Buying Fish is all about using your Senses! Here are some examples:
The number one sense you must use when it comes to fish is smell. Despite what you may think, fish should not smell fishy at all. It should smell fresh like the sea. Briny and clean. Even a slight odor is not acceptable. This would give the indication that the fish is older or was not handled properly.
Take a look at how the fishmonger is storing and displaying the fish. Whole fish should be positioned belly down (ideally with ice inside) as if they were swimming. All fish should have shaved or flaked ice, with a slotted receptacle underneath for the ice to drain. If the fish sits in a pool of water, there can be a loss in texture and flavor.
If you are choosing a whole fish with the head on, the eyes should look full and clear. No evidence of cloudiness. An older fish loses moisture and its eyes begin to dip inward. The gills, if present, should be maroon or reddish in color, not a dull gray or brown.
The skin, fins, and tail should look moist and smooth and somewhat plump. No gashes or puncture wounds.
On the flesh, watch out for any gaping of the muscle fibers. You also want to avoid any mushy flesh. If the guts are not removed quickly enough, it can cause “belly burn” which can cause bacteria to grow and make the flesh mushy. Bruising can indicate that the fish was mishandled and can in turn become waste. If you are able to touch the packaging (through plastic wrap, for example), press on the flesh with your thumb and see if it bounces back at you. It should not leave an obvious imprint.
If choosing frozen fish, ensure that it does not have any white frost on its edges, as this could be due to freezer burn.