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Fresh Salmon Buying Tips

Follow these helpful tips on how to buy fresh salmon:

Buying salmon over the bank:

Salmon with clear eye

Salmon with clear eye

  • Bring a cooler and ice to keep your fish fresh
  • Most sales are cash only
  • Ask for a receipt
  • Tribal fishers can advise on topics including fish freshness and preparation
  • Be aware that times, days and locations of salmon sales might vary with vendors

How to tell if a fish is fresh:

  • The fish’s eyes should be clear and bulge a little. Only a few fish such as walleye have naturally cloudy eyes.
  • Whole fish and fillets should have firm and shiny flesh. Dull flesh may mean the fish is old.
  • Fresh whole fish should have bright red gills

    Fresh salmon with red gills

    Fresh salmon with red gills

  • If the flesh doesn’t spring back when pressed, the fish isn’t fresh
  • There should be no darkening around the edges of the fish or brown or yellowish discoloration
  • The fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy or ammonia-like
  • If you are buying bright fall chinook, ask your fish-seller to make a cut near the tail to see the rich red flesh. If it’s pink, it’s either a tule chinook or steelhead.

How to clean and prepare salmon:

  • It is not necessary to scale or skin a salmon, but you will need to fin and gut it.
  • With the fish on its side, take the pointed end of a sharp fillet knife and at a slight angle, cut inward, all the way from head to tail on both sides of the dorsal fin. Be careful not to slice through the bone. Lift out the fin.
  • Do the same thing on the bottom side of the fish. Then cut circles around the fins on the sides to remove them.
  • With the fish on its side, slice the belly open from gills to anus and extract the innards, removing the kidney from alongside the spine. Clean up any residue with a cloth or paper towel.
  • Avoid washing the salmon until you’re ready to cook it because water breaks down the flesh, resulting in a loss of flavor.
  • Refrigerate or freeze until cooking time. Then quickly dip in cold salted water and immediately pat dry.

How to fillet a salmon:

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