How to Properly Bleed a Fish

It is important that you properly bleed fish so you will have tastier fish among other reasons. There are several ways in which you can properly bleed a fish. You can make a slice from their throat to their tail or straight across the throat. This is done to make killing a fish the humane way. There is no real right or wrong way to properly bleed a fish as long as it is done. You should try several ways to find the one that works best for you.

Why You Need to Bleed a Fish

One reason to bleed a fish is that when you catch them, they are going to put up a fight not to be pulled in no matter the size or species. When this happens, their blood will heat up and cause blood and acid to build up in the meat. When you bleed the fish, you are draining out all that warm blood. By doing this, it will make the cool-down period for the fish a lot faster. It will make the meat of the fish taste fresher and better.

If you bleed the fish before you cut them into fillets, it will make cleaning up easier. When you bleed a fish, it will help to remove some of the ‘fishy’ taste. If you bleed the fish right after you catch it, the fish will stay fresh until you serve it.

In Japan where they eat a lot of sushi, they need to make sure that the fish was bled properly because blood is a substrate that provides nutrients that will help bacteria to grow. It will also help in the degradation of the meat. The excess blood in the fish will make it difficult to cut the fish for sushi applications.

Why Lactic Acid Buildup in a Fish is Bad

When you do not properly bleed a fish, these lactic acids can buildup. It is naturally found in animals and happens during some intense episode. In the fish’s case, this happens when you are trying to reel them in. The longer the fight in the water to get the fish reeled in, the more the lactic acid accumulates in their muscle and blood. Sometimes if it is too much, it can burn the flesh. 

This is pretty common with large game fish since they do require more handling to bring them in. It is harder to tell if there is blood in the meat of the tuna because the meat is already red. A fish that has flesh burnt by lactic acid will have a foggy, opaque look. Do not confuse it with a fatty fish. Sometimes if you eat fish that has not been bled properly to get out of the lactic acid or the fish has been under a lot of stress for hours, the meat could have an acidic and metallic taste. If you soak fish in citrus juice that has not been bled properly to get out the buildup of lactic acid, it will start to turn white while it is soaking.

Ways to Properly Bleed a Fish

The proper way to bleed a fish is the method that you feel most comfortable using. It is also recommended that you bleed them. The way that you can do this is after you cut them, you put them in a separate cooler to bleed. You can also put them headfirst into a large bucket of water. Once they have bled out, remove them from the bucket or cooler and put them in a clean cooler to chill. You should have ice and clean seawater in that cooler.

To properly bleed a fish you can also severe the main artery behind the gills. To remove even more blood you can pressure bleed it, which will help to force more blood out from the smaller veins.

Another way in which to properly bleed a fish is to cut the artery that is located along the bottom of the fish between their gills. If there is a lot of blood loss or you see blood on the knife you know you hit the right spot. If you do not see any blood then you need to cut a bit higher. Once you cut through the artery then you can place the fish on ice.

Killing a Fish Mercifully

There is the Japanese tradition of how to mercifully kill a fish. It is called Ikijime, or brain spiking. This is a quick, painless, and efficient way to kill your fish so you can bleed it. It also will help prevent the fish from struggling and stressing, which can cause excessive bruising of the fish. You will need to use a very strong, sharp knife to put into the brain, instantly killing the fish. Most fish’s brains are located in the center of the head about an inch behind the eyes. It will also help to prevent the degradation of the flesh.


Some feel that not all fish need to be bled like any white meat fish such as Snapper or Grouper because the meat will still taste good if you do not bleed them. Learning how to bleed a fish properly will take a little time and patience before you can do it right and quickly. Always make sure that after you bleed your fish that you store it correctly until you are ready to eat it. One thing to remember when killing a fish is that you do it humanely.

Some recommend that after you bleed your fish that you do not gut and slice it into fillets until you get home. You should leave it intact because if you gut and fillet it, there is a chance that you could accidentally introduce bacteria to the fish and ruin the flesh. Make sure that before you go fishing that you know how to properly bleed your catch so that you will have those wonderful fresh tasting filets so this is the main reason that you should know how to properly bleed a fish after catching it.

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