You went fishing, and now you have a great haul to bring home. But what do you do next with your haul? How do you properly dispatch and bleed a fish?
To humanely dispatch and bleed a fish is to stab it in the brain and cut the arteries behind the gill to bleed out. These steps are crucial to keep the eating quality and enjoying the fish after you have caught them. It’s essential that you not only learn how to humanely bleed your fish properly but also know what you do after this process.
Read on to learn more about what to do after you catch your fish. You caught the fish, and now it’s time to feast on them.
Importance of Humanely Bleeding Fish
You’re out fishing with your friends or family, intending on eating what you catch. There is a proper approach not only to bleeding the fish but to catching them.
The first part of this is sustainability, which is essential for the future of fishing.
You only want to catch and bleed what you’re going to harvest. You should also be careful to throw back any appropriately sized fish for breeding for the same reason.
For doing this, you can assure that you can enjoy fishing trips for years to come.
It’s also incredibly important to humanely bleed your fish. This is not only the best way to put the fish out of its misery faster, but it can also make the fish taste much better.
Some people just let the fish violently and slowly die by leaving it out of the water or some other method like a bucket of water, but this can be stressful for the fish.
If the fish gets stressed out, this will negatively impact the taste of the fish.
There’s a reason for this. When fish are landed, they will have a lower level of pH in their system due to the lactic acid production caused by the fish being caught.
This lower pH level creates enzymes in the fish muscles that break down the protein in the fish.
Plus, more stress on the fish creates more stress compounds in its bloodstream, degrading the fish flesh.
In short: the more stressful the death is on the fish, the lesser the quality of meat. (South Coast Register)
This implies that it’s essential to dispatch the fish humanely, and you should do this within a minute after it has been caught.
Why Bleeding the Fish is So Important?
You want your meat to taste as great as possible. That’s why you want to bleed the fish humanely, but you wan to take steps to bleed it out properly.
Also, know as exsanguination, this is a popular trick that master anglers use when keeping their fish to eat.
You should bleed out your fish before cleaning it, as this makes the process a lot cleaner and more comfortable for you.
This is also another approach to bleed the fish, but this can also create a slightly better tasting fish as this can remove a lot of that “fishy” flavorsome fish have. (Grand View Outdoors)
However, some people say that there’s no flavor difference. But, you will get a cleaner workspace when filleting the fish, which will make the process easier for you.
What it Means to “Keep a Fish Clean.”
Bacteria is nasty, but you already know that. To avoid bacteria growth, you need to keep everything that would be in contact with the fish clean.
You need to have your fish deck and cooler clean, which helps to keep your fish clean.
Also, take every precaution to make sure that your fish stays as clean as possible. Take care to sanitize every area that comes into contact, not just do a basic clean.
You can use products that kill bacteria to clean the space or create your sanitizing solution using plain bleach and water.
With a simple homemade solution of 10 or 15 parts per million, you are creating a solution that won’t be strong enough to cause any tainting of your fish.
After you thoroughly clean every surface that touches the fish, you should spray it with your homemade solution without rinsing it.
This is just enough to kill the bacteria without hurting your fish.
Keeping the fish clean is also in how you handle the fish when it comes out of the water.
For instance, humanely bleeding the fish rather than lashing around or hitting it while it dies can prevent bruising.
Plus, hitting the fish repeatedly rather than humanly bleeding it will cause damage to the flesh, resulting in poor quality fish. (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
How to Properly Dispatch a Fish?
As previously mentioned, there is a humane way to kill a fish. There are two primary approaches that you can take to this process.
One is called “percussive stunning,” and the other is known as “spiking,” though it can be called different things.
In this part, you can learn about both of these methods for humanely dispatching a fish.
The first approach is percussive stunning. This process requires you to hit the fish with an accurate and forceful blow to its head with some type of blunt object.
The amount of impact that is needed to be successful with this will depend on the size of the fish.
You don’t want to be too hard, but you do what to be sure that you get the job done in one hit.
You need to hit the fish right above these eyes so that you can direct your impact to the brain.
You should check to ensure that you have successfully stunned your fish, ensuring that it’s unconscious. If so, you can move onto bleeding your fish. (RSPCA)
Spiking, also referred to as pithing or IKEJIME, is a quick and human process of killing a fish.
IKEJIME is a Japanese tradition where you take an ice pick or other sharp instrument and stab the fish in the brain.
This is an approach that is very popular, especially in the restaurant industry, as it leads to the best-tasting fish.
This process requires a lot more precision than percussive stunning, but the quality of the meat makes this process worth it.
You can then bleed your fish immediately after the spiking procedure. (Iki-Jime)
How to Humanely Bleed a Fish?
Now that you have humanely taken care of your fish, you can move onto the process of bleeding it.
There are different approaches that you can take when bleeding your fish, depending on your preference.
You could either cut the arteries behind the gill or through a process called pressure-bleeding. This will take a closer look at both of these methods.
If you decide to go with cutting the artery, there are a few approaches to do this.
You could just cut it on a specialized fish cleaning station, or you could cut it on your cutting board as long as you make it, so the blood doesn’t get everywhere.
You can even let it sit in water, which may get more blood out than the other approaches. Where you do, it is all up to you.
This process involves either taking your finger and breaking a gill or by cutting the main artery with the knife.
You’ll need to repeat this process on both sides, and then you can either put it in water to bleed out or whatever hanging setup you have for this process.
It is recommended that you take the water approach since this gets more blood out and helps prevent too much of a fishy taste in the meat. (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
If you don’t have a bucket available, you can also use a hose to rinse your fish out.
How To Pressure-Bleed A Fish?
Pressure-bleeding is a popular approach that is used by professional fishermen. This can be a bit more of a complicated process, and it’s a good idea to wear gloves.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to pressure-bleed a fish.
1. Start by cutting off the fish’s head.
This allows you to access the main arteries. To do this, you need to place fish onto its side and begin cutting the fish open.
Take the knife, starting at the gills, then begin cutting the belly towards the spin moving upwards.
Turn the fish over and do the exact process on the other side until the head comes off. If you aren’t using the head for anything, you can discard it.
Just remember that the meat on the fish head is very tender, so you may want to cook it.
You also should remember that this will start the process of the fish bleeding out, so make sure that you do this in a designated area to prevent staining.
2. Next, cut open the belly, starting from its tail and sliding the knife along the body to the throat.
Make sure you stop about an inch before the cut you made to remove the head. After you do this, you can pull this opening apart and begin gutting the fish using either a spoon or your finger.
You must get the black or brown strip along the fish’s spine, known as the bloodline. Scrape this out with your spoon as well.
If you’re on the boat, you can throw this back into the water to feed other animals, or if you want, you can turn this into compost.
3. Take a hose and rinse cold water through this opening to get rid of any blood pooled inside the fish.
During this process, you can rub the flesh together to get even more excess blood out.
If you see the water starts running clear, you can finish this step of the process.
If you don’t have any hose available, you can repeatedly dip the fish into the water to make sure you clean as much out as possible.
4. If you do have access to a hose, you should invest in a pipette for it.
You can use the pipette to flush out any excess blood in the fish if you have one. Take the pipette, pushing it into the artery, and using the hose at low pressure.
Again, rub the meat together to encourage more blood coming out through this process.
Ensure that you are only using low water pressure as pressure that is too high can damage the fish meat.
5. After the water has run clear using the pipette, you can put your fish on ice so that it stays fresh before cooking it.
You must do this process right to ensure the best-tasting fish possible.
Which method should you use? Some people prefer to cut the gill, forcing the fish to bleed out that way, because it’s a faster and easier process.
They even take a knife to slit it open, which can also be useful, but with this approach, you do run the risk of contaminating the fish with bacteria.
This is also a preferred approach for people who just don’t have the tools or time for any other process.
Video Credit: kirkhardcastle
However, pressure-bleeding seems to be the popular choice for commercial fishermen for apparent reasons.
This can ensure that you get the most amount of blood out to get the highest quality fish. (Bristol Bay Times)
What to Do After You Kill and Bleed a Fish?
Now that you have gone through the process of killing and bleeding your fish, what’s next? The first step is keeping the fish cool as soon as you have killed and bled your fish.
You have introduced bacteria into the fish in addition to the bacteria that the fish already contained.
You need to be sure that you slow the process of potentially harmful bacteria as much as possible.
As soon as you’ve finished killing and bleeding your fish, you need to make sure that it stays cool.
If the weather is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, you can keep it in a shaded area with a wet towel over it, especially if you only need to store it for a few hours before cooking or freezing it.
Otherwise, you will want to use an ice slurry to keep your fish cool. (Fix) If you don’t keep your fish cool, you are promoting bacteria growth that will quickly degrade your meat.
If you’re not eating your fish right away, you will want to freeze it. Freezing your fish is best done if you vacuum seals the fish.
Freezer burn can wreak havoc on the flavor of your fish, which is why vacuum sealing is the best approach.
You should invest in a vacuum packing machine if you regularly freeze the fish that you catch, or you can see if there is a local fish processor that can do this for you.
You should also be sure that you lay the packaged fish next to each other rather than piling the fish up.
What this does is cause the fish that is lower in this pile to freeze at a slower pace, creating ice crystals that will also degrade the flesh.
You can pile the fish up after everything has already frozen to save on space afterward.
Freezing your fish helps you keep your fish last potentially all year long when done properly.
It’s also crucial that you catch fish that you can eat. You don’t want to go through this long process if the fish isn’t edible.
You want to avoid fishing in highly polluted areas or to avoid regularly eating fish that eat other fish.
This will make it more likely that you end up with problems like consuming too many heavy metals such as mercury.
You should only eat fish that you know and can identify, which is easier for those more experienced anglers.
Some fish carry toxins that can make you very sick or even be deadly. Others have bacteria that can be potentially harmful.
Stick to only eating the fish that you catch that you know are safe.
Keep an eye out for any notifications or news about potential hazards in the water before you go fishing.
Many areas post advisories if there is anything for anglers to be concerned about.
Fishing can be a great adventure, but it can also be an excellent way to sustainably and affordably feed your family.
There’s nothing quite like eating freshly caught fish, especially when you worked so hard to catch and prepare it.
There’s a great sense of fulfillment when you catch your fish and cook it.
However, you need to be sure that you kill and bleed the fish properly to maximize its flavor.
These tips give you the advice that you need to ensure the highest quality meat for you and your family.