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A beginners guide to buying whole fish

A beginners guide to buying fish Isn't the daunting process you may think.

Be confident in yourself to ask your fishmonger or the person behind the fish counter the right questions.

Most of the time fish usually have information on a small card/plaque at the display counter.

So, you shouldn't really have an issue. Then there's times when you go to a fishmonger you'll notice the name of the fish and cost per pound only

If you're looking for some fishy pointers.. here we go...

  1. Color should look fresh and pleasing to the eye.

  2. Fish should look appealing as if it just come out of the river, ocean..

  3. Flesh should look fresh and not dry.

  4. Eyes: speak a 1,000 words -look at the eyes and if they look cloudy, sunken or damaged, walk away. Eyes should glisten-look healthy, lay bright-open and happily with the fish.

  5. Fins should be defined and not saggy or damaged.

  6. Gills located to the side of the head should be moist either pink or red. Nothing less.

  7. Skin/Scales are important, they are the outer layer of the skin should be shiny often with a tinge of surface slime which is a good sign that the fish is fresh. The appearance and feel of the slime will be more evident on whole fish because its not filleted or pre-cut into portions.

  8. Smell should be as if it just came out of the river, ocean.. and not fishy. No odors.

Simple questions to ask:

  • Is the fish fresh or has it been previously frozen?

  • Wild or sustainably caught or farmed? (if they say wild ask them to define what they mean by wild. (I've been informed "its wild -in a fish farm in the sea, bty, that's not wild.)

  • How long is this fish good for? That'll give you an indication of how fresh your fish is.

Whilst above is the general this rule of thumb for selecting whole fish, the following suggestions can be applied to pre-portioned fish too

So, if you're fishing for a salmon tip..

I'm often asked why do I purchase wild salmon? The difference between farmed vs wild, is a simple choice for me. In a nutshell:

"Wild" salmon has a natural deep- reddish tinge with an orange hue. Wild salmon is naturally less fattier than farmed and is naturally "higher in the omega 3s."


Farmed salmon is required to be fed fish meal with added natural food coloring to give it the natural color of salmon, that we are accustomed to, from their natural grey color.

There are significantly more lines of fat in farmed salmon because they have no current to swim against. Wild salmon not so prevalent.

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