Preserving the Catch of the Day by Pressure Canning Trout

Canned trout on plate
Canning trout begins by cleaning and cutting the fish into 1-inch cubes. Raw-pack the fish into sterilized pint or half-pint jars with 1-inch headspace. Process the jars in a pressure canner for 1 hour and 40 minutes at a pressure between 10-15 pounds per elevation.

What is the Best Way to Can Trout?

The best way to can trout is to use the pressure canning process. Trout must be processed at 240°F-250°F per the USDA. This temperature is only possible using a pressure canner.

The USDA also states that half-pint or pint-sized Mason jars are the best for home-canning fish. It is also possible to process both frozen and fresh fish in quart jars for 160 minutes in either a weighted-gauge canner or a dial-gauge canner at the recommended pressure for various altitudes.

How to Pressure Can Trout

Pressure canning is an efficient way to preserve freshly caught or frozen lake trout or rainbow trout. You must process at least four pints or half-pints at a minimum per the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Here are the step-by-step instructions to do it right the first time:

  1. Wash ring bands, canning lids, and jars in warm, soapy water and rinse everything thoroughly. Inspect the jars for cracks or nicks, and discard any that show evidence of damage.
  2. Sterilize the canning jars by submerging them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Leave them in hot water until they are ready to be filled.
  3. Prepare the pressure canner by placing the canning rack inside and pouring 3-4 inches of water per the manufacturer’s instructions. Add 2 ounces of white distilled vinegar to help avoid unpleasant smells during processing.
  4. Prepare the trout by removing the scales with a sharp knife. Gut the fish and clean it under cold, running water. Use the knife to remove the fins, head, and tail.
  5. Cut the cleaned fish into 1-inch pieces or jar-length fillets, allowing for 1-inch headspace.
  6. Fill each canning jar with the cut fish, ensuring the skin side faces the jar walls and leaving 1-inch headspace.
  7. Don’t add canning liquid such as water or olive oil to the loaded jars.
  8. If preferred, add 1/2 teaspoon of canning salt to each half-pint jar or one teaspoon to each pint jar. Add dried spices of your choice in small amounts for enhanced flavor. Use a plastic knife to align the chunks and reach a firm pack.
  9. Use paper towels or a cloth dipped in white vinegar to wipe fish oil off the rims of the jars. Add a new canning lid and screw band to each jar and close them to a finger-tight position.
  10. Lift each jar with canning tongs and place them on the rack inside the canner. Ensure the jars do not touch.
  11. Close the canner lid and lock it in place. Open the steam vent and heat the canner on high for 20 minutes until it starts steaming steadily. Let it vent steadily for 10 minutes.
  12. Wear oven mitts and cover the steam vent to allow the canner to build up pressure per the elevation and jar sizes below:

Recommended processing times for raw-pack trout in a dial-gauge pressure canner:

Altitude (ft)0 – 2,0002,001 – 4,0004,001 – 6,0006,001 – 8,000
Half-pints/pints (100 mins)11 lbs12 lbs13 lbs14 lbs
Quarts (160 mins)11 lbs12 lbs13 lbs14 lbs

Recommended process time for raw-pack trout in a weighted-gauge pressure canner:

Altitude (ft)0 – 1,0001,001 +
Half-pints/pints (100 mins)10 lbs15 lbs
Quarts (160 mins)10 lbs15 lbs
  1. Once the pressure canner reaches the recommended pressure, turn down the heat a bit to maintain this pressure and process the pint and half-pint jars for 100 minutes. If using quarts, process the jars for 160 minutes.
  2. Turn off the heat and lift the canner away or leave it to cool on the heat source. Wait for the canner to depressurize to zero with the vent still closed. Wait for 5 minutes, then use an oven mitt to open the vent and lid facing away from you.
  3. Use a jar lifter or canning tongs to remove each jar gently without tilting it. Place the jars on a draft-free countertop covered with a clean towel. Ensure the jars aren’t touching and leave them undisturbed to cool at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
  4. Remove the screw bands or rings and check the jars for proper sealing by pressing the middle of the lid with a finger. The lid should not spring up when you release it. Reprocess any unsealed jars with new lids within 24 hours or refrigerate and use the contents in 3-4 days.
  5. Store all the properly canned fish in a cool, dry, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat.
Pressure canned trout filet on a plate
Pressure canned trout

Can Trout Be Canned Without a Pressure Canner?

No. Trout must be canned with a pressure canner. Pressure canning is the only process approved by the National Center for Home Food Preservation for low-acid foods like trout and salmon.

A water bath canner only reaches a maximum temperature of 212°F, and fish must be processed at 240°F-250°F. Canning the trout at a lower temperature would encourage botulinum spores to thrive, potentially resulting in botulism.

How Long Does it Take to Can Trout?

It takes 100 minutes, or 1 hour and 40 minutes, to process trout in a pressure canner in half-pint or pint jars.

The total canning time should account for the following durations:

  • A prep time of 30 minutes for preparing fish and washing the canning equipment.
  • Preheating the pressure canner for 20 minutes to produce steam.
  • Ten minutes of continuous steaming to vent the canner.
  • 30-45 minutes for cooling and depressurizing canner after heat-processing.
  • Five minutes for letting residual steam escape once you open the steam vent.
  • 12-24 hours for cooling the jars undisturbed.

Can Raw Trout Be Canned?

Yes, trout can be canned raw. The fish is cooked by the heat you subject it to during pressure canning.

Raw trout filet on cutting board
Raw trout filet

What is the Difference Between Canning and Pickling Trout?

Unlike pressure canning trout, pickling trout is a cold-treatment process and has a much shorter shelf life than canned trout.

Pickling requires freezing the fish for 3-4 days before brining and pickling it without cooking it. Freezing helps limit the activity of botulinum bacteria.

Alternatively, the raw fish is brined and kept in the fridge for 24 hours and then treated with vinegar before refrigerating again for 24 hours. It’s then treated in a pickling solution before refrigeration and consumption. Pickling acidifies the fish to reduce the risk of botulism.

What Kind of Fish is Good for Canning?

It’s best to can freshly caught fish. It must be kept iced, frozen, or refrigerated until canning time. It is important to eviscerate fresh fish within two hours of catching them. If using frozen fish, thaw it in the refrigerator and rinse it under cold water before canning.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, it is possible to can the following types of fish:

  • Bluefish
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Smoked fish such as salmon, flatfish, and rockfish
  • Steelhead
  • Trout (rainbow trout or lake trout)
  • Tuna
Canned fish in jar covered by a slice of bread
Canned fish

How Long Does Canned Trout Last?

Unopened home-canned trout lasts 2-5 years in a cool, dry, dark place. The ideal storage temperature is 50°F – 70°F. Use canned trout in 12 months for the best flavor and freshness.

Once opened, canned trout has a shelf life of 3-4 days when stored in the refrigerator.


Alex has a farming background and cherishes growing, eating, and preserving his own food. He writes to share his homesteading experience with gardening and food preservation enthusiasts keen on canning and dehydration. When he is not writing, you'll find him tending to his vegetables and fruits or trying new recipes.

Recent Posts