Blog 2016 – 6: Food, Floating, Fry, and Future by Gary Hater

Variations in the gel food recipe

Once you have the basic gel food recipe and procedure down, you must try and test the flexibility of the recipe. Over the decades of making this I have found out a lot of interesting stuff about what works and what is not worth the time and ingredients. My basic Pantry mix formulation includes tuna in cans, but sometimes canned Mackerel and Salmon are on sale. These are both great, but keep in mind the first time you use it, some fish will taste and spit it out, this is normal activity. Once the fish get used to the change, it is readily eaten.

I grew up in a rather large family and living in the Midwest, fresh fish only came from ponds and the river for the most part. For you folks with no canned experience, canned Salmon and Mackerel (sometimes called Jack Salmon), has broth, skin and small bones. These goodies go in the food processor for easy blending. The broth has fish oil in it, the soft bones grind easily and provide needed calcium and the skin enhances pigments. Try it before knocking it.

Non-Pantry additions

There is nothing better in this world than fishing while on vacation. Last September a group of us were in the Pan Handle catching fish. The King and Spanish Mackerel were biting and after we ate fresh caught for a few days we needed a change from the strong flavor. Instead of trashing the fish, we simply baked them and then froze them for future use.

Excess Spanish Mackerel, filet and you can leave the skin on if there are no scales. In the past I have also used Bonita, Hardtails, and Bluefish.

The filets were simply baked on a cookie sheet at 325F (165C) for about 45 minutes, no browning, seasoning or sauces are wanted or needed. These can then be frozen as is. Below is a defrosted bag I used this week as this blog is being written. I go through the filets with my fingers to remove any large bones. Please note, I do not recommend using raw fish, some years ago I had to send out some live Goldfish for necropsy. The bacterial infection they had contracted was a saltwater species of bacteria, since gel food is not boiled, I only use cooked proteins.

Interesting that Spanish Mackerel gel food is very firm and does not generate cloudy-ness to the aquariums and tubs.

The previously cooked filets, have brilliant skin color,and since they are pre-cooked they blend easily.

Above is a picture of Wild caught Mackerel from summer vacation on top of turnip greens.

In addition to fresh proteins, fresh vegetables are generally a welcome addition. My next blog will briefly discuss fresh produce and other additives. Below is a summary of Proteins I have experience with;

Protein Type Comment Recommendations
Canned Tuna Great and easy Best
Canned Salmon Fish are slow to like, but excellent Good, leave skin and bones in mix
Canned Mackerel Great Great
Canned Crab Good, fish slow to like Good
Fresh Mackerel (cooked) Best Great
Fresh Bonita (cooked) Good, bones to remove Good, do no over feed
Fresh Walleye (cooked) Great (add garlic powder) Great
Chicken Livers (cooked) Do not recommend Lethal / no good
Earth worms dry or fresh Small amounts Large amounts prevent gel from solidifying
Freeze Dried Blood worms Superior, however
do not blend,
mix in whole
Great and very economical in large packages
(Sources: or
Freeze or air dried Daphnia Fair Fish do not like it
Fresh or frozen Ocean shrimp (cooked) Superior Often use left over cocktail shrimp from parties
Chicken Eggs Superior Add raw to food processor

I trust the table above prevents you from going down a messy path, nothing more frustrating than changing up an additive and having your normal gel recipe not solidify.

Hope your fish like the dish!