How To Bleed A Fish To Get Cleaner Fillets

You have just caught a fantastic fish, and it is ready to be turned into a tasty meal. But before you start cooking, there is a really important step you might not have considered i.e bleeding the fish. It might sound a bit strange, but it makes a big difference. 

Bleeding the fish removes blood, making it taste better and keeping things cleaner. It also makes the fish look more appealing when you serve it. So, in simple terms, bleeding is a must do for a yummy and neat fish dish.

How To Bleed A Fish

It is always a journey learning the ins and outs of a new skill, and fishing is no exception. In this guide “ how to bleed a fish?”, we are going to break down each step, ensuring that it is easy to grasp, and we will let you in on the essential tools you will need. The goal? To guarantee that your next catch not only delights your taste buds but is also safe to enjoy. Keep an eye out for the next part, where we will get into the nitty-gritty details of properly bleeding a fish!


Why Bleed a Fish?

Bleeding a fish might sound a bit odd, but it is a game changer for three big reasons. First up, taste – bleeding takes away that strong, “fishy” flavor caused by blood in the flesh, giving you a sweeter and milder bite. It also keeps the fish fresher because blood can speed up spoilage. 

It is important to mention over here that bleeding a fish is not just about taste, it is also a humane and effective way to ensure a better flavor in your fillets. By getting rid of the blood, the fillets taste significantly better. As you battle to reel in a fish, its vigorous struggle generates lactic acid in the muscles, affecting both the flavor and quality of the meat. To counter this, bleeding the fish immediately after the catch works wonders by minimizing the buildup of lactic acid, thus safeguarding the delicious taste of the fish.

Why Bleed A Fish

Next, appearance – bleeding makes sure the fish stays white and free from bruises, caused by the fish’s struggle. 

Lastly, cleanliness – it makes cleaning less messy and lowers the risk of harmful stuff like bacteria and parasites. 

But wait, there is more! Bleeding also keeps your fish fresh for a longer time, makes the texture better for cooking, and prevents an unsightly dark line in the flesh when you cook it. Believe me it is remarkable how a properly bled fish can offer a more delicious eating experience compared to one that has not been bled well. Trust the experienced anglers and chefs, bleeding is worth it!


To Bleed a Fish, Here’s What You Will Need

To bleed a fish effectively, ensure you have the right tools ready for a seamless process. With these tools at your disposal, you are ready to proceed to the next step: mastering the proper technique for bleeding your fish. Here is what you will need:

To Bleed A Fish, Here’s What You Will Need
  • Sharp knife or fishing pliers: A sharp knife is essential for clean cuts without damaging the flesh. Fishing pliers work well, especially for larger or tough-scaled fish.
  • Container for blood: Use a bucket, bowl, or any large container to collect the blood from the fish.
  • Cutting board: A clean cutting board provides a stable surface, making the bleeding process more comfortable and hygienic.
  • Gloves: Wear gloves to protect your hands from blood and fluids, especially if you’re new to bleeding fish.
  • Spoon: A spoon can be handy for scooping out blood from the fish’s gills, particularly for larger fish with deep gill cavities.
  • Ice: Placing the fish on ice after bleeding preserves flesh quality and ensures freshness.
  • Water
  • Paper towels or a clean cloth for wiping up spills.

Remember to always clean and sanitize your tools before and after use. Dispose of fish waste responsibly. Be mindful of your surroundings to avoid contaminating other surfaces with blood.


How to Bleed a Fish?

How To Bleed A Fish

Cleanliness of your tools and workspace

To ensure the freshness and taste of fish, it is essential to prepare a cleaning solution using 2 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water. Cleanse tools like knives, cutting boards, gloves, and buckets with this solution immediately after bleeding or filleting a fish to prevent bacterial growth. Organize your supplies for quick access, either by laying them out in advance or maintaining a well organized backpack. The goal is to minimize the time between catching and processing the fish, contributing to a cleaner workspace and ultimately producing the best-tasting fish possible.

Locate the Fish’s Brain

To safely locate a fish’s brain, wait 15-30 minutes after catching it to let it tire out. Secure the fish with one hand as you lay it on its side on a flat surface. Using your other hand, feel behind the fish’s eye for a soft spot, which is where the brain is. If concerned about the fish moving, wear gloves for protection while finding the brain. This method ensures a more stable and controlled process while handling the fish.

Stun the Fish

To stun a fish, hold it steady with one hand and use a sharp pocket knife to target the soft spot behind its eye. Push the knife through the skin into the brain, causing the fish to twitch initially but soon stop moving. For persistent movement, reposition the knife 1 inch from the first cut and stab again. Be cautious not to cut yourself, keeping your fingers away from the knife blade. Once the fish stops twitching, withdraw the knife, ensuring the nerves are severed for humane and effective stunning.

Cut Behind the Gills to Bleed a Fish

Find the gills on the underside of the fish’s head, behind the gill cover. Familiarize yourself with the gill location based on the fish type. After locating the gills, prepare the fish for bleeding by making an incision behind the gills. With your  less dominant hand, lift the gills up, and carefully maneuver your knife behind the crimson, fleshy sections. 

Proceed to cut around the gills from the lower part to the top, ensuring you sever the main arteries. Flip the fish and repeat the process on the other set of gills to facilitate proper bleeding.

As the fish begins to bleed, take precautions to contain it on the cutting board and prevent any potential staining. 

You can also consider purchasing dedicated fish cleaning stations equipped with raised borders, which effectively contain blood within the designated area and prevent any spillage.

Dunk your Fish in Ice Water

After following all the steps above for bleeding the fish, you are done, you cut the fish, now you need to place it in cold water for about 15-20 min to let the blood drain out. You can use a large bucket or container filled with cold water and submerge the fish in it. 

Gently move the fish around in the water to aid in cleaning out the veins. Based on my opinion and experience, consider keeping the fish submerged for at least 10-15 minutes before removing it. 

Anglers may vary in their practices, with some opting for shorter durations, ranging from 3 seconds to 5 minutes, while others prefer longer periods, around 30 minutes. If available, using a hose is another option for rinsing the fish thoroughly. This practice is essential for preserving freshness, enhancing flavor and appearance, and ensuring the safety of the fish for consumption.


After Bleeding the Fish, What next?

After bleeding your fish to ensure the best quality and longevity of your stored fish, you should also consider some additional tips like, invest in a high quality cooler with excellent insulation to keep ice frozen for an extended duration. When preparing the fish for storage, wrap it in a clean cloth or paper towels to absorb any excess moisture and guard against freezer burn. Labeling the fish with the date and species is a helpful practice to track its storage duration. 

After Bleeding the Fish, What next

For optimal freshness and flavor, make it a priority to consume the fish within 1-2 days of storage. If a more extended storage period is necessary, freezing the fish in an airtight container is a recommended method to maintain its overall quality. 

Cooked fish can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months, maintaining its quality. On the other hand, frozen raw fish is best utilized within a slightly broader timeframe, ideally consumed within 3 to 8 months for optimal freshness and flavor. 


Storing Your Fish

For About 1-3 Days

For short term fish storage, place it on fresh ice in a cooler, ensuring no odors. Drain excess water as ice melts. Optionally, use a saltwater solution for up to 24 hours. 

Tips: keep fish away from strong smelling foods in the fridge, consume within 1-3 days for freshness, or freeze for longer storage if not cooking soon. Follow safe food handling practices, including hand washing and cleanliness.

Storing Your Fish

For 3 to 8 Months

To ensure successful freezing and storage of fish, you need to remove additional moisture from the fillets, then individually wrap each portion in freezer safe plastic wrap or butcher paper to prevent freezer burn and protect the fish from odors. Consider vacuum sealing the fish in a bag to remove air, further preventing freezer burn and extending its shelf life. 

Label the bag with the date, fish species, and relevant details to track freezing duration. To maintain quality during storage, avoid temperature fluctuations and store fish away from strong smelling foods. 

Consume older fish first, adhering to recommended storage times: 6-8 months for lean fish, 3-4 months for fatty fish, and shellfish. Thaw frozen fish properly in the refrigerator or under cold running water and cook it promptly after thawing, refraining from refreezing. 

Follow safe handling practices, such as wearing gloves and thorough handwashing. By adhering to these guidelines, you can successfully store fish for 3-8 months, ensuring delicious and fresh-tasting meals long after catching or purchasing them.


How to Bleed a Big Fish?

Bleeding big fish follows a similar process as bleeding smaller fish, but there are specific challenges to consider. Begin by preparing a clean workspace and securely restraining the fish using tools like a landing net or fish gripper. 

Locate the gills behind the head, and when inserting the knife, make a deeper cut through the gill arch into the main body cavity for thorough blood drainage. Cut towards the backbone to sever major blood vessels, allowing maximum drainage into a container. 

Repeat the process on the opposite gill. Properly dispose of the blood and clean your tools. Consider using a sawing motion for clean cuts, have assistance with large fish, and be species-specific in your approach. Following these steps ensures safe, effective, and humane bleeding of big fish, promoting responsible fishing practices.


frequently asked question

What happens if you don’t bleed your fish?

If you choose not to bleed your fish, it may retain a stronger taste. Bleeding is often done to reduce the fishy flavor.

Should you bleed a fish right after you catch it?

Whether to bleed a fish immediately after catching is subjective. It depends on personal preference and the specific characteristics of the fish.

Should you bleed all fish?

It is not recommended to bleed all fish uniformly. The decision to bleed depends on the species and individual taste preferences. For strong flavored fish, bleeding is often considered.

How to bleed a fish humanely?

To bleed a fish humanely, make a quick cut behind the gills. This method helps drain blood efficiently and is considered a more humane practice in handling caught fish.

Can you bleed a fish after its dead?

The fish carcass is placed in icy water to let the fish expel its blood naturally. This traditional method has been used successfully for hundreds, if not thousands, of years on an island that highly values its fish.


My Final Thoughts

Bleeding your catch is a crucial step in preparing fish for a delicious and clean meal. This guide highlights the importance of this process for improving taste, appearance, and cleanliness. By removing blood, bleeding enhances the overall quality of fillets and preserves freshness. 

The guide provides easy to follow steps, essential tools, and emphasizes the humane aspect of bleeding. It also covers storage tips for both short and extended periods. Whether you are a beginner or experienced angler, understanding the significance of bleeding ensures a better culinary experience with your catch.

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