Buying Fresh Fish at the Market? How to Select the Best

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Fresh Fish Market. Wikimedia

The fresh fish market is a thrilling stimulation to the senses. The sights, and smells of fresh, and smoked fish, combined with the anticipation of the savory meal can peak the interest of anyone that can appreciate the varied flavors of fish. Moreover the experience can be doubly valued for those that know the pleasures of fishing. Each fish variety has a unique flavor, texture, and exclusive methods of cooking and preparation that can optimize those unique qualities. Weather you are shopping for salmon, trout, catfish, tilapia, or bream, the process of selection is crucial to your enjoyment.

Selection of Fresh Fish

Most fish have the same, or similar anatomical features. If you are selecting whole fish with the head, take note of the eyes and gills. The eyes of freshly caught fish will be clear, bright, and the pupils will appear black. You may notice a bright red lining on the perimeter of the outer edge of the eyeball, and translucent silver within the eye. When you lift the gill cover, fresh fish will reveal bright red gills. Within two days, the gills may begin to transition to a crimson red, then progress to brown, then green. Basically this color change will follow the pattern of blood as it dries. For best results, avoid fish that has green tones within the gills.

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Fish Anatomy. Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

The Body of a Fresh Fish


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Stork with fish in mouth. Wikimedia.

When looking at the body of fresh fish, the scales or skin of the fish should appear uniform, bright, and shiny. Fish manufacture slime as one of their defense mechanisms against other predators. Therefore, when fish emerge from their waters, they tend to be slimy. Properly cleaning fish will minimize this factor. Translucent scales are an indicator of freshness. This trait may vary, based on the fish variety, though scales tend to become opaque with the progression of time. For fish in the catfish family, or fish with smooth skin, markings on the body are generally not as visible when freshly caught. The fins and tail on fish should appear whole, and unbroken. When fish is most fresh, the body is more pliable than stiff.

Flesh of fish

The flesh of white fish, when fresh, has a translucent sheen. Fish, such as cod, haddock, or halibut may have a slight whitish, yellow tone. White fish may also appear pink, due to exposed fresh blood content. The texture of the flesh should be firm, and bounce back when you press it, not sink down as if it were mashed.  Fish, such as salmon will have a bright, coral, shiny tone. If you are looking at whole, fish, look for traces of fresh, bright red blood as indicators of freshness. If you are looking at filleted fish, the skin should usually be soft and vibrant, not hard or dried. Lastly, fresh fish, weather whole, filleted, or cut however so, should not give off a “fishy” smell.SeaBear Smokehouse