How To Ethically Kill A Fish – How & Why to Bleed Out Fish

No matter if you’re salmon fishing in Alaska or going after catfish and carp in the Midwest, bleeding out your fish after catching it will vastly improve the quality of your meal. In this blog and video, I’ll show you how to ethically and properly kill a fish and how and why to bleed it out before you fillet it.

If you want your catch to taste fresh, clean, and delicious at the dinner table, then keep in mind that it all starts right after you land your fish by properly dispatching it and then bleeding it out. Bleeding out your fish immediately after it’s caught is a very important step for ensuring clean, blood-free fillets, which again will greatly improve the quality and taste of your catch. Fillets that are not bled out, tend to have a strong flavor, and a rather mushy texture instead of being nice and firm.

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How to Quickly and Ethically Kill Fish

Before you bleed out your fish, you first need to quickly and ethically kill your fish. To do so, right after you land your fish, bop it on top of the head with a blunt object such (as a fish club) right between the eyes with one or two quick, sharp blows. Now keep in mind that the bigger the fish you catch, the harder you’ll need to hit in order to kill it, so don’t be bashful or hold back. Give your fish a good powerful whack and get the job done fast. When you’ve delivered a lethal blow, the fish will stop flopping around, its eyes will quickly lose focus and look stunned, and the fish’s tail may start to rapidly convulse. Immediately after the fish is dispatched, you’ll then want to bleed it out.


How and Why to Properly Bleed Out a Fish

 Now this may sound a little gruesome, but ideally, you want to bleed out your fish immediately after you club it on the head. While the fish will essentially be brain dead, its heart will most likely continue to be beat for a little while yet, which will aid in pumping the blood out of the fish. So right after dispatching the fish with a bop or two on the head, quickly cut the gill rakers on one or both sides of the fish with a sharp knife. On smaller fish, you can simply pop out a gill raker or two using your finger. Personally, I like to cut the gills on both sides of the fish to accelerate the bleeding out process.

After cutting the gills, you can then put your fish on a stringer and place them back in the water till the end of the day with the rest of your catch. If on a boat, you can put the fish in a large cooler or live well, however, it will be necessary (or at least ideal) to refresh and recycle the water in your cooler or live well throughout the day, as all the blood from the fish will make for quite a nasty mess. Whichever way you choose, the bottom line is that you’ll want to keep your fish as clean and cold as possible until you’re able to fillet, package, or immediately cook your catch.

Check out the video below to see more…