Shipping Your Catch
Getting your fish home is a top priority for most of our customers. There are some convenient solutions. We’ve even done some testing to help you get your fish home in the best condition possible.
Take Your Catch Home As Checked Baggage
Taking your catch home as checked baggage is always the most economical solution. It’s also usually the easiest. Nearly every major retailer and sporting goods store has cold storage fish boxes to help the 500,000 visitors we get each summer on the Kenai Peninsula get their catch home. We simply call them “fish boxes” for short. We’ll talk more about the different styles of fish boxes later.
Taking your catch home as a checked bag in a fish box is by far the best solution. Fish boxes come in several different sizes that roughly hold 25, 35, and 50 lbs of fish each. These fish boxes are airline approved and air carriers flying into and out of Alaska are very used to handling them. Your fish is vacuum sealed and frozen, loaded into the taped-up fish box, and dropped off at the baggage check-in just like any other suitcase. These boxes are designed to adhere to airline regulations for size and weight.
When There's No Choice But To Shipping Your Catch
Sometimes you simply have no choice but to ship your catch home. For most of our customers this occurs when they are returning home on a cruise ship, exploring other parts of Alaska before they return home, or simply continuing on their vacation some place else before returning home. When this happens, shipping your fish may be the only alternative.
You’ll use the same fish boxes you would use if you were going to take the fish home as a checked bag. Only this time you’ll drop it off at Fed-Ex or UPS. We recommend that you use 2-day shipping instead of overnight. If you think about it, your fish is already frozen, well insulated, and is essentially a 50 lb block of ice. If you were to take a 50 lb block of ice and put it into a cooler, how long would that block of ice stay frozen? Sure, parts of it are going to melt but after 48 hours, in a well insulated container, you’ll probably only melt a very small portion of that ice. The fish on the very edges of the box may be slightly thawed when it arrives at your home but the entire box will generally be frozen. Any fish that has thawed is still cold and can still go back into your freezer perfectly fine.
On average, shipping costs for a 50 lb box and 2-day shipping to the lower 48 runs approximately $200.00 Overnight shipping runs around $300.00
Storing Your Fish Before You Leave
Whether you are shipping your fish home or taking it with you as checked baggage there may be times when you need freezer storage during your time in Alaska. Most processors have freezer storage space and for around $10.00 per 50 lb box per day they will let you store your fish with them. This is based on availability of freezer space. In the very peak summer months of July and early August storage space can become limited. However, there are quite a few places that store fish so a few phone calls will probably get you some storage space.
One problem that comes up quite frequently is people needing to overnight in Anchorage before flying out late that night or the next day. Ted Stevens International Airport has cold storage freezer space right at the airport. We recommend that if you need overnight storage in Anchorage to simply drop the boxes off at airport and put them in the aiports freezer. You can pick them up and check them when you arrive for your flight.
Types Of Fish Boxes
This may be the most interesting part of this informational page. There are three different types of fish boxes we find in Alaska. Wax-lined, tri-fold, and foam boxes. We’ll cover all 3 here and give you our very strong recommendation on which one to use.
There are a few advantages to the Try Fold and the Waxed box but those benefits are for the fish processors, supply chain, and logistical folks, and not for the people using the box to get their fish home. The benefits of the Try Fold and Waxed box is that they can be broken down and stacked so that thousands of them can be stored in a very small footprint. The waxed box requires that the fish also be stored in a plastic, leakproof bag. The Try fold inner liner is glued and waterproof so your fish can go directly into it.
The foam box does not break down and takes up a lot of room. In fact, when purchased by the pallet, which we do quite frequently, we can only get 40 or so per pallet. The Try Fold is our next favorite shipping box and we get 160 per pallet.
We really wanted to see if the Try Fold Fish Box was even remotely close to the foam box in terms of keeping fish frozen. So, we did an experiment. We put 50 lbs of ice in each box, did an excellent job of taping up each box, and opened it 48 hours later to see how both boxes performed. It was absolutely no contest. The foam box significantly outperformed the try fold box. We were going to be all scientific and measure the melt rate and everything but once we opened the box it was kind of a “why bother?” It’s not even close. So there you have it, buy the foam boxes. They are not more than a couple dollars more expensive than Try Fold from the local retailers.
Do You Need Dry Ice Or Refrigerants?
Short answer, absolutely not. There are a few different types of refrigerants you could consider using. Dry Ice is the one most people immediately think of. You could use if you wanted to. Airlines will allow up to 5 lbs of dry ice per box if you disclose it to them. But it is absolutely an unnecessary expense. Additionally, it’s almost impossible to find. It was difficult to find before Covid-19 and in the summer of 2022 we looked for it, just out of curiosity, and could not find it anywhere on the Peninsula. Another choice would be gel packs, but again, it’s an unnecessary expense. You definitely want to minimize the amount of air in your fish box and the best way to do that is to fill it full of frozen, vacuum sealed fish! Any space left over, we recommend filling with newspaper, simply to help take up the room, displace the air, and provide additional layers of insulation.