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Old 06-26-2014, 05:50 AM   #1
Bill Rogue V.
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Default That muddy taste

This is a huge issue for a lot of us. Nothing is more disappointing than to kill some fish only to find that have that muddy taste -- even when smoked.
The taste is caused by a chemical called geosmin, literally, "earth smell."

From Wikipedia:
Geosmin is an organic compound with a distinct earthy flavor and aroma produced by a type of Actinobacteria, and is responsible for the earthy taste of beets and a contributor to the strong scent (petrichor) that occurs in the air when rain falls after a dry spell of weather or when soil is disturbed.[1] In chemical terms, it is a bicyclic alcohol with formula C12H22O, a derivative of decalin. Its name is derived from the Greek γεω- "earth" and ὀσμή "smell."
Geosmin is responsible for the muddy smell in many commercially important freshwater fish such as carp and catfish. Geosmin combines with 2-methylisoborneol, which concentrates in the fatty skin and dark muscle tissues. Geosmin breaks down in acid conditions; hence, vinegar and other acidic ingredients are used in fish recipes to help reduce the muddy flavor.

In researching this topic, I have found a number of suggestions on how to neutralize the muddy taste, all involving acid in one form or another. First, remove skin and lateral line (dark muscle) as far as possible. Then, try soaking the filets in a vinegar solution (one cup in a gallon of water), in buttermilk or in lemon water. One source reported that catfish filets soaked in lemon water had lost some firmness, so experimenting is called for.
I will certainly do my part and report. I quit fishing Diamond Lake because of this issue, and had to throw out a nice koke from Crane Prairie for the same reason. We would do the fishing community a real favor if we could come up with a foolproof way to ensure that the fish we do keep can be made fit for the table.
Some will tell you that bleeding, icing and scaling before cleaning will help eliminate geosmin. While I agree these are best practices, it appears the geosmin is concentrated in skin and muscle,hence the need for the acid to neutralize.

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Old 06-26-2014, 06:26 AM   #2
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Great posting.
I can see where lemon (citric acid) would break down the tissue some. It is used along with lime juice in making Ceviche (fish eaten raw but the acid in the lemon "cooks" the fish and it becomes translucent or opaque in color)

I suspect vinegar (acetic acid) would result in a similar result.
Vinegar is sometimes used to marinade shark meat to get rid of the "urine" taste. If shark is not bled and cleaned well as soon as it is caught the uric acid in the blood stays in the meat and affects the flavor.

Timing of the marinade may be critical. Ceviche recipes call for 10 to 30 minutes. Longer risks having the meat fall apart. Of course for Ceviche the fish is cut in to small 1" pieces so the acid penetrates faster.
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Old 06-26-2014, 06:33 AM   #3
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Default That muddy taste

If you do a wet brine for smoking your fish introduce the acid to water mixture. During the brining process the brine is penetrates deep into the meat, so in theory it would get the acid into the deeper pockets of fat. For me I wouldn't just soak in an acid bath because you are denaturing the protein, aka cooking the meat. But who knows the acid may give you a great tasting cure with the fish.
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Old 06-26-2014, 06:33 AM   #4
Bill Rogue V.
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Default Re: That muddy taste

LGB: One source said to soak the filets just 10 minutes in the one cup vinegar per gallon of water solution. I will try white, as it has less flavor than cider, when I have the chance.
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Old 06-26-2014, 06:53 AM   #5
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Default Re: That muddy taste

We always soaked our bullhead filets in milk overnight. It helped a lot.
I once had coot (mud hen) soaked for two days in buttermilk, with the buttermilk changed out after the first day.
You never would have known you were eating mud hen. It was delicious.
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Old 06-26-2014, 06:57 AM   #6
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Interesting what I have found with catfish and other warm water species is to bonk and bleed and get on ice as you would a prized salmon. There is no other substitute unless you have a live well.

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Old 06-26-2014, 08:05 AM   #7
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Nice research, thanks Bill!
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:28 AM   #8
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Ive seen people mention the muddy taste quite often and find it strange that so many people have mentioned this and I have never noticed fish in crane or wickiup to have a muddy taste..I fish both crane and wickiup right up until the end of the season and all the fish I have kept taste great..The kokanee in both crane and wickiup are roughly 18" long by the end of season..So heres my question I fish both lakes near a cold spring or river inlet.. Is the colder water from the spring or river keeping the fish from getting the muddy taste????
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Old 06-26-2014, 09:05 AM   #9
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Default Re: That muddy taste

I have never thought they tasted particularly muddy either. I have to wonder if there are "tasters" for geosmin. If so I am glad I don't have the receptors for that compound. I suspect the fish are going to start tasting muddy any day now.
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Old 06-26-2014, 10:27 AM   #10
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Default Re: That muddy taste

I used to avoid eating hatchery trout due to the muddy flavor. I found getting them on ice ASAP instead of using a stringer made a huge difference. No more muddy flavor.
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Old 06-26-2014, 11:46 AM   #11
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Default Re: That muddy taste

this video has a great explanation by brian chan, skip to about 7:20 in the video


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3NX6Wd03ZU
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Old 06-26-2014, 12:25 PM   #12
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Default Re: That muddy taste

I keep a cooler in my boat with ice in it and I also have a stick to kill the fish if I am going to keep it. Before I even take the hook out of the mouth of the fish I am going to keep I give it a whack, pull the hook and put it on ice. The fish come out much better in taste that way. One suggestion I have found was to give the fish a smack to stun it then cut the gills so it will bleed out. That I have not tried yet but the ice does make a difference especially since you cannot clean them right away. I found the comment very interesting about the algae and found it does correlate with when I stop trout fishing.

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Old 06-26-2014, 12:35 PM   #13
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Huh, Grandpa always said it was because it was a mean fish and if ya ate it, it would put hair on your chest. I was only 6 yrs old and looked for hair on my chest for 2 weeks after fishin with Grandpa!
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Old 06-26-2014, 12:54 PM   #14
Bill Rogue V.
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Charlie, Diamond, Crane Prairie and Wickiup are relatively shallow lakes, which are more likely to develop the problem than deep lakes like Odell.
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Old 06-26-2014, 03:23 PM   #15
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Default Re: That muddy taste

I kept my recent Crane fish alive on a stringer until i cleaned them. Threw them on ice in a ziplock bag and waited until i got home to finish prepping them. I found two things.
1. I only keep fish large enough to fillet.

2. When i do fillet them i also cut the rib bones out and skin them. Then i rinse them on both sides, pat dry with paper towel and then into the freezer. I had some for breakfast this morning, no muddy taste, they were delicious!
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Old 06-26-2014, 03:45 PM   #16
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Quote:
We would do the fishing community a real favor if we could come up with a foolproof way to ensure that the fish we do keep can be made fit for the table.
I think what each of us personally considers as 'bad tasting fish' points toward the old idiom,"one man's meat is another man's poison."

Despite being a senior citizen, half-deaf...half-blind...and half-crazy, I still have a pretty good sense of taste. At least in my own mind. That muddy/algae taste in fish is something I would just as soon not take a chance on anymore. I stopped fishing the shallow lakes for Kokanee or trout a few years ago. Even with catch and release, it always carried the risk of killing and wasting the fish which is never a good thing. A better choice has been to avoid those lakes altogether. That's the only foolproof plan.

I've never experienced that muddy taste from any bright Kokanee out of Odell, Crescent, Paulina, or LBC. So those deep, cold lakes are where fishing time is spent and fish are harvested. Nothing like going out in the morning, catching a few kokes, and frying them up for brunch. Filleted with the skin left on...fried up golden brown! If I have to skin'em, soak'em in vinegar, bleach, or lemon juice, wave a voodoo doll over the frying pan, or be completely hammered before they're palatable, some Nathan's hot dogs would be a better choice.

That said, there are many fine fishing lakes which are available to each of us. We have the free will to choose any that will provide a tasty meal according to our own tastes.
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Old 06-26-2014, 05:34 PM   #17
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Trout and their relatives have always tasted better to me the colder and clearer the water. That is no surprise. Killing, bleeding,getting these fish on ice AND keeping them dry rather than soaking at the bottom of the cooler is paramount. Dragging a fish on a stringer for hours after it dies is not wise. We clean our evening caught steelhead and hang them in a tree to dry then keep them on top of the ice, wrapped up in a towel or cloth, getting it wet again ruins it.
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Old 06-26-2014, 06:38 PM   #18
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Puck brings up a great point. Not letting the fish sit in water, even ice water at the bottom of a cooler is a great help. I leave the drain plug in my cooler open so any melting ice escapes. Fish are on only on ice after being bled for a short time. Then layers of ice are added as the fish stack up. Have seen many folks dragging fish along next to the boat on a stringer when the water temps are 65+ That is a bad move.
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Old 06-27-2014, 06:38 AM   #19
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Default Re: That muddy taste

I use a tall kitchen bag for my fish. First I place it in the cooler so that the bag opening sticks up over the edge. Then I pour a couple bags of ice on top of the bag at the bottom of the cooler. When I add fish I can slip them into the bag and push them down under the ice. They stay cold and dry, except for the natural slime that is.
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Old 06-27-2014, 11:00 AM   #20
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Thanks for the info, just been fishin Diamond since I was knee high to a short tree. Diamond is in my comfort zone and I am not really up to trying new lakes. I used to fish Hemlock n Lake in the woods alot but not much anymore.
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Old 06-27-2014, 07:12 PM   #21
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Autolysis=the rapid breakdown of enzymes in the cells of the fish after fighting and dying. Catch, kill, bleed (or gut) and ice or at least dry. No water or green grass=mushy bad! Actually, before the guts to habitat rule was brought back, I cleaned our fish right away in bucket and then iced them down. Even bottom fish and surf perch are gilled right away and rinsed, dried and iced.
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Old 06-27-2014, 08:04 PM   #22
Nathan Bohlmann
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Rogue V. View Post
This is a huge issue for a lot of us. Nothing is more disappointing than to kill some fish only to find that have that muddy taste -- even when smoked.
The taste is caused by a chemical called geosmin, literally, "earth smell."

From Wikipedia:
Geosmin is an organic compound with a distinct earthy flavor and aroma produced by a type of Actinobacteria, and is responsible for the earthy taste of beets and a contributor to the strong scent (petrichor) that occurs in the air when rain falls after a dry spell of weather or when soil is disturbed.[1] In chemical terms, it is a bicyclic alcohol with formula C12H22O, a derivative of decalin. Its name is derived from the Greek γεω- "earth" and ὀσμή "smell."
Geosmin is responsible for the muddy smell in many commercially important freshwater fish such as carp and catfish. Geosmin combines with 2-methylisoborneol, which concentrates in the fatty skin and dark muscle tissues. Geosmin breaks down in acid conditions; hence, vinegar and other acidic ingredients are used in fish recipes to help reduce the muddy flavor.

In researching this topic, I have found a number of suggestions on how to neutralize the muddy taste, all involving acid in one form or another. First, remove skin and lateral line (dark muscle) as far as possible. Then, try soaking the filets in a vinegar solution (one cup in a gallon of water), in buttermilk or in lemon water. One source reported that catfish filets soaked in lemon water had lost some firmness, so experimenting is called for.
I will certainly do my part and report. I quit fishing Diamond Lake because of this issue, and had to throw out a nice koke from Crane Prairie for the same reason. We would do the fishing community a real favor if we could come up with a foolproof way to ensure that the fish we do keep can be made fit for the table.
Some will tell you that bleeding, icing and scaling before cleaning will help eliminate geosmin. While I agree these are best practices, it appears the geosmin is concentrated in skin and muscle,hence the need for the acid to neutralize.
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Old 07-01-2014, 02:08 PM   #23
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Default Re: That muddy taste

I have fished for hatchery trout out of Ollala and it gets very warm in the summer. I've gotten the muddy taste before so I appreciate the thread. I also didn't put them on ice right away in some cases but left them on a stringer. So its worth trying again but bleeding and icing them sooner to see if that's my issue. I've also gotten fish from Wickiup and Odell without the muddy taste but was fishing with those more experienced than I who bled them and got them on ice right away. Seems to make sense to me that this makes a difference as could the temp of the lakes in general.
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Old 07-02-2014, 06:50 AM   #24
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Bleeding have other benifits?
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:46 AM   #25
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cull View Post
Bleeding have other benifits?
A rabbi or an imam would tell you yes.

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Old 07-02-2014, 08:06 AM   #26
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Default Re: That muddy taste

/snicker...
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Old 07-03-2014, 10:23 AM   #27
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Default Re: That muddy taste

bleeding and icing helps but if they come from warm water they are likely going to not taste as good as a cold water fish of the same kind.
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Old 07-04-2014, 07:11 PM   #28
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Default Re: That muddy taste

This is the process we use for fish. Fill a bucket half full of lake water. Land fish put in bucket and cut gills. Rebait get line back in the lake. Clean the fish. Put fish in a clean plastic bag on ice. Seal the bag to keep water out. Rinse bucket and refill halfway with lake water. Repeat until you have your limit (hopefully). Unless we are some place that prohibits cleaning fish in the boat, we always do this. Salmon size fish go into their own ice chest, cleaned asap.
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Old 07-04-2014, 11:32 PM   #29
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Quote:
Originally Posted by jagare View Post
This is the process we use for fish. Fill a bucket half full of lake water. Land fish put in bucket and cut gills. Rebait get line back in the lake. Clean the fish. Put fish in a clean plastic bag on ice. Seal the bag to keep water out. Rinse bucket and refill halfway with lake water. Repeat until you have your limit (hopefully). Unless we are some place that prohibits cleaning fish in the boat, we always do this. Salmon size fish go into their own ice chest, cleaned asap.
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Old 07-05-2014, 09:31 AM   #30
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Default Re: That muddy taste

Great info everyone, time to do some more experiments (catching) and try it all out!
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