-piece wax box, foam box, plastic cooler or the CF-60 fold-up box. When deciding what type of box you plan to use, you need to think about a few things.
Are you shipping fresh or frozen fish? Will your fish be cut to size or will it be whole fish or fillets? How will your fish be packaged? What is the duration of time required to get to your destination? Are you driving or flying, and if flying, does the airline have restrictions for containers and the refrigerant you might be using?
All of these questions need to be answered in order for you make the best decision to get your fish home to your destination in good shape.
COMMONLY USED FISH BOXES – PROS AND CONS
TWO-PIECE WAX BOX
The two-piece (top/bottom) wax box is one of the most common boxes used to transport fish. These boxes are commonly provided by the lodges and are also available at most retail stores. The wax box comes in different sizes, but the most common size is a 25- or 50-pound capacity box. These boxes typically don’t come with a liner, so you will need to make sure your fish is secure inside a plastic liner before you place inside the box.
The wax box usually does not come with insulation, such as afoil/bubble bag liner or a foam liner, which is helpful to keep product frozen or fresh longer. If your return trip is going to be more than 8- to 12 hours you might want to make sure that you have some type of insulation inside the wax box as well as a refrigerant to keep your fish fresh or frozen. Wax boxes are not recyclable, so you can use the box for storage, remove the staples and make the box flat or you can take it to the landfill.
The foam box is one of the best boxes you can use to keep your product fresh or frozen for over 24 hours. Fresh fish works well in foam boxes as long as you are using refrigerant.
The foam box does require an outer corrugated box if transporting on the airlines. The outer corrugated box is designed to help protect the foam box from breakage if dropped. You can find foam boxes at most retailers and some of the lodges. The foam box is recyclable or can be reused.
The TRY Fold 50 lb. Airline Shipping Box is a 50-pound airline-approved box for transporting fresh and frozen fish. This box is constructed with a double wall corrugated non-waxed box. This boxes comes with a glued inside foil/bubble liner to eliminate a plastic bag and provides insulation. This box is flat and easy to set-up and only requires tape for the top and bottom flaps. The foil/bubble liner comes with a double-sided tape to allow you to secure the liner once you place your product inside.
The TRY Fold 50 lb. Airline Shipping Box is designed to transport your frozen fish for up to 12- to 18 hours with no refrigerant and can be found at many lodges and retailers. This box can be broken down to flat, reusable and recyclable. It the perfect box for shipping fish from Alaska.
There are choices to be made when deciding if you need to use a refrigerant or not to pack with your fresh or frozen fish. Typically if you are transporting frozen fish you will not need any refrigerant. If you are shipping fresh fish, you will need a refrigerant. The most common types of refrigerant are wet ice, gel ice, frozen water in a container or dry ice. If you are transporting your fish on an airline, be sure to check with the airlines to understand what types of refrigerant they will accept. Most airlines do not accept wet ice in a bag as it will thaw and become water and then can leak out of the container. Gel ice product is available in bags and hard containers and is offered in many different sizes. Dry ice can also be used, but check the airlines to confirm if they will accept dry ice and if there is a maximum amount you can use per container due to the off gas issues.
PROPERLY PACK YOUR CONTAINER
There are many different ways to prepare your fish, fresh or frozen and there are many different types of containers you can use to transport your fish. The most important step that most often is not taken into consideration is regardless of how you pack your fish or what type of container you use, make sure to pack your box to the top to REMOVE AS MUCH AIR OUT OF THE BOX as possible. If you need to add additional dunnage to pack to the top of the box, do so as the air in a box will reduce the time you have to keep your product fresh or frozen.
These tips offered should help you plan for your next trip when you hope to be shipping fish from Alaska. Remember to make sure to check your options for transporting your fish, and most of all, make sure you are using the correct products to assure that your fish returns in good shape.
Retailers and sporting goods stores throughout Alaska carry these boxes, but you can also order them online through Sportsman’s Warehouse and have them shipped to you.