How To Humanely Kill A Fish For Eating

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Some anglers practice catch and release, while others fish for food. On some occasions, even catch and release anglers need to dispatch the occasional fish. First-timers have it especially difficult. But even seasoned anglers wonder how to do it without inflicting unnecessary pain

Well, today is your lucky day. We will share three ways to humanely kill a fish for eating.

1. Stunning With a Blunt Object
2. Ikejime: Spike Through the Brain
3. Breaking the Neck

Albeit each method is different, they all focus on one thing: The brain. 

The following are tried and tested ways, provided you execute them correctly. But don’t worry. We will explain each method thoroughly, leaving no room for error.

Let’s get started. 

Stunning With a Blunt Object

This method is as old as fishing itself. It is simple, effective, and requires no tools. I’ve met some anglers that use a wooden club known as priests. But you don’t need to get one. Any rock will do. 

The first thing you do is lay the fish on a flat surface. Hold it firmly, preferably with the head up, as it will be easier to deliver the blow. Grab a rock or club, and hit the fish in the head, just above the eyes. I recommend using the double-tap technique. 

There are only two reasons why this technique wouldn’t work. Using a small rock is the first mistake many people make. The tool size has to be comparable to that of the fish. Too large, and you will make pulp of the head. Too small, and it won’t kill it. 

The other mistake is not aiming for the brain. Simply aim above the eyes. This will maximize the effect of the blow. Either way, make sure to do a follow-up. 

Are you unsure about the process? Don’t worry. Just watch this video.

Ikejime: Spike Through the Brain

Ikejime is an ancient Japanese technique to dispatch fish. The process causes minimal damage and is as simple as the first one. Plus, it is less violent too. However, you will need a sharp spike. Some anglers use a screwdriver. I’ve even seen people using a knife. However, these are not the best tools. 

First, a knife is too dangerous. The pressure you need to apply, plus the slippery handle, is a bad combination. On the other hand, a screwdriver is not sharp enough. You will need to put more effort into the task as a result. 

Thankfully, there are tools for the task. Take this one, for example. It is a stainless steel spike with a non-slip handle. It is rust-resistant and small enough to fish inside your tackle box. 

An ice pick can double back as a spike if you are looking for something on the cheaper side of things. 

One curious fact about this before we move on. The Japanese invented this method because it supposedly makes the fish taste better. I haven’t tried it personally. But make sure to share your thoughts with us if you notice any difference. 

Breaking the Neck

It might not be the most fashionable of all methods. But it works nonetheless. However, this technique is only suitable for small to medium-sized fish. Unless you are the Hulk, of course. 

The method is as follows: Put your middle and forefinger in the gills of the fish. Place your thumb up inside the mouth. Pull the head backward in one steady and continuous movement. 

Yeah, this method is not as elegant as using a spike to pierce the brain. But it is quick and easy to learn. You need nothing more but your hands. 

Do Fish Feel Pain?

This is a never-ending argument between anglers and animal protection activists like PETA. To shortly put it, they do. They might not produce sounds as most animals do. But that does not mean that they can’t feel pain

That’s all the more reason to dispatch fish as quickly and painlessly as possible. With these three methods we share today, you will cause minimal pain to the fish. 

Choosing the right method is the key to success. The top two are our go choice. Either one will do the trick in most situations. If you are concerned about the fish, then we suggest going with the Ikejime technique. 

What is The Best Way to Kill Fish Quickly?

Breaking the neck of the fish is the technique I like the least. It is quick. But it doesn’t work with any fish. On the other hand, you can find a rock pretty much anywhere. 

The spike through the brain method is the most effective and regular. Plus, it has the added advantage of not needing a follow-up tap. Sure, the fish will feel the initial sting. But it will be just a moment, especially if you do it quickly. 

How Can I Bleed the Fish Quickly?

Many anglers don’t bleed their fish right away. They wait until they get home to do it. Needless to say, this is a mistake. Bleeding the fish is harder than it sounds. Here you have a step-by-step process: 

  1. Place the fish on a cutting board. 
  2. Lif the gills with your dominant hand
  3. Cut the red skin underneath
  4. Turn the fish and repeat steps 1 to 3

Blood will start to flow rapidly once you cut both sides. In other words, it will get messy. What I like to do is fill a bucket with water, preferably cold, and place the fish inside. 

It is time to remove the guts once the bleeding stops. The process is as follows: 

  1. Grab a sharp knife and cut the belly. Start near the tail and work your way up. Make sure not to cut too deep. Otherwise, you will cut the cuts, spoiling the meat in the process. 
  2. Take the guts out. You can use a spoon. 
  3. Rinse with enough water to wash away the remaining blood and guts. 

I like to use a hose to rinse the insides of the fish. But there are no hoses in the wild. Here, you need to use the river or lake to clean your fish. Some anglers use buckets. But I don’t recommend it unless you are cleaning just one fish. 

There is another way to do it. But we won’t discuss it as it does not involve killing the fish humanely. Besides, the technique we described is cleaner. 

Make sure to have enough room and time for this process. Using a harpoon is a good idea. Cleaning the blood and guts off clothes is not an easy feat. Take my advice, you won’t regret it. 

Why Bleeding the Fish is Important?

As happens with many different animals, bleeding is a crucial step. It improves the flavor of the meat. Why? Well. Blood leaves a metallic taste in the fish, which is quite dominant. 

On the other hand, blood decays faster than meat. The end result won’t be tasty; that’s a guarantee. In a nutshell, just make sure to bleed the fish and allow enough time for the blood to flow out completely. 

Can I Bleed the Fish Alive?

Yes. You can bleed the fish while it is still alive. That’s the other method we didn’t want to discuss. But the whole point of this article is to preach how to humanely kill a fish. 


It doesn’t matter how long you have been angling, killing a fish is always hard. We always wonder. Do fish feel the pain? How can I end the suffering quickly? Now you know how to quickly, and most importantly, painlessly kill a fish. 

There are three main methods. The spike through the brain, commonly known as Ikejime is the best way. It requires some practice. But it is effective. We do recommend having an ice pick or a spike to make things either for you. 

Now, if you don’t want to get a spike, then using a rock or a wooden club is another option. Remember to strike true in the brain. Aim just a little above the eyes. Two taps should be more than enough to kill the fish. 

Lastly, we have the breaking the neck technique. This one only works with small to medium-sized fish. You need no tools. But it does take some practice to get the movement and finger placement right. Therefore, we don’t recommend using this approach. Besides, there is no real reason to do it when rocks are so abundant. 

So tell us, which method do you prefer? 

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