Why Does Cold Water Fish Taste Better? | 5 Reasons

For many anglers, ice fishing is something they love doing because of the opportunities to fill their freezers with food. Not only are bag limits high, but the fish generally taste better through the ice. Even in the warmer months, fish caught from cold water sources are typically known to have a better flavor.

Cold water fish taste better due to the fact that they are a cold-blooded species. Plus, bacteria and algae are less able to grow in water temps below 70 degrees. In cold water, fish have a bit higher fat content, and the firm flesh from the cold is far more appetizing and has a less mushy feel.

While fish taste is a heavily debated topic amongst anglers, most agree that cold water fish taste better.

Reasons Why Cold Water Fish Tastes Better

1. Fish are Cold Blooded

One of the main reasons fish taste better in cold water is because they are a cold-blooded species.

When the water temperatures are cooler (below 65 degrees), the body temperature of a fish will be closer to the temperature of the water.

As a result, they are required to keep more blood in their internal organs in order to survive. Blood becomes more and more concentrated the more the temperatures drop.

The lack of blood in the rest of their body causes fish to be less active in the winter. However, fish do not keep as much blood in their internal organs as the water temperatures rise.

The blood is spread throughout their body. The spread-out blood causes their meat to taste incredibly fishy and strong.

Some anglers will keep their warm water gutted fish over ice for 24 hours to accomplish the same texture and taste that is found when fish are caught through the ice.

Fish are Cold Blooded

2. Cold Water Means Minimal Algae and Warm Water Means More Algae

Throughout the summer months, many freshwater anglers are well-aware of the plant life that flourishes as the water temperatures warm.

Warm days, nights, and hot sun fill standing water with all sorts of blue-green algae. Not only does the algae bloom on the surface, but it also can grow underwater.

Whenever the water is near 70 or 75 degrees, blue-green algae grows at a rapid rate. In the warm months, fish spend time feeding on this algae.

Blue-green algae can create a mushier and more “muddy” taste in fish. While it won’t cause any sickness in anglers who ingest fish that have eaten the algae, it doesn’t add to their taste.

Many anglers avoid fish like crappie, perch, and sunfish during those warm months due to the algae growth.

When the temperatures begin to drop, and water temps fall into the 60s and below, fish tend to have a bit better taste.

While panfish, walleye, pike, and a variety of warm water fish are fun to catch and taste fine throughout the summer, take a chance and see what they taste like if you catch them in the winter.

Freshwater fish like trout are almost always fresh and flaky due to the lack of algae and other harmful bacteria that are found in the water where they live.

Trout require water that is cold and highly oxygenated for them to survive better.

3. Cold Water is Generally More Clean and Highly Oxygenated

Fish like salmon and trout are some of the more cold water species that people imagine. These fish can only survive in water that’s consistently below 60 degrees.

Their sensitive bodies allow for a flaky and healthy taste.

Whether you’re in the Pacific Ocean or a mountain stream in Colorado, the cold water is cleaner than warm water, and it allows fish to feed on healthy vegetation and other healthy fish.

Cold water is also more highly oxygenated compared to warm water. The colder the water, the more oxygen it’s able to hold. High oxygenation allows fish and other important organisms to survive.

Water becomes more oxygenated as water temperatures drop, and photosynthesis is able to fully occur in the plant life. Complete photosynthesis keeps the water clean and everything living within it healthy.

When water temperatures warm, bacteria grows, and algae completes an entire life cycle. As algae dies, bacteria will consume it.

The decaying process also sucks up much of the oxygen that’s left in the water. As oxygen dissipates, fish and other necessary aquatic life perish. The entire process will cause the taste of fish to become worse.

Their flesh is filled with blood spread from their organs to their flesh. The metabolism of fish slows down in extremely warm water.

Unlike when metabolism slows down in cold water, the slow metabolism of fish in warm water isn’t healthy. Whenever they do feed, it’s rarely on healthy foods that are functioning well in the warmer water.

In colder water, their metabolism is still slow, but they are feeding on fish and aquatic life that’s also living in cold water, so they’re more healthy and benefit the fish. 

4. Fish in Cold Temperatures Save Better

When anglers land fish they’re hoping to keep, they have a few options. Anglers can leave them on a stringer in the water while they’re still fishing, keep them in a cooler, or just leave them outside.

A warm water fish caught in the tropics can quickly spoil when exposed to air temperatures for too long. As a result, a large amount of ice and cool temperatures are required to keep their flesh tasting fresh.

Keeping fish on ice isn’t always an option out on the water. Most anglers have to keep their fish in the live well with warm water. The longer fish are in this warm water, the more their taste deteriorates.

Many warm water anglers will put their filets in a bowl of ice water before they cook them in hopes of having the flesh grow firmer. Keeping fish filets in ice will significantly improve the taste of fish.

In cold temperatures, fish are going to save far better. Whether you’re fishing on the ice or in the fall or spring, you won’t have to worry nearly as much about how your fish are preserved in those cold months.

You can toss the fish on the ice or keep them in that colder water.

Fish in Cold Temperatures Save Better

5. Cold Water Fish Have More Healthy Nutrients

Coldwater fish like salmon are incredibly high in omega-3 fatty acids because they need cold water to survive. These omega-3 fatty acids are great for a person’s cardiovascular health.

The more salmon that humans can eat, the more healthy we become.

Other fish like tuna, sardines, and mackerel are desired because of their extra high protein content as well as other essential vitamins.

The clean and cold water these fish live and operate in allows them to eat fresh and healthy foods that add to these necessary fats.


Fish are a finicky meat. They aren’t overly easy to cook, and they require a certain type of water for them to be at their best.

When it comes time to eat fish, we should try to do so when they taste best. Cold water temperatures allow the fish to flourish.

Their body temperatures are regulated, and their metabolisms are in a good place. Plus, the food they’re eating is also healthier than it would be if it were caught in water that’s over 70 or 75 degrees.

Keep the water temperature in mind when feeding the fish you catch.

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with my pet bunny when not freshwater fishing in the nearest creek or enjoying saltwater fishing by taking boats far in the ocean.

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