Roadside Whole Fish Sales
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Roadside Whole Fish Sales

Is Your Fresh Salmon Safe?

Every year, BC residents have fled to the dockside and roadside vendors to purchase fresh fish directly from the fisher. While fresh salmon is a good source of nutrition, it can also carry harmful bacteria that may cause food poisoning. As fresh fish is sold “in the round”, meaning the whole fish without the head or guts removed, it is important you know the extra safety tips for buying and handling fish from dockside and roadside stands.

We are most familiar with cleaned and gutted fish from the supermarkets. Fish "in the round", tend to spoil more quickly and represent an increased risk of food poisoning. It is important to keep the fish cold during transportation and storage and to remove the guts as soon as possible. Follow these safety tips when buying, transporting, handling and preparing fresh fish “in the round”

Roadside Stands

Look at the set up of the roadside stand when purchasing fresh fish.

  • The fish should be stored in either:
    • a plastic tote with the fish covered in ice and protected with a lid, or
    • a mechanically refrigerated cooler.
  • There should be no animals at the stand.
  • Vendors must have a DFO Fish Harvesting License and either a valid provincial Fish Buying License or a Fish Vending License. Copies of these should be on site.
  • The vendor should provide a receipt for your purchase upon request.

Buying Fish

Look for visual clues that indicate possible spoilage or mishandling of fish. Fresh fish

  • have scales
  • have bright eye colour (not cloudy)
  • do not smell of ammonia or smell “off"

Purchase whole fish where the vendor can confirm that was caught within the past 24hrs. Vendors are not permitted to gut the fish at a roadside stand.


The vendor should place your fish into a clear food grade plastic bag. The vendor should include a label on the bag that includes the:

  • contact information of the vendor
  • species of fish
  • date of harvest

Fish must be kept cool and preferably kept on ice until you get home.

Cleaning Whole Fish

Fish must be cleaned as soon as possible, preferably upon arriving home.

  1. Using a sharp knife, insert the blade into the anus of the fish.
  2. Pull the blade through the belly of the fish and upwards to the gills
  3. Remove all the internal organs, using the dull part of the knife to scrape away guts from the spine.
  4. Rinse the inside and outside of the fish under clean water.
  5. Remove the head by cutting along the gill flaps on both sides of the fish.
  6. Fins and tail can be cut off if needed.
  7. Discard the fish guts into the garbage, or other in some other acceptable manner immediately. 


Storing and Preparing Fish

Fish should be kept refrigerated until ready to cook. Fish should be frozen if you do not plan to cook it within a day of purchase.

Before cooking, wash the fish thoroughly. Cook fish to a minimum internal temperature of 70°C (158°F); cook stuffed fish to 74°C (165°F). Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature.

Guide: cook 10 minutes for each inch thickness (fish should appear opaque and be firm to touch when cooked). Due to the extremely low freezing temperatures required for parasite destruction, it is not recommended that consumers attempt to use salmon purchased from roadside vendors for sushi preparation.