Angling for that fresh salmon? Preserve by canning!

Fish needs to be canned in a pressure canner for food safety reasons.

It is opening season for salmon and trout. The anglers are eager to cast their lines to get that fresh fish. But what about preserving that fish for later?

When catching fish for preserving later, it is important to keep the fish alive as long as possible. Of all the types of meat, fish is the most delicate. Fish is the most susceptible to spoilage, rancidity and foodborne illness. The delicate flesh of the fish starts to deteriorate as soon as the fish leaves the water. The spoilage and slime producing bacteria are present on the skin of the fish. Once the fish is caught and out of the water, these bacteria start reproducing at a rapid rate unless the fish is properly cared for.

To delay the spoilage, as soon as a fish is caught it should be gutted and the body cavity rinsed thoroughly. Next, the fish should be chilled and iced down.

There are four popular methods for preserving fish. They are freezing, canning, smoking and pickling. Although freezing is the easiest and the simplest, what do you do when the freezer is full? Canning fish can be a safe alternative, provided the instructions are followed.

Since fish is a low acid food, it needs to be processed using a pressure canner to reach the temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit, or higher to kill the spores of the deadly foodborne pathogen, Clostridium botulinum.  

Use only heat tempered canning jars and two piece lids for canning the fish. Wide mouth jars are easier to put the fish in than the regular jars.

NOTE: Sometimes glass-like crystals of magnesium ammonium phosphate will form in canned salmon. Unfortunately, the home canner cannot prevent this from happening. Usually when the canned fish is heated the crystals will dissolve and are safe to eat.

The following canning techniques can be used to can blue, mackerel, salmon, steelhead, trout and other fatty fish, but not tuna.


If the fish is frozen, it needs to be thawed in the refrigerator before canning. Rinse the fish in cold water. Remove the head, fins, tail and scales. Wash the fish removing all traces of blood. Refrigerate all fish until you are ready to can.

Split the fish lengthwise, if desired. Cut the cleaned fish into 3.5 inch lengths. Fill hot pint jars with the skin side facing the glass, leaving one-inch headspace. Do not add any liquids. Add one teaspoon of salt per pint, if desired. Carefully wipe the rim of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel; wipe with a dry paper towel to remove any fish oil. Adjust the pre-treated lids and process.

Processing procedures:

Dial gauge pressure canner at 11 pounds pressure.

Weighted gauge pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure.

The pints need to be processed for 100 minutes, which is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Before tasting or serving, heat the fish to boiling temperatures for 10 minutes.

When getting ready for the trout and salmon season, remember to plan on preserving that fantastic catch safely.

For further information contact your local county Michigan State University Extension office.

For more information read the resources Preserving Fish Safely and Selecting, Preparing and Canning Meat.

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